Skip to main content

16th October 2018

Review: ‘Swan Song’ by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s novel is a brilliant representation of a literary icon, Truman Capote, and an incredible debut novel, writes Robert Boddy
Review: ‘Swan Song’ by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott
Photo: Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott

Truman Capote’s final work, Answered Prayers, was left unfinished at the time of his death in 1984. Only four chapters were published in Esquire Magazine and received criticism for being salacious, scandalous, and cruel. The chapters were thinly veiled attacks on Capote’s High Society friends after they began to fall out. Swan Song, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott’s debut novel, tells the story of Capote’s decline due to alcoholism, drug addiction, and the fallout from publishing the scandalous chapters. The starlets of the sixties are brilliantly evoked in this expansive story covering decades.

The story is broad, covering some of Capote’s childhood, his early career, his peak of success in the mid-1960s, and his volatile and unstable later years. The novel never feels strained; the story is always at the forefront and is never bloated or bogged down with unnecessary details.

Jephcott’s writing style is evocative of Capote’s, but doesn’t read like an imitation. She writes with a great deal of control, with nothing in the novel seeming scripted or rehearsed. Jephcott is constantly changing how we view Capote; at one point he is the most lecherous cretin imaginable, not worthy of the air he breathes, but a few pages later, he is worth of sympathy and even pity.

The only caveat I could give is that there may be some ‘required reading’ of the culture of the time, or at least a knowledge of Capote’s life and literature, in order to fully appreciate the novel. The book is a must for Capote fans, but is definitely still worth a read for anyone who doesn’t know much about him.

I was surprised reading Swan Song that it was a debut novel. The book is meticulously written and no matter how eventful the narrative gets, it is always believable. It’s clear that a lot of care was taken in Jephcott’s research process and perhaps even more in the crafting of the novel; sentence by sentence, it’s beautiful written. Swan Song is a strong first novel, and I look forward to what Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott writes next.

The book was released in hardback in June, with a paperback release due in April 2019.

Robert Boddy

Robert Boddy

A third year English Student.

More Coverage

The greatest band that never existed: Daisy Jones and The Six review

1970s rock roll never looked so good in Taylor Jenkins-Reid’s sun-soaked dive into LA’s music scene. Full of furious arguments, romantic tension and great music, both the series and the book caters perfectly to fans of 70s music.

Interview with Frederick Studemann: Judge for the International Booker Prize

The Mancunion sat down with one of the Judges of the International Booker Prize, Frederick Studemann, to discuss the importance of translated fiction and the diversity of this prize

Dear Dolly Live: Sex, breakups and tipsy confessions

Find out Dolly Alderton’s thoughts on everything from messy breakups to writing sex scenes at Dear Dolly Live, where “she just makes you feel better!”

Why do we still love Jane Austen?

Jane Austen seems to be everywhere, in film, Urban Outfitters and even in your wallet. We look into why people keep picking up her books even 200 years after her death.