Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
I recently signed up to Audible as a way to occupy myself during my long commutes to work. I’ve always listened to podcasts but I was surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed listening to audiobooks. It’s definitely encouraged me to read more non-fiction as well which is great as I rarely reach for these books in my normal reading pile. Every month I’ll be detailing here what I’ve been listening to in case you’re looking for some audio-inspiration.
The first book I chose was Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s Swan Song. Nominated for the 2019 Women’s Prize, Swan Song had been on my radar for a while so I decided this would be the perfect first pick. Revolving around the autumn of 1975 when, after two decades of intimate friendships, Truman Capote detonated a literary grenade and forever ruptured 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 thing remains indisputable: nine years after achieving wild success with In Cold Blood, Capote committed an act of professional and social suicide with his most lethal of weapons: words.
This remarkable debut explores the line between gossip and slander, self-creation and self-preservation. Swan Song is the tragic story of the literary icon of his age and the beautiful, wealthy, vulnerable women he called his ‘Swans’.
The narrator of the audiobook, Debora Weston, captures Capote’s voice so perfectly to reflect his personality (or at least that portrayed in the book) exactly - a egocentric, self-involved boy. While the narrative is non-linear (something I worried would be difficult to follow via an audiobook), it is easy to follow as it shifts between characters and perspectives.
Swan Song is a fascinating exploration of the lives of the women Capote referred to as his ‘Swans’ and the reasons why they trusted Capote so explicitly with the secrets and as a result why they were so hurt when he exposed them. Indeed, it is Greenberg-Jephcott’s portraits of these women which most distinguish this book. While it would have been easy to continue their portrayal as trophy wives, Greenberg-Jephcott brings them to life, making them vivid and emotive characters who outshine all those around them (particularly the men who surround them).