Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – Nov. 2016

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Rating:  In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 2.5  and 4.0. The average rating was 3.5.  In Morning Book Break, this novel received a variety of scores between -1.0 and 4.0.  The average rating was 3.0.

Review:  The novel was selected as part of a two-month combination study.  The Swans of Fifth Avenue was selected to provide insight into the life of the literary genius, Truman Capote. In December, the book clubs will read In Cold Blood, Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece. Capote is often credited as establishing the true-crime genre.  Next month, the clubs will discuss whether reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue offered any insight into Truman Capote’s literary rise and fall. We will discuss whether members appreciated reading The Swans of Fifth Avenue in combination with In Cold Blood.

Most members in both groups felt the high society life displayed in the novel was nothing like the life most Americans live. The groups found the characters to be superficial, pretentious and deeply flawed. Most members could not identify with these characters and for that matter, did not want to.

However, club members did enjoy the group discussions and many enjoyed reminiscing about this period of time.

Discussion Highlights – Morning Book Break

  • Most members found the book to be an easy, somewhat entertaining read, but most members did not find it to be a compelling novel.
  • Many members cared very little about the characters. They found the characters to be shallow and they did not admire them. Members found the characters to be deeply flawed and members were grateful for their own lives.
  • Several members struggled to complete the book and some even skimmed over sections.
  • Many members were disappointed with Melanie Benjamin’s repetitive writing style. They were surprised they disliked this book because they had thoroughly enjoyed a previous club selection, The Aviator’s Wife, by the same author, which had received ratings between 4.0 and 5.0 with an average rating of 4.5.

Discussion Highlights – Books and Bagels

  • Most members did not connect with the characters and in fact, they did not find any of the characters to be sympathetic.
  • A few members felt the novel provided a thought-provoking glimpse into Truman Capote’s literary genius.
  • Members were not surprised that Truman Capote betrayed his friends by writing “La Cote, Basque 1965”.
  • Several members thought Melanie Benjamin was masterful in evoking powerful images in two particular scenes:
    1. Truman’s gentle removal of Babe’s makeup—revealing her true self for the first time.
    2. William Paley’s one-night stand cover-up.

Resources:

http://melaniebenjamin.com/

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Truman Capote and Babe Paley
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William and Babe Paley with Truman Capote at their house in Round Hill, Jamaica

Read-a-Likes:

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