Friday, 11 March 2011

Breakfast At Tiffany's By Truman Capote

It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.
-
This edition also contains three stories: 'House of Flowers', 'A Diamond Guitar' and 'A Christmas Memory'.
-
I'm sure everybody is familiar with the film Breakfast At Tiffany's with the iconic Audrey Hepburn but I wonder how many nowadays know it's also a novella, because I didn't. It wasn't until after I watched the movie (and enjoyed it) that I found out that it was originally a book. Even though it's been a while since I watched the film and there are some differences from the book, I still recognised the same atmosphere and feelings from the book that I connected with the film, even if the book is slightly darker and the film more light-hearted with a happy ending.
-
Holly Golightly is a complex and very mysterious character and I never felt like I truly got to know her. Now I would normally say that this is a bad thing in almost all novels, but here I felt it was the making of the story. She has this blase exterior and has a very spontaneous character, she seems to do things on the whim of the moment and has no qualms about manipulating people to get what she wants. While she tries to portray a laid back attitude you get the feeling that she has a plethora of emotions just brewing under the surface and she is not a person to be crossed or taken advantage of.
-
The story is told from the point of view of an unnamed (although Holly likes to call him Fred) man that has become captivated by the alluring Holly Golightly. He lives in the apartment above her and gets to know her ways of life and a few aspects of her character but never in depth because Holly does not let anybody close. It's as if we just scrape the surface of who she is. Anybody that shows any interest in her life is just ignored and pushed away.
-
She is definitely an enigma and whilst she comes across as somebody that has detached herself from any kind of harsh reality, she is actually probably in the thick of it. She earns her money by using her charms with rich men and delivering messages from a criminals in prison. She has this facade that nothing phases her. The only time she seems to show true emotion is when it involves her brother Fred. However, she always to try and hide this aspect of her personality which makes you wonder what has happened to make her want to hide who she really is.
-
Throughout the whole story she never lets anybody close, not even the reader and I also get the feeling that even Truman Capote was not allowed this privelege and never got to fully unravel her character. Which is why I think this works so well as a short story, it leaves you guessing at who this girl is and how she came to be and where she will go. She's sometimes deceptive and almost alway's selfish but there is an aura about her that makes her mesmerizing and fun which makes her hard to resist and absolutely makes for a great read. It leaves you wanting more and wanting to know whether Holly ever found the peace she craved and only ever seemed to feel in her beloved Tiffany's.
-
Of the short stories that was also included with Breakfast At Tiffany's, my favourite was 'A Christmas Memory' and was almost definitely my favourite part of the whole book. Capote managed to capture a beautiful frienship between an old lady and a young boy and conjured up bittersweet memories of their Christmas together. The story has this wonderfully festive atmosphere but it also has an undertone of poverty that is tinged with loneliness and sadness. It somehow manages to be heart breaking and heart warming at the same time.
-
Capote has a way of capturing the small details of peoples character and they really shine through in his stories and they keep you reading to the end. He seems to have this understanding of the human nature and is able to deliver this subtly in his stories. They are intimate, poignant and honest and very beautifully written. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
-

-
Random Passage: I pointed to a bowl of apples, at the same time asked her how and why she'd left home so young. She looked at me blankly, and rubbed her nose, as though it tickled: a gesture, seeing often repeated,I came to recognize as a signal that one was trespassing. Like many people with a bold fondness for volunteering intimate information, anything that suggested a direct question, a pinning-down, put her on guard. She took a bite of apple, and said: "Tell me something you've written.The story part."

2 comments:

mummazappa said...

I read this after watching the film Capote and became intrigued with him and wanted to read something he'd written. BAT being one of my favourite movies meant this collection was the winner. I adored the stories. I've always wanted to read In Cold Blood too, but just haven't got around to it as yet.

The Library Owl said...

I watched Capote a few years back too and I remember wondering if it was an accurate representation of Capote, but unfornunetly my interest obviously waned and I have only just got around to reading his work. I'm so glad I did and now I'm also intrigued to see what In Cold Blood has to offer as well as Other Voices, Other Rooms :)