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The Crack Magazine

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Capote’s Women (A True Story of Love, Ambition & Betrayal) by Laurence Leamer

Truman Capote’s ‘swans’ were a group of very rich and privileged women he became friends with and then proceeded to ‘betray’ in the three stories that were collected in his controversial unfinished novel, Answered Prayers. Attempting to be an expose of the giddy heights of high society it landed with a bit of a nasty thud - regurgitated gossip no one gave much of a fuck about - and confirmed to the swans/Marie Antionettes that Truman was just a lower-class outsider who should never have been invited inside in the first place. In the excellent Capote’s Women, Laurence Leamer introduces all the swans by examining their early lives, how they became rich, famous (and messed up), how they met Truman and what happened next, meanwhile giving us a detailed history of the author that runs in parallel. This is expertly organised and presented by Leamer and never becomes dull or repetitive and for a Capote fan like me (I like Answered Prayers btw) there’s much that’s new and much to be pondered over. The big question continuing to be, why the hell did he do it? Regardless of their obnoxious wealth (and husbands) they were friends who he enjoyed entertaining and being entertained by and were badly missed once they kicked him outside their gilded cages. But, by that time, he was a writer with nothing left in the locker, desperate for one last shot at literary glory. The book’s reception by friends, foes and critics alike left Truman bitter and regretful. No one comes out of this book with reputation enhanced. Some critics have implied the book is some kind of giddy soap opera, but Capote’s Women is sadder and uglier than that, and one can’t help thinking the various swans were the equivalent of the kind of women currently married to today’s crop of tycoons. The kind of women who are happy for you to know your place, happy for you to be consuming product their husbands make (or market) and happy that you’re grateful for the occasional crumbs from their table. If only Truman could have written the book he promised.

Capote’s Women (A True Story of Love, Ambition & Betrayal) – Laurence Leamer – publ. Hodder - £10.99

Steven Long