Women's Prize Longlist 2019 Reviews

Women’s Prize Longlist Review – Swan Song

Swan Song


Publisher: Hutchinson

Format: Hardback

Pages: 467

Rating: 1/5


Swan Song is a fictional exploration or “non-fiction novel” surrounding the famous author Truman Capote and his “swans”. His “swans” were a group of intensely rich and notorious women who made the mistake of confiding their deepest, darkest secrets to the man who wanted to sell them to the world. 

This sounds like the plot for a deliciously dark novel that I ought to have loved, but sadly it fell incredibly short for me. The writing was long-winded at best with whole paragraphs at a time seeming unnecessary and somewhat self-indulgent. It felt as though the author was being paid per word and was consequently attempting to cram in as many as possible. This resulted in a stale book that could have easily been cut in half. 

What should have been a scandalous novel ended up feeling like an academic lecture laced with, often irrelevant, gossip. The author knows so much about Truman Capote’s life, I feel she would have written a better non-fiction book, because even with the abundance of knowledge about the subject, the characters in this fictionalised account were underdeveloped and seemed to merge into one. 

The only part of the book I found vaguely interesting was when Capote turned up for an interview high, because this highlighted the ruthless tendencies of the ravenous media. However, this was brief and not enough to redeem it for me.

It took me much longer than average to finish the book, because I was dreading returning to the dry dialogue and descriptions, and wanted to be finished without actually reading it. I eventually succumbed to listening to the final few chapters on audio book on double speed, although this did not help with my enjoyment of the story. 

Previously, I have given books I’ve thoroughly disliked two stars, such as Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche and The Pisces by Melissa Broder, because they have provoked an intense reaction in me. This was not the case for Swan Song. I only ever felt boredom whilst reading, which made me feel compelled to give it one star.

I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you’re a fan of Capote or love meandering character studies. If your reading tastes are anything like mine, I don’t think this would be an enjoyable reading experience for you and would suggest avoiding.

If you do want to give this one a chance, however, you can buy it from Book Depository.  Please note that this is an affiliate link, and therefore if you buy the book through it, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I will be putting this commission towards improving the content I create for this blog.

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