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Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era

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New York Times bestselling author Laurence Leamer reveals the complex web of relationships and scandalous true stories behind Truman Capote's never-published final novel, Answered Prayers--the dark secrets, tragic glamour, and Capote's ultimate betrayal of the group of female friends he called his swans. There are certain women, Truman Capote wrote, who, though perhaps New York Times bestselling author Laurence Leamer reveals the complex web of relationships and scandalous true stories behind Truman Capote's never-published final novel, Answered Prayers--the dark secrets, tragic glamour, and Capote's ultimate betrayal of the group of female friends he called his swans. There are certain women, Truman Capote wrote, who, though perhaps not born rich, are born to be rich. Barbara Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, C. Z. Guest, Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy's sister)--they were the toast of midcentury New York, each beautiful and distinguished in her own way. These women captivated and enchanted Capote--and at times, they infuriated him as well. He befriended them, received their deepest confidences, and ingratiated himself into their lives. Then, in one fell swoop, he betrayed them in the most surprising and shocking way possible. Bestselling biographer Laurence Leamer delves into the years following the acclaimed publication of Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1958 and In Cold Blood in 1966, when Capote struggled with a crippling case of writer's block. While enjoying all the fruits of his success--including cultivating close friendships with the richest and most admired women of the era--he was struck with an idea for what he was sure would be his most celebrated novel...one based on the remarkable, racy lives of his very, very rich friends. For years, Capote attempted to write what he believed would have been his magnum opus, Answered Prayers. But when he eventually published a few chapters in Esquire, the thinly fictionalized lives (and scandals) of his closest female confidantes were laid bare for all to see. The blowback incinerated his relationships and banished Capote from their high-society world forever...a world that was already crumbling, though none of them realized it yet. Laurence Leamer recreates in detail the lives of these fascinating swans, their friendships with Capote and one another, and the doomed quest to write what could have been one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.


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New York Times bestselling author Laurence Leamer reveals the complex web of relationships and scandalous true stories behind Truman Capote's never-published final novel, Answered Prayers--the dark secrets, tragic glamour, and Capote's ultimate betrayal of the group of female friends he called his swans. There are certain women, Truman Capote wrote, who, though perhaps New York Times bestselling author Laurence Leamer reveals the complex web of relationships and scandalous true stories behind Truman Capote's never-published final novel, Answered Prayers--the dark secrets, tragic glamour, and Capote's ultimate betrayal of the group of female friends he called his swans. There are certain women, Truman Capote wrote, who, though perhaps not born rich, are born to be rich. Barbara Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, C. Z. Guest, Lee Radziwill (Jackie Kennedy's sister)--they were the toast of midcentury New York, each beautiful and distinguished in her own way. These women captivated and enchanted Capote--and at times, they infuriated him as well. He befriended them, received their deepest confidences, and ingratiated himself into their lives. Then, in one fell swoop, he betrayed them in the most surprising and shocking way possible. Bestselling biographer Laurence Leamer delves into the years following the acclaimed publication of Breakfast at Tiffany's in 1958 and In Cold Blood in 1966, when Capote struggled with a crippling case of writer's block. While enjoying all the fruits of his success--including cultivating close friendships with the richest and most admired women of the era--he was struck with an idea for what he was sure would be his most celebrated novel...one based on the remarkable, racy lives of his very, very rich friends. For years, Capote attempted to write what he believed would have been his magnum opus, Answered Prayers. But when he eventually published a few chapters in Esquire, the thinly fictionalized lives (and scandals) of his closest female confidantes were laid bare for all to see. The blowback incinerated his relationships and banished Capote from their high-society world forever...a world that was already crumbling, though none of them realized it yet. Laurence Leamer recreates in detail the lives of these fascinating swans, their friendships with Capote and one another, and the doomed quest to write what could have been one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

30 review for Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era

  1. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    Barbara Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, C. Z. Guest and Lee Radziwill were courtesans whose sole ambition was to marry well (meaning “rich”) and then to marry better. They were attractive, elegant and well-dressed (which shouldn’t be that hard when you have all the money in the world). They were decorative and kept a succession of men happy, at least for a while. Truman Capote found them fascinating and referred to them as his swans. They found him e Barbara Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, C. Z. Guest and Lee Radziwill were courtesans whose sole ambition was to marry well (meaning “rich”) and then to marry better. They were attractive, elegant and well-dressed (which shouldn’t be that hard when you have all the money in the world). They were decorative and kept a succession of men happy, at least for a while. Truman Capote found them fascinating and referred to them as his swans. They found him entertaining to have around and they confided in him. That came back to bite them when it turned out that Truman had used them as material in his unfinished (and maybe non-existent) novel “Answered Prayers”. The author thinks the swan species is defunct, but I’m not sure. The book consists primarily of mini biographies of the swans. There is much less information about Truman. A few years ago, the same territory was covered in “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” by Melanie Benjamin, so I already knew a lot of the details reported here. Frankly, these women seem like a whole different species to me. They went through husbands and lovers (usually married men) in rapid order. “The melancholy fact was that there was only a paltry supply of the immensely rich men the Cushings considered worthy husbands. One could not cavalierly toss away a prospect simply because he was married.” I think Pamela Churchill must have broken records. There was a mind boggling list of men. One of Slim’s husbands announced that he wanted to separate. By the time Slim returned to their New York home she found red stickers had been placed by Pamela on the articles that she wanted the husband to get in the divorce settlement. That’s the kind of woman the swans were. At one time Truman invited all of the swans to lunch. It amused him to watch their interaction. Understandably, the interaction with Pamela was somewhat strained. Truman came to a sad end. He couldn’t finish his promised book or overcome his addictions. The swans deserted him after a chapter from the book was published. They felt betrayed and I guess they didn’t like looking in the mirror. When refusing to testify to help Truman in a law suit brought by Gore Vidal, Radziwill told the gossip columnist Liz Smith “I am tired of Truman riding on my coattails to fame. And Liz, what difference does it make? They are just a couple of fags.” He responded by trashing her on a talk show interview. Liz later blamed herself and Lee for breaking Truman’s spirit. He continued to spiral downward, his health failed and he died at 59. The lives of these women had to be irresistible to a writer. You couldn’t make up some of this stuff. The book is gossipy entertainment. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)

    Read for Nonfiction November. LOVED it. Juicy juicy juicy, but not in a tabloid-ish way. I put a lot of work into writing a review for this book because I thought it was worth it. When I went to post the review, it disappeared. I don't have the heart to try to re-create that review. Let me just say the book is excellent. Even if you're not all that interested in Capote, this book is a fascinating, intimate look at the lives of "socialite" women in the early to mid-20th century. They all grew up Read for Nonfiction November. LOVED it. Juicy juicy juicy, but not in a tabloid-ish way. I put a lot of work into writing a review for this book because I thought it was worth it. When I went to post the review, it disappeared. I don't have the heart to try to re-create that review. Let me just say the book is excellent. Even if you're not all that interested in Capote, this book is a fascinating, intimate look at the lives of "socialite" women in the early to mid-20th century. They all grew up very wealthy, and had it pounded into them by their parents that the most important thing they needed to do in life was to marry an extremely wealthy man. Happiness didn't matter. Love didn't matter. Your own ambitions didn't matter. You married for money and made sure to always look glamorous and elegant. That way, when your cold, distant husband was off having his affairs, you could have affairs of your own.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Having read “The Swans of Fifth Avenue” by Melanie Benjamin and disliking it I should have known that picking up this book was a mistake. 50 pages in I couldn’t stomach one more page of these ridiculous pathetic people whose only claim to fame was their money their looks and their clothes. What a waste. Even Capote was only really famous for two books and his friendships with these women.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Wow! This book absolutely enchanted me. Being a certain age, Capote’s Women were very much part of the fabric of my youth. They were the women I admired. I followed their lives and saved money to eat in the restaurants they visited. I bought Woman’s Wear Daily to see their clothes. I knew their stories, but I’ve read every book written about them. This book was perfect! Capote surrounded himself with the greatest beauties and wealthiest women who were the socialite/celebrities during the era of t Wow! This book absolutely enchanted me. Being a certain age, Capote’s Women were very much part of the fabric of my youth. They were the women I admired. I followed their lives and saved money to eat in the restaurants they visited. I bought Woman’s Wear Daily to see their clothes. I knew their stories, but I’ve read every book written about them. This book was perfect! Capote surrounded himself with the greatest beauties and wealthiest women who were the socialite/celebrities during the era of the Beautiful People. Despite being a famous writer, he was the darling of these women who he called THE SWANS. Leamer recounts the stories of the SWANS and their relationship with Truman Capote. Each SWAN is given a short, engaging biography, which connects them to Truman. I do understand that this might be hard for the uninitiated to relate to, but Leamer does a fantastic job of pulling the reader into their stories. Of course, one of these women was BABE PALEY, the quintessential leader of society. I saw her once, entering a gala at Lincoln Center and I can describe her perfectly, many years later. Leamer brought these women to life, as the reader is brought into the social history of the era. So, I loved this book! It took me back to the “princesses” that I admired., and reminded me of a very different time. Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book which absolutely delighted me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eric Dezenhall

    Extraordinary book. Couldn’t stop reading about the type of people who existed in an era that is long gone. Capote himself was gifted and utterly vicious. On one level he worshipped his “swans,” beautiful women at the top of high society, but on another level he must have held them in contempt to a point where he didn’t give a second’s thought to betraying them in the worst way. He flew on their planes, crashed in their estates and held court at their parties for decades but all the while he was Extraordinary book. Couldn’t stop reading about the type of people who existed in an era that is long gone. Capote himself was gifted and utterly vicious. On one level he worshipped his “swans,” beautiful women at the top of high society, but on another level he must have held them in contempt to a point where he didn’t give a second’s thought to betraying them in the worst way. He flew on their planes, crashed in their estates and held court at their parties for decades but all the while he was keeping notes on them for his masterpiece, which was never completed. Leamer, a talented and seasoned storyteller, both captures the complexity of Capote and the swans and keeps the pace moving to the point where I had to know what outrage the writer would commit next and what indignity the perfect swans would next suffer. The narrative had me wondering what was wrong with me because I simultaneously loved getting to know these iconic characters and was thankful to live my quiet life never having gotten mixed up with any of them. All of this begs the question, who are the heirs to Capote and his swans? The Kardashians? No, they’ve floated away into Leamer’s literature like Fitzgerald’s Daisy and Jordan and the Jazz Age.

  6. 4 out of 5

    3 Things About This Book

    Everyone knows about Capote's swans. They were the creme de la creme of the world's jetsetters. They got best of everything: houses, cars, yachts, dresses, dinners and of course surnames. While divorce was such a no no thing in the society, it was nothing for these women. They did not want to drop those surnames when they signed divorce agreements because more they had more status they got. All they thought about was thinking what to wear on next occasion... I cannot blame Capote when he thought Everyone knows about Capote's swans. They were the creme de la creme of the world's jetsetters. They got best of everything: houses, cars, yachts, dresses, dinners and of course surnames. While divorce was such a no no thing in the society, it was nothing for these women. They did not want to drop those surnames when they signed divorce agreements because more they had more status they got. All they thought about was thinking what to wear on next occasion... I cannot blame Capote when he thought swans were nothing but a prop. But he forgot that when it came to protecting their image and their privilege, these swans would write off anyone in the blink of an eye. Capote thought he was irreplaceable for all he knew and all he could say; however, what makes his knowledge valuable was value the swans put on him. The moment he was no one for swans, he was no one for everyone. This book is a bite size biographies of those swans who both made and broke Truman Capote. If he wasn't part of their clan, he could have been the all American author everyone praising. Yet he fell into their trap and lost all he was and all he could be.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Zemeckis

    Interesting and ultimately frustrating story of wasted lives - incredibly wealthy socialites who squandered their riches, in miserable marriages and betrayed by a genius writer who squandered his talents

  8. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This book seemed a bit disjointed and all over the place. I think the author tried to cover too many people in too short a book. Truman Capote was an even more tortured soul than I had thought. I can't imagine what he thought the outcome of trashing his friends was going to be but it sure didn't work out for him. This book seemed a bit disjointed and all over the place. I think the author tried to cover too many people in too short a book. Truman Capote was an even more tortured soul than I had thought. I can't imagine what he thought the outcome of trashing his friends was going to be but it sure didn't work out for him.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Renatta Gorski

    3 leaning 2.5 stars. i’m pretty disappointed by this, in part because i was so looking forward to it. each person featured sounded fascinating, including obviously truman himself, but the writing was all over the place. chapters were poorly organized, pacing was weird, and i frequently lost track of who was who. if you’re interested in truman, i suggest the swans of fifth avenue (fiction) or the movie capote (also fiction).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    A treasure to read. Mr. Leamer is an artist. He is a true gentleman. A smooth read that is a wonderful in that I could put it down

  11. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Twiles

    One of the more fascinating aspects of Truman Capote's life, and which was not delved into in the Oscar-winning movie made of it, was probably the most fundamental part, equal to his honing of his writing talent - Capote absolutely adored a certain kind of woman, and he carefully selected and then tended to and eventually betrayed those women. He called these women - all beautiful, thin, rich, talkative, entertaining, and varying degrees "of good birth"- his "swans." They were "socialites" - a b One of the more fascinating aspects of Truman Capote's life, and which was not delved into in the Oscar-winning movie made of it, was probably the most fundamental part, equal to his honing of his writing talent - Capote absolutely adored a certain kind of woman, and he carefully selected and then tended to and eventually betrayed those women. He called these women - all beautiful, thin, rich, talkative, entertaining, and varying degrees "of good birth"- his "swans." They were "socialites" - a breed hardly anyone even thinks about anymore, certainly not with the degree of awe and fascination they inspired for what author Laurence Leamer astutely concludes was only one generation. Leamer devotes his book equally to Capote and to the swans, who all get their own mini-biographies - and now I have much more reading to do! Some of the swans are insufferable (C.Z. Guest), some fascinating (Pamela Harriman), and some tragic (Babe Paley). Virtually all of them, if alive today, would have been completely different people - probably with millions of Instagram followers, brand ambassadors, licensing deals for home furnishings, etc. They would have been aristocratic Martha Stewarts. But all of these women, all of them intelligent -they HAD to be to hang with Truman - were products of their time, raised with one goal in mind - marry a rich "proper" (ie "well-bred") man. Would the man cheat? Of course. Would he be an alcoholic? Sure. Would he be an abuser? Possibly. Would he be much older and boring? Likely. None of it mattered so long as he could afford a country estate, a yacht, and a Manhattan penthouse. It's clear why Truman was obsessed with these women - they are surrogates for his own mother, who repeatedly charmed and then abandoned Truman throughout his life. His mother too was a product of her time - obsessed with class, social structure, "breeding," and marrying well. Her plans didn't include a flamboyantly gay son, no matter how talented. In the end, Truman's love for his swans was dwarfed by the writer who wanted to be the next Proust, and he mined the ladies' secrets and intimacies for a couple of gossipy articles. These were supposedly part of his magnus opus - Answered Prayers - and it's debatable whether or not he even wrote any more of it than that. The book is far more famous for having NOT been written than it likely would have been if it had. Perhaps, on some level, Truman, who has a keen sense of publicity, knew this. At the end of his life, all of his "swans" - in true tragic style - abandoned him. But this only added to Truman's posthumous allure. Author Laurence Leamer is balanced in his reporting - and he saves his almost gushing admiration for the swans for his liner notes. Otherwise, he is clear-eyed, seeing not only the swans' many attributes, but their many faults, and also has empathy for their being such victims of their era, one that did not value women for their brains, but only their faces, their husbands, and their clothes. Today, I think Truman would have thrived. He would have had millions of Twitter followers hanging on his every bitchy bon mot. In reading many of his hilariously grandiose pronouncements, I couldn't decide whether he was trolling. Perfect for Twitter! In the end, Truman will be known for three things - In Cold Blood, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and his swans. Thank you so much to Laurence Leamer for personally gifting me this ARC of this fabulous book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer is an enlightening and fascinating nonfiction that takes the reader into the lives, relationships, and mysteries of the fabulous, glamorous, and larger then life ladies (Swans) that were associated with the enigmatic author Truman Capote. I already knew a little about Capote, but the author does a fabulous job unearthing so much information that not only informs the reader of his friendships, muses, and the high society ladies that he was writing about, but also Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer is an enlightening and fascinating nonfiction that takes the reader into the lives, relationships, and mysteries of the fabulous, glamorous, and larger then life ladies (Swans) that were associated with the enigmatic author Truman Capote. I already knew a little about Capote, but the author does a fabulous job unearthing so much information that not only informs the reader of his friendships, muses, and the high society ladies that he was writing about, but also his rise and downfall. Through the snippets, biographies, and stories regarding each woman, one gets even more insight into the author himself. I loved that I learned not just about the volatility of the Author and his disappointing attempt to achieve that next high, that elusive bump of fame, that he attempted to write a novel about the very women that helped land him where he was. I loved learning more about these imperfect, glamorous, and old-Hollywood women and how each one was tied in with Capote. Some of the women I sadly knew nothing about, so this book was a wealth of information. Clearly the author took a considerable amount of time in regards to the research that was done for this book. The author did a stellar job of balancing the large amount of information into a concise, clear, and appropriate format, length, and overall structure that made this feel less like nonfiction and more like a wondrous historical fiction. I learned so much, yet had so much fun while doing it. An excellent insight into a talented, complicated, and complex man and the wonderful cast of women that helped shape his life, as well as many others, at that time and for decades thereafter. I highly recommend. 5/5 stars Thank you EW and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for this fascinating arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion. I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 10/12/21

