Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – Book Review

Title: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Author: Truman Capote

Genre: Modern Classic, Literary, Novella

Blurb from Goodreads

Meet Holly Golightly – a free spirited, lop-sided romantic girl about town. With her tousled blond hair and upturned nose, dark glasses and chic black dresses, Holly is a style sensation wherever she goes. Her apartment rocks to Martini-soaked parties and she plays hostess to millionaires and gangsters alike. Yet Holly never loses sight of her ultimate dream – to find a real-life place like Tiffany’s that makes her feel at home.

Full of sharp wit and exuberant, larger-than-life characters, which vividly capture the restless, madcap era of 1940s New York, Breakfast at Tiffany’s will make you fall in love, perhaps for the first time, with a book.

My Review

“She was still hugging the cat. “Poor slob,” she said, tickling his head, “poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.” She smiled, and let the cat drop to the floor. “It’s like Tiffany’s,” she said.”

It’s very hard to separate Breakfast at Tiffany’s the book from Breakfast at Tiffany’s the film. Sadly enough, in my opinion neither are perfect. I wish there was some way to take the best of both and smush them all together…

Holly Golightly is such an iconic figure of the 20th century. The little black dress, the tiara at breakfast time, eating pastries in the street outside of Tiffany’s in New York and Audrey Hepburn’s beautiful smiling face. Her elegance, her interpretation of Holly’s quirks…

Holly Golightly image

When I first saw the film I actually hated it!! Which was very upsetting to me because I love Audrey Hepburn!! I wanted to be her when I was little. My BFF loved Marilyn Monroe but I was an Audrey fan. Roman Holiday is one of the most perfect films ever made in my opinion. I know all the words to My Fair Lady. Funny Face even made me like a Fred Astaire film much to my mum’s chagrin; she was not his fan!

But back to the film adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s… I never liked the character of Holly! Her quirks annoyed me, I could never fully empathise with her and the first time I watched it I have to admit that I was less than impressed. I didn’t think that there was any genuine love story between George Peppard’s character and Holly so that never made sense as a main plot point of the film to me. And don’t even get me started on Mickey Rooney’s casting….Seriously??? Someone thought that was okay???? judging you Hollywood

However, probably about 10 years or more passed by and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was on tv one Sunday afternoon and I gave it another shot… and I am pleased I did!

On second viewing I warmed to Holly’s character; I think I was much too young when I saw the film for the first time and was unable to understand a character that didn’t always do the right thing. So a little more maturity and a greater appreciation of Audrey Hepburn’s acting abