Gala Theatre Screen 2
Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott certainly knows how to grab the attention of her audience. She speaks with great vivacity and passion about a subject that is clearly very close to her heart as I bustle into The Gala Theatre for her event ‘Cocktails with Capote’.
Truman Capote was a prolific American author from the 1950s to the 1980s. With his passion for partying, martinis and stylish escapades he befriended notable women and made them famous through his narratives. Greenberg-Jephcott tells the audience of how she became captivated by this man and his personal life, which in itself is a narrative to be told.
After ten laborious years of research and six more writing, we have that exact vision to hold in our hands. Swan Song is the tale of these six stylish, eloquent and most importantly, notable, women whom Capote befriended in order to write his final novel Answered Prayers.Greenberg-Jephcott is certain to emphasise that this would be the novel that would eventually ‘consume’ him and cause his downfall, as Capote died of liver-related illness in 1984.
Greenberg-Jephcott talks us through the history of Capote’s life, in her somehow fitting Texan American accent. The way she plays with voice and dialect throughout this one-hourtalk is delightful. She effortlessly switches from her Texan twang into the Yankee style of New York for Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Answered Prayers. It is clear to every audience member that Greenberg-Jephcott is extremely passionate about her life’s work, whichtranslates into Swan Song.
The novel itself follows six notable women: Lady Slim Keith, Lee Radziwill, Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guinness, CZ Guest and Babe Paley. Truman Capote befriended all these women, his ‘swans’, with great intensity. Greenberg-Jepchott reminds us, with a glimmering smile, that he would have drank martinis with them relentlessly. She offers us with fast-paced enthusiasm, a brief character profile of each. Greenberg-Jephcott knows these women well [Capote’s ‘swans’] and I could not help leaving the Gala Theatre feeling as though I now know them too and have just been transported into Capote’s world.
In this sense, what Greenberg-Jepchott has done is incredible. Her novel transports you to a totally different time period in an attempt to rewrite history. Yet I trust the author, I fully believe she has done an accurate job with her ten years of extensive research. There is something about Greenberg-Jephcott that makes me believe every single word that leaves her lips.
When I meet Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott at the book signing afterwards, there is a chatty buzz in the foyer. I am struck by her ability to draw in each individual audience member. She made me feel as though I was the only person in the whole theatre. Similarly, she tells us Truman Capote had “an extraordinary ability to love each of these women [the swans] deeply.” There is perhaps something about Capote that translates into Greenberg-Jephcott herself. She has an extraordinary ability to love each of her readers deeply, which is evident in her attempt to get to know everyone on a personal level in the book signing.
I go back into the screening of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ utterly mesmerised and genuinely delighted at the prospect of reading Swan Song but there is also a little part of me that wants to keep talking to Greenberg-Jephcott. I get the sense that from the ten years of research it took to make this novel, she is an author with so much more to offer.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.