Thursday, 11 November 2021

Beautiful princesses and handsome princes

The Swans of Fifth Avenue Is the The Swans of Fifth Avenue a fairytale? In the Preface Melanie Benjamin describes the eponymous swans as if they really are talking birds floating on the water, rather than a group of rich American women who spend all their time buying clothes, having their hair done, or just doing nothing in expensive properties. Primarily tho', the book is about the relationship between writer Truman Capote and socialite Babe Paley - the other characters play supporting roles.

As a story it's fine, but readers who prefer complex characterisation will role their eyes at the wicked mothers and ugly common folk. The literary style is also disappointing, the text littered with cliched descriptions such as a "cat-that-ate-the-canary grin", or a closet that was an "Aladdin’s cave". In addition there are many unnecessary adverbs and meaningless adjectives which assume the reader has the same aesthetic notions as the characters (and presumably the author).

But hey, it's just a fairytale. Chapter One even begins "Once upon a time", just to be sure you get the point. Beautiful princesses and handsome princes get to go to the ball. Honestly tho', if it's a fairytale you want read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories instead.

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