Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
First Published: 1958, by Random House.
This Edition: 2000, Penguin Classics
From the back of the book: “It’s New York in the 1940s, where 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”
Thoughts: Audrey Hepburn posters on university hall walls and that song by Deep Blue Something, circa 1995, are what spring to mind when somebody says ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’, but I’d never read the book. I have now.
Refreshingly, it’s a novella, so for those of you who like a quick read, this is perfect. Truman Capote catapults the reader into 1940s Manhattan, to the narrator’s first brownstone apartment. Downstairs lives curious Holly Golightly. They frequent the same bar on Lexington Avenue, run by the sullen and slightly uncomfortable Joe Bell, under the guise of using the telephone, but more than a few drinks seem to disappear in the process.
Tales of Holly’s maturing gentleman friends, oddballs that she may or may not end up marrying and bizarre social gatherings were enough to entertain me on their own, but her visits to an elderly mafia man in prison add a welcome sharp edge to the otherwise idyllic party scene in glitzy New York. The fact that he is named Sally Tomato and is almost certainly up to no good are bonus points.
If you’re a fan of the movie, you will notice some major differences. The most obvious to me is the change in Holly’s character. In the film, I have to admit she almost gets on my nerves with her slightly flaky approach to life. Here, in the depths of the original story, you can untangle that character properly. Dark, lonely, egocentric and using logic that only Holly can truly make sense of, Capote has created a character that would merit several more chapters, but we have to make do with a short story. It is, however, extremely well written.
In this edition, we’re also treated to three short stories to follow the main Novella. House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory.
Edibility Rating: 4 Monster Points
Favourite Line: “He perched up there with the balance of a bird, his paws tangled in her hair as if it were knitting yarn; and yet, despite these amiable antics, it was a grim cat with a pirate’s cut-throat face; one eye was gluey-blind, the other sparkled with dark deeds.”