  13. 4 out of 5

    John Spiller

    "Capote's Women" reads like a book-length Vanity Fair article: well-written, fawning on the rich and stylish, somewhat bitchy, but fairly superficial. I expected the book to focus on the interaction between Truman Capote and his "swans" (towering socialites Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, C.Z. Guess, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwell, and Pamela Harriman). Instead, Leamer weaves mini-biographies of the swans and Capote. Although Capote's extended vacations with Paley and Agnelli are mentio "Capote's Women" reads like a book-length Vanity Fair article: well-written, fawning on the rich and stylish, somewhat bitchy, but fairly superficial. I expected the book to focus on the interaction between Truman Capote and his "swans" (towering socialites Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, C.Z. Guess, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwell, and Pamela Harriman). Instead, Leamer weaves mini-biographies of the swans and Capote. Although Capote's extended vacations with Paley and Agnelli are mentioned in passing, Capote and his swans spend most of this book apart. I found it interesting that Leamer went out of his way to give sympathetic portrayals to all of the swans, save Lee Radziwill. He savages her as self-absorbed, pretentious, status and money hungry, and generally disdainful of those she feels are beneath her. The thing is, most of the other swans shared many of the same traits, but Leamer was much more indulgent of their shortcomings. Ultimately, "Capote's Women" paints a bleak portrait of Capote and his swans. It seems that many of these women enjoyed Capote because he was an inveterate gossip, which ironically sunders their friendship when he airs their dirty laundry in a mean-spirited excerpt from his unpublished book, "Answered Prayers". When cautioned that the thinly-veiled caricatures would alienate his friends, Capote dismissively sniffed that they would be too dumb to understand. In a sense Capote and his swans deserved each other.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Julie Rothenfluh

    Mostly born in the first quarter of the 20th century, Truman Capote’s “swans” were all beautiful women, born into a social strata that required only one thing of them - marry money. And they did, though none of them ever seemed to be really happy. Happiness was no more a part of their lives than love. Very sad. Add to that Truman Capote’s desperate need to be part of that world and it’s a recipe for disaster. Leamer intertwines Capote’s story with those of the women he thought of as his “swans”, Mostly born in the first quarter of the 20th century, Truman Capote’s “swans” were all beautiful women, born into a social strata that required only one thing of them - marry money. And they did, though none of them ever seemed to be really happy. Happiness was no more a part of their lives than love. Very sad. Add to that Truman Capote’s desperate need to be part of that world and it’s a recipe for disaster. Leamer intertwines Capote’s story with those of the women he thought of as his “swans”, everyone living the dream, but no one really happy and Capote headed for disaster. It was well enough written and seems to be well-researched. I guess I couldn’t relate. And how is it that I never knew that Lee Radziwell had been having an affair with Aristotle Onassis for years before he married her sister, Jackie?!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gina Dalfonzo

    I'm not sure why I keep reading about this massively self-absorbed group of people. :-) Melanie Benjamin sucked me in with her wonderfully written "The Swans of Fifth Avenue," and I followed up with this. While Benjamin's novel provides a glimpse into the minds and motivations of Capote and the "swans," this book gives more of their backgrounds and biographies. It was fascinating at some points, depressing at others. I'm not sure why I keep reading about this massively self-absorbed group of people. :-) Melanie Benjamin sucked me in with her wonderfully written "The Swans of Fifth Avenue," and I followed up with this. While Benjamin's novel provides a glimpse into the minds and motivations of Capote and the "swans," this book gives more of their backgrounds and biographies. It was fascinating at some points, depressing at others.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This book rang all my bells for juicy, gossipy, nonfiction tell-all books. I've read other books about Capote and his "swans" both collectively and individually. It's a fascinating transitional time period in our history and this book captures that era beautifully. Capote was a flawed sad literary genius. His ability to gather women of high society, create close friendships then exploit and expose their flaws and vulnerabilities for his own gain is ruthless and ugly. I'm not fond of many of these This book rang all my bells for juicy, gossipy, nonfiction tell-all books. I've read other books about Capote and his "swans" both collectively and individually. It's a fascinating transitional time period in our history and this book captures that era beautifully. Capote was a flawed sad literary genius. His ability to gather women of high society, create close friendships then exploit and expose their flaws and vulnerabilities for his own gain is ruthless and ugly. I'm not fond of many of these women or Capote as portrayed in this book but the story is terrific. 5 big shiny stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    After reading this book about Truman Capote and his female swans, I deduced that Capote was a miserable excuse for a human being, a back stabber, and a horrid gossip. The high society women and their husbands in Capote’s social circle were also revealed in an unflattering manner. They were unfaithful, uncaring, and money-driven people who were quite self centered. Somehow, I don’t ever want to mix with the wealthy or famous people in this world.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kate Guinan

