Swan Song has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and I am attempting to read the longlist at the moment. Although, at the moment I am really struggling with focus on completing it. I have so many books I want to read right now that unfortunately the longlist has taken a bit of a back seat.

Swan Song is one book that I wanted to read. You know when people ask if you were to pick a generation to live in, I believe this is it. I love hearing about what Truman Capote got up to and his connections with all the “celebrities” of that time. Truman was “friends” with many, he almost forced himself upon them. I could not work out whether they are true friends or whether Truman knew what he was doing and wanted to find out more about their secrets and lies and expose them. Did he take it too far and then could not get back to where he originally started his friendship?

“We were the wives he’d never know. The mothers he wished he’d had. We loved him as we loved our own broods – more so, perhaps, No one would dare leave Truman behind with the nanny. His childlike zeal and raunchy wit proved too heady a cocktail. He’d even seduced the husbands. Those alpha males who launched networks and empires, who found themselves confiding in our androgynous sprite in ways they couldn’t confide in us.”

Truman’s persona was difficult to read, he was on one hand respected because of his writing and his friends / associates were fascinated by this. It seemed Truman on one day thought he was the best writer that ever lived and on another he could not seem to find the right words and was so riddled with doubt that he would ever be able to produce the next best thing. This seem to drive him to despair and have an impact on his mental health and his inner demons.

There were days when he mesmorised his friends with his words almost blindingly overwhelming them, seducing them it was described as.

“He seduced us with words – and Truman knows full well the power of his words. They’re both armor and weapon, the one thing he’s sure of. They alone have never failed him, their lyricisms, hinting at the beauty trapped within his stunted body, not to mention his conflicted soul.”

The turmoil Truman experienced was like a wave continuing to hit him and at times, you got the sense that he was not sure who to turn to and where to go. He didn’t have a confident about his writing, he didn’t seem to trust anyone to be the go-to for advice and guidance. He did not seem to really have the skills or the emotional coping strategies to get through the difficult writing stages and the overwhelming anxiety that he either thrived on or just paralyzed him for long periods of time. During these periods, this was when the people who loved and cared for him, he just drove them away.

“He no longer believes that words and phrases are generated from him. Rather that they exist as independent entities, and the best one can hope for is to lure one or more of them into a trap in order to use for narrative purposes. He no longer has faith that even a boy genius could hope to act as anything more than hapless hunter. Even then, they might – possessing minds of their own- choose not to cooperate.”

Truman’s friendships slowly crumbled around him, he went from being admired and respected to being pushed from the circle of friends. This was all down to his written word, the power it gave him and his friends being complacent about what they may have divulged to him, their secrets which they did not want to be made public information, their skeletons in the closet which they did not want to open. You could not work out whether they were cross with themselves for telling such intimate secrets to their ‘friend’ or whether they simply trusted him and should not have, perhaps trusted their initial instincts. The strange thing was, Truman did not seem to see that divulging such intimate secrets to the world was such a problem, he simply felt “But all literature is gossip!” he made out his friends were making a bigger issue out of his writing then it needed it to be. He simply wanted them to enjoy the stories. He did seem to have a glimmer of doubt before publishing, and simply considered fate made the decision for him on his behalf, dissolving him of any responsibility.

“We recognize what easy pickings we were. Ripe for the fantasy that Truman peddled. Even then we knew that our heads could be turned by half-truths and enough booze and the illusion of beauty. We knew on some levels that it was a fiction, nothing more. One of Truman’s finest. He had gathered us all there – his cast of characters.”

What an amazing book, it was an incredible addictive read. Do not be put off by the size of the book, it just draws you in from the beginning where you are simply picked up and put into Truman Capote’s world. Surrounded by beautiful, influential people of that time, divulging secrets and lies that they never wanted to come out. Kelleigh explores the turmoil of Truman’s mind and the lines being crossed when you have friends that perhaps should never have been crossed, you are left to answer that question. Throughout the book, you experience first-hand relationships being destroyed and how one man had such an impact on a friendship group, did he do this because selfishly he knew that he could write a bestselling novel from this or did he simply get out of his depth?

Swan Song is an impeccable researched book and for a debut novel is simply remarkable. Kelleigh is certainly an author to watch.

About the Book

Over countless martini-soaked Manhattan lunches, they shared their deepest secrets and greatest fears. On exclusive yachts sailing to the Mediterranean, on private jets streaming towards Jamaica, on Yucatan beaches in secluded bays, they gossiped about sex, power, money, love and fame. They never imagined he would betray them so absolutely.

In the autumn of 1975, after two decades of intimate friendships, Truman Capote detonated a literary grenade, forever rupturing the elite circle he’d worked so hard to infiltrate. Why did he do it, knowing what he stood to lose? Was it to punish them? To make them pay for their manners, money and celebrated names? Or did he simply refuse to believe that they could ever stop loving him? Whatever the motive, one things remains indisputable; nine years after achieving wild success with In Cold Blood, Capote committed and act of professional and social suicide with his mother lethal of weapons…..Words.

Swan Song is published by Hutchinson and is available here

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