The true university these days is a collection of books.
-Thomas Carlyle

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

I picked this one up from the Bluecoat book fair a couple of months ago, wondering what the novel behind such a famous film was like. I saw the film years ago, and there are many iconic images from it that are regularly seen in the media. It was also pretty short at just on 100 pages.
Set during the 1940's in New York, the story is narrated by a man who is never named. He tells the story of an enigmatic and exuberant young woman who lives in the same building of apartments. The woman in question has passed into the mists of legend at the beginning, rumoured to be in Africa and just as infamous, making his friend Joe misty eyed with remembered affection. From here our narrator recounts how he met Holly Golightly and became entangled in her life for a short time and the effect that she had on all around her.
The story is an examination of Holly's character as a good time party girl, a charismatic character full of contrasts that are irresistable to all. Prioritising money but yearning for love, needing protection like a naive child but also a street-wise survivor. Holly hates feeling caged or trapped and yearns to be free. When anyone comes too close she closes up and becomes vague, adding to her allure. By the end everyone has a crush on her, is a little in love with her, or even more than a little.
I enjoyed reading about her, once I had got over the fact that she has short, blond hair. She still continued with Audrey Hepburns voice though, such is the endurance of the film. This is a story about one of the most memorable female characters (from a book or film) and I think that it is because Holly is so unpredictable and charming. She gets away with more than most women of her era simply because she is so likeable. You are aware of her materialism, her shallowness, her dubious relations with men, but she is also very alluring, and beautiful, causing men to be entrapped by her personality, like moths around a flame. I couldn't decide whether she really was so in the dark about the mess she becomes entangled in, but the question adds to her mystery.
The abiding theme of the story is that you cannot trap a wild thing. Indeed, the narrator is first aware of her before he meets her, by a notice on her mail box, 'Holly Golightly, travelling' and it seems that she never stops long, anywhere. When Holly buys the narrator a birdcage he had admired, she makes him promise not to put anything in it. She also likens herself to her nameless cat saying they are both homeless.
A series of events ensure that Holly is off travelling again at the end, and appears to still be so fifteen years later where the story began. You can be sure that adventure will always follow her and many more will recount the days in ber presence with a rosy nostalgia that accompanies days spent in a hedonistic hormonal kind of bliss.
The enigma that is Holly Golightly will ensure that this book will be held high, as a classic story about an unforgettable female, for a long time, and will provide lots for readers groups to discuss too.
There is a dedicated website to all about Breakfast at Tiffany's. Click the link.


Jeane said...

I have heard so often of Breakfast at Tiffany's and never bothered to find out what it was really about. Glad to know, but I doubt I'll ever read it. I tried two Capote books- a collection of short stories, and In Cold Blood, and neither worked well for me.

Nadia said...

Loved your thorough review of this book. I have yet to read it - though I have it on my shelf. I think I will give it a go soon enough - it sounds like an interesting story. Plus, I absolutely loved In Cold Blood - brilliant work! Thanks for the post!

Leah said...

Jeane - thanks for your message, I'm not sure I will read more but I did enjoy this one and it was short.
Nadia - thanks for dropping by. It certainly is an enjoyable read, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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