Fiction, Historical fiction

Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott – Review

This is an astonishing literary fiction debut. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott has done a very clever thing – written a semi-fictionalised account of a semi-fictionalised account. Truman Capote was the trusted confidant of much of New York society, listening to their intimate worries and travelling the world with them. His inner circle became known as the Swans, and included Jackie Kennedy’s sister Princess Lee Radziwill, Gloria Guinness and C.Z. Guest. But Capote decided to write a thinly disguised book about the Swans and they saw this as the ultimate betrayal (he never finished the book, but one chapter, La Côte Basque, was published in Esquire in 1975). 

This book swaps between the viewpoints of the Swans and Capote and must have taken an enormous amount of research. It’s a sumptuous sweep of a book, moving from both the peak of the friendships to the betrayal, and the voices come loud and clear through the pages. I loved it, but it’s a rich multi-course meal – take your time and savour it. It’s not one to be rushed. You might need to read a palette cleanser afterwards, and I will be picking up something much lighter next.

Historical fiction, Thriller

The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies – Review

This book is an interesting mix of mystery and romance set in 1930s Burma, and swaps between the stories of Belle, a nightclub singer and Diana, her mother. I found it a gentle read, as Belle explores the mystery of her missing baby sister, although there are a couple of points of high tension.  It’s nicely woven together and there’s clearly a huge amount of research that’s gone into the historical background of colonialism in that region. Ultimately I’d prefer something a little more tense and pacy, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction and in particular that between-the-wars period where colonialism was in a period of decline, I think you might love it.

This is a review of an advance copy provided by NetGalley and Penguin Books.

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