    Truman Capote collected beautiful, rich, society women and called them his "swans". The epitome of society in the 50's and 60's, Babe Paley, Slim Heyward, Gloria Vanderbilt, C.Z. Guest, Pamela Churchill Harriman, Grace Saroyan, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwell..... they entertained him, lavished him with gifts, afforded him travel and shared all their darkest secrets with him. Until he decided to write a novel about them. Dark, delicious and fun. Truman Capote collected beautiful, rich, society women and called them his "swans". The epitome of society in the 50's and 60's, Babe Paley, Slim Heyward, Gloria Vanderbilt, C.Z. Guest, Pamela Churchill Harriman, Grace Saroyan, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwell..... they entertained him, lavished him with gifts, afforded him travel and shared all their darkest secrets with him. Until he decided to write a novel about them. Dark, delicious and fun.

  19. 5 out of 5

    willowdog

    I'll be the first to admit that at a grocery check out, I will always peruse the trash magazines featuring celebrities that I rarely know. The titles are always fascinating to me. Who is divorcing whom? Who is dating whom? I check out who is on Vanity Fair, knowing the articles are often too long for me to get into them. It's a way of just be connected in this media frenzy world. But what was it like before the internet? Yes, there were a few publicists for newspapers and stars, but I don't reme I'll be the first to admit that at a grocery check out, I will always peruse the trash magazines featuring celebrities that I rarely know. The titles are always fascinating to me. Who is divorcing whom? Who is dating whom? I check out who is on Vanity Fair, knowing the articles are often too long for me to get into them. It's a way of just be connected in this media frenzy world. But what was it like before the internet? Yes, there were a few publicists for newspapers and stars, but I don't remember it to be so all encompassing. Enter Capote's Women by Laurence Leamer. Leamer focuses on the seven swans that Capote had said that he was writing about since the fifties in his novel Answered Prayers which he finally published in the 60's. Whatever one thought of the sleepy and conservative 40's and 50's is laid to rest for these ladies of wealth and prestige. Using a terrific bibliography, the lives, loves, and follies of Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwill, C.Z. Guest, Slim Keith, Gloria Guinness, Barbara 'Babe' Paley and Pamela Harriman are brought to life. And what lives they had! For me, it was a complete revelation. Capote's relationships with his swans is noted, but the real value is the peak into the stratospheric lives of the super wealthy. Thanks to Edelweiss/Above the Treeline for this electronic copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    Capote's Women is a tome that honors women at a certain time in the history of America. All possessing the motivation to live a life where they would be heard. Creating an original voice outside the shadow of great men required transformative grit. Their powers were not to be trifled with. Truman Ultimately underestimated the bonds of their friendship and this is the extraordinary story. Leamer wrote an empowering tale. His take is truly original. Millennials, this is an opportunity to jump into a c Capote's Women is a tome that honors women at a certain time in the history of America. All possessing the motivation to live a life where they would be heard. Creating an original voice outside the shadow of great men required transformative grit. Their powers were not to be trifled with. Truman Ultimately underestimated the bonds of their friendship and this is the extraordinary story. Leamer wrote an empowering tale. His take is truly original. Millennials, this is an opportunity to jump into a chapter of women's history. Spellbinding, smart and beautiful. A read you wont soon forget.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J.

    For me this seemed like the nonfiction version of The Swans of Fifth Avenue. Truman Capote was a genius, charming, witty and bright. He adored the beautiful society women who had style and grace. They were his best friends and he was their confidant. It was a lovely thing in the beginning. But, as so often happens, friendships are taken for granted, confidences are betrayed, talent succumbs to ego. I enjoyed reading about Capote's early days and writing success. The swans of society were also in For me this seemed like the nonfiction version of The Swans of Fifth Avenue. Truman Capote was a genius, charming, witty and bright. He adored the beautiful society women who had style and grace. They were his best friends and he was their confidant. It was a lovely thing in the beginning. But, as so often happens, friendships are taken for granted, confidences are betrayed, talent succumbs to ego. I enjoyed reading about Capote's early days and writing success. The swans of society were also intriguing to read about. But there was a sadness to them and to him.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jane Ammeson

    "There are certain women who, though perhaps not born rich, are born to be rich," author Truman Capote wrote about the beautiful, well-dressed, and style-setting women he called his “swans.” The ultimate arm candy for the wealthiest and most powerful of men, these women of the mid-20th century were trophy wives before the term existed. And they counted Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and creator of the true crime genre with In Cold Blood, his chilling recounting of the brutal murders "There are certain women who, though perhaps not born rich, are born to be rich," author Truman Capote wrote about the beautiful, well-dressed, and style-setting women he called his “swans.” The ultimate arm candy for the wealthiest and most powerful of men, these women of the mid-20th century were trophy wives before the term existed. And they counted Capote, the author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and creator of the true crime genre with In Cold Blood, his chilling recounting of the brutal murders of a Kansas family, as their best friend. In Capote's Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era, New York Times best-selling author Laurence Leamer takes us back to a time and a world where jet-setting, making the best-dressed list, attending and giving A-plus list parties, and dining at the most wonderful places whether in New York, Paris, London, or wherever your yacht happened to be moored were what these exalted women excelled at. Obtaining their lifestyles depended upon a confluence of beauty, wit, moxie, and marrying and knowing when to discard husbands as they worked their way up and up. At times, divorce papers were barely signed before the next wedding was held. “You have to enter into their lives,” says Leamer, explaining how he so succinctly captured the personalities of the swans: Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Slim Hayward, Pamela Churchill, C.Z. Guest and Lee Radziwill who constantly seethed because of the attention her older sister, Jackie Kennedy, always received. “Even though,” Leamer points out, “unlike Jackie she didn’t want to do the hard work that it takes to achieve something.” These women knew how to climb to higher heights. Gloria Guinness had transitioned from a childhood of constant motion in Mexico and marriage at age 20 to a man 27 years older to marrying a German aristocrat and a romantic involvement with a top Nazi during World War II. Her third marriage was to the grandson of an Egyptian King and her last, the biggest prize, was to a scion of the Guinness beer family who was also a member of Parliament. Other wins were modeling for big time designers and the best of the fashion magazines as well as being on the International Best Dressed List for several years. But ultimately, she wasn’t happy says Leamer who believes she committed suicide. There was also Barbara “Babe” Paley whose mother raised her three daughters to marry money. Paley, who had been badly injured in an automobile accident when young, spent her life in considerable pain. Her husband expected perfection in all things and so she never slept in the same bedroom, so she could the loss of her front teeth. But being the best wasn’t always the answer to happy life. The swans may have had uber-wealthy husbands, but they didn’t have good husbands. Frequently husbands and wives were flagrantly promiscuous, and the swans often led separate lives not only from their spouses but also their children. “For them, to be a mom was to be hands-off,” says Leamer. “And the children often paid a price. They didn’t necessary learn to do anything because they were going to inherit a lot of money.” Ornamental to the max, these were women who did nothing but did it extremely well. And Capote, despite his great literary successes, spent a lot of time doing nothing with them. He listened to their secrets and ultimately decided to write a book revealing what he had heard. When an article he penned revealed some of those stories, the swans all turned against him, and he was exiled from the society he craved. “I went to a family wedding recently,” says Leamer noting the warmth and connectiveness that everyone had. “These women and Capote never had this.” It’s such a cliché to say money doesn’t buy happiness. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And it certainly is delicious to read about the lives of women who many thought had it all even though they didn’t. Online Book Event Join Laurence Leamer in an online event hosted by the American Writer’s Museum in Chicago when he reads from and discusses his new book." When: October 13 at 6:30 p.m. How to Join In: This program will be hosted online via Zoom. To register, visit americanwritersmuseum.org/program-cal...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir

    Much has been written about Truman Capote’s rise and precipitous fall, when an excerpt from his novel of New York society revealed what he really thought of his wealthy friends. Veteran biographer Laurence Leamer’s focus is not only on the writer but on these stylish, glamorous women who trusted Capote with their secrets, only to be betrayed by his thinly veiled story. Witty and gay in every sense of the word, Capote was welcomed everywhere and knew how to engage his prey --- usually beautiful, w Much has been written about Truman Capote’s rise and precipitous fall, when an excerpt from his novel of New York society revealed what he really thought of his wealthy friends. Veteran biographer Laurence Leamer’s focus is not only on the writer but on these stylish, glamorous women who trusted Capote with their secrets, only to be betrayed by his thinly veiled story. Witty and gay in every sense of the word, Capote was welcomed everywhere and knew how to engage his prey --- usually beautiful, wealthy, smart society women whom he genuinely admired. As he posed no threat to men, they and their wives --- his “swans,” as he called them --- adored him. The list of swans included Babe Paley, Pamela Churchill Harriman, Slim Hayward, Lee Radziwill (the younger sister of Jackie Onassis), C.Z. Guest, Marella Agnelli (who grew wary of Capote long before his exposé), and Gloria Guinness, a Mexican socialite. Long before most women could have successful careers, these ladies were obsessed with marrying rich, powerful men who could give them an entrée into society. Not one of them was happy with her husband or, in many cases, successive husbands. Capote was part of New York society before the success of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, but that book and IN COLD BLOOD assured his place as a literary figure. His ability to develop friendships with interesting women extended back to his Southern childhood, when Carson McCullers and Harper Lee were companions long before they rose to fame. After his fall from society, Esquire published the excerpt from his ever-forthcoming novel, ANSWERED PRAYERS, in 1975. Some of his socialite friends like C.Z. and Lee remained (for a time, at least) by his side, but eventually drugs and alcohol consumed him. He died in Los Angeles, ironically while visiting his dear old friend, Joanne Carson --- Johnny’s ex-wife. Capote’s own life story was so intertwined with his remarkable friendships that it’s impossible to understand the man without the friends. What CAPOTE’S WOMEN captures is how these myriad and multilayered friendships came about and nourished him for so long, until his inner demons proved too damning for all but a few of his faithful. Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Never has such terrific gossip been so well-packaged as in Laurence Leamer's beautifully written and superbly researched CAPOTE'S WOMEN. Truman Capote cultivated friendships with a coterie of jet-setting, dynamic women, usually married to some of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He called them his "swans," and these friendships lasted decades. "Truman sailed on their yachts, flew on their planes, stayed at their estates, supped at their tables, and heard their most intimate tales, Never has such terrific gossip been so well-packaged as in Laurence Leamer's beautifully written and superbly researched CAPOTE'S WOMEN. Truman Capote cultivated friendships with a coterie of jet-setting, dynamic women, usually married to some of the richest and most powerful men in the world. He called them his "swans," and these friendships lasted decades. "Truman sailed on their yachts, flew on their planes, stayed at their estates, supped at their tables, and heard their most intimate tales," writes Leamer. Capote gathered tales of affairs, abortions, eating disorders, neglected children and marital woes. But when he published a thinly veiled chapter from his novel-in-progress Answered Prayers that exposed many of those secrets, he was exiled from his life of privilege among the rich and famous. His final decade was filled with mental breakdowns, visits to drug and alcohol rehab clinics and ill health. Leamer (THE PRICE OF JUSTICE) bests Capote by telling the full juicy stories of these swans, stories that Capote could only hint about. Leamer introduces readers to Barbara "Babe" Paley, wife of the president of CBS ("Babe had sought wealth and position, not happiness," writes Leamer, "and she achieved precisely what she wanted."); Nancy "Slim" Keith (her affair with Clark Gable was sandwiched between marriages to director Howard Hawks and producer Leland Hayward); Gloria Guinness (her fourth marriage was to one of the richest men in the world); Lee Radziwell; Italian princess Marella Agnelli and others. CAPOTE'S WOMEN not only spills all the page-turning scandals of his swans but also the compelling rise and fall of the diminutive gay author. This is celebrity gossip of the highest quality. This scintillating look behind the curtain at some of the richest and most powerful women in the world is fabulously entertaining.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Linda Hutchinson

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A book titled Capote’s Woman is an oxymoron when discussing Truman Capote who was one of the most famous gay writers of his time. The author, Laurence Leamer, knows Mr. Capote was openly gay with a flamboyant, colorful, and entertaining personality. I was a tremendous fan of his books, In Cold Blood and Breakfast At Tiffany’s which showcased his outstanding storytelling skills. But it was his New York lifestyle that set him apart. Capote came from nothing and was raised in a small south ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A book titled Capote’s Woman is an oxymoron when discussing Truman Capote who was one of the most famous gay writers of his time. The author, Laurence Leamer, knows Mr. Capote was openly gay with a flamboyant, colorful, and entertaining personality. I was a tremendous fan of his books, In Cold Blood and Breakfast At Tiffany’s which showcased his outstanding storytelling skills. But it was his New York lifestyle that set him apart. Capote came from nothing and was raised in a small southern town. His early life was one of abandonment by both of his parents who left him in the care of elderly Aunts. When he came into the public view as an author, he was single-mindedly intent on befriending the most famous, fashionable, beautiful, and elegant women in New York City. He succeeded by becoming their best friend and confidant as he wooed his “swans”. However, Truman Capote was his own worst enemy and eventually lost the goodwill of his generous benefactors when he exposed some of their most embarrassing secrets. His decline in death was a sad end to a spectacular life. The author presented a different view of Mr. Capote and I enjoyed learning more about each of the women who made up the beautiful swans. Well done. #trumancapote #swans #socialites #studio54 #biography #nonfiction #socialclimber @netgalley @laurenceleamer #capoteswomen @putnambooks 💎 💎 #reading #books #bookstagram #book #read #bookworm #booklover #bookish #bibliophile #booksofinstagram #booklovers #bookish #lindaleereads2021 #mmdbookclub #idratherbereading #readinglife #mmdsummerreading #summerreadingguide @modernmrsdarcy #mmdchallenge #August Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book which absolutely delighted me. Release Oct 3021.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Truman Capote was a larger-than-life character, and he used his charm and talent to worm his way into the highest echelons of society. Having befriended some of the wealthiest and most stylish women in the world, he was a willing beneficiary of their largesse and generosity. I was already familiar with the scenario from Melanie Benjamin’s fictionalized account, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, but this book was juicy for its factualness. It offered mini biographies of all of Capote’s swans and their h Truman Capote was a larger-than-life character, and he used his charm and talent to worm his way into the highest echelons of society. Having befriended some of the wealthiest and most stylish women in the world, he was a willing beneficiary of their largesse and generosity. I was already familiar with the scenario from Melanie Benjamin’s fictionalized account, The Swans of Fifth Avenue, but this book was juicy for its factualness. It offered mini biographies of all of Capote’s swans and their husbands, including Babe Paley and Jackie O’s sister Lee Radziwill. The wealth of these people was staggering and Capote accompanied them on lavish vacations, dined at their sumptuously appointed tables, and visited them at their colossal estates. But astutely observant Capote was hoarding away these experiences and the secrets of these women for what he deemed would be his literary magnum opus. Though he never did publish the book in full, a large excerpt of it appeared in Esquire in 1975. His thinly veiled characters were easily identified. The women he portrayed were some of his closest friends, and the way he insulted them was beyond embarrassing. “…he had abused their friendship and betrayed them in a display of appallingly bad manner.” Thus, Capote effectively ostracized himself from the world that had coddled him. It was a deliciously opulent book that was gossipy without being blatant and I very much enjoyed the peek into societies highest tiers. I received a complimentary copy of this book via a Goodreads giveaway.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    My mom reviewed this one for me because my TBR pile is so large and my reading time has been so small lately. She enjoyed this story because she remembered her mother following “the swans” aka the rich socialites of mid-century NY. Every women looked forward to seeing the “best and worst dressed” lists featuring these women. This book focused on Truman Capote weaseling his way into the lives of these women and highlighted how sad their lives were behind all the money and glamour. This book will My mom reviewed this one for me because my TBR pile is so large and my reading time has been so small lately. She enjoyed this story because she remembered her mother following “the swans” aka the rich socialites of mid-century NY. Every women looked forward to seeing the “best and worst dressed” lists featuring these women. This book focused on Truman Capote weaseling his way into the lives of these women and highlighted how sad their lives were behind all the money and glamour. This book will be enjoyed by those familiar with this time period and interested in Capote and the wealthy circle he ran in. 📚📖 “For years, Capote attempted to write An­swered Prayers, what he believed would have been his magnum opus. But when he eventually published a few chapters in Esquire, the thinly fictionalized lives (and scandals) of his closest fe­male confidantes were laid bare for all to see, and he was banished from their high-society world forever. Laurence Leamer re-creates the lives of these fascinating swans, their friendships with Capote and one another, and the doomed quest to write what could have been one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century” (Amazon) Thank you for the free/gifted book @putnambooks . This is an honest review of this novel by my mom @cathyp2010

  28. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Wahl

    In the consumerism of the 1950s and 60s, women and marriages are just as much commodities as anything else on the market. And if you are a man of money and taste, you won't be settling for anything less than a certified Swan. It was truly fascinating to learn about these women, how they manipulated the marriage 'market' for stability and luxury, and ultimately how it did not work out for any of them the way that they had hoped. Even Truman Capote, one of the few men these women truly trusted, be In the consumerism of the 1950s and 60s, women and marriages are just as much commodities as anything else on the market. And if you are a man of money and taste, you won't be settling for anything less than a certified Swan. It was truly fascinating to learn about these women, how they manipulated the marriage 'market' for stability and luxury, and ultimately how it did not work out for any of them the way that they had hoped. Even Truman Capote, one of the few men these women truly trusted, betrayed them in the end. Beauty (and money, and refinement, but beauty most importantly) got them incredibly far, but it could not bring them the happiness they were looking for. The book was organized by connecting each of Capote's Swans to aspects of his personality, but that created a somewhat confusing chronology. The women were tackled one at a time, which meant it was difficult to draw connections between them, especially since there was no real timeline to follow. Capote's Women would be a good read for anyone who enjoys the celebrity and fashion of the midcentury, or is a fan of Truman Capote. Readers might enjoy it if they liked The Crown (Netflix), or Miss Dior by Justine Picardie.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Truman Capote, best known for his works Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, was one of the most famous authors of his time. Because of his social stature, he would collect women as friends, those who were high-class, well-dressed, and all-around high-society women. He called these women his Swans. As a gay man, he befriended them and became a pillar of their social lives, but his motives for friendship weren't pure. As he penned the novel to be his lifetime achievement, he used the lives o Truman Capote, best known for his works Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood, was one of the most famous authors of his time. Because of his social stature, he would collect women as friends, those who were high-class, well-dressed, and all-around high-society women. He called these women his Swans. As a gay man, he befriended them and became a pillar of their social lives, but his motives for friendship weren't pure. As he penned the novel to be his lifetime achievement, he used the lives of his friends to create Answered Prayers. But his thinly veiled characters showed all of the flaws and downfalls of his friends and he was suddenly left out in the cold by those who used to adore him. Guys, this book is SO INTERESTING. I so enjoyed reading about the glamorous and sad lives of the people who were so prominent in our history. This book was mostly about the women and their entire lives, from childhood up until the point they knew Capote, and less about the author himself. If you're a true book nerd, you'll be giddy with the appearances by Harper Lee and Hemingway, as well as learning about the Kennedys. Such a unique book! Thank you so much to Putnam for the ARC!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Flora

    Over the years there have been many books that reflect the lives of “the rich and famous” in NYC at various points in time. Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Age of Innocence” (set in NYC’s high society of the 1870’s) set the standard. What is consistent over the years is that we amongst the “lower classes” continue to be fascinated by the lives of the rich and beautiful….what they wore, where they lived, where they travelled, how they “socialized”and with whom. Truman Capote, the ultimate o Over the years there have been many books that reflect the lives of “the rich and famous” in NYC at various points in time. Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Age of Innocence” (set in NYC’s high society of the 1870’s) set the standard. What is consistent over the years is that we amongst the “lower classes” continue to be fascinated by the lives of the rich and beautiful….what they wore, where they lived, where they travelled, how they “socialized”and with whom. Truman Capote, the ultimate outsider, was able to ingratiate himself into the “highest” levels of NYC society, befriending glamorous wealthy socialites. This glib, elfin, witty man-boy became their trusted confidant and companion, with whom they shared their most intimate thoughts and fears. Truman called these famous socialites his “swans”. He traded the swans’ confidences as commodities, parlaying his privileged trove of salacious gossip as a way of ensuring his continued acceptance by the rich and famous. This book is about the “swans” Capote befriended and betrayed, and the often sad and pointless lives these women lead.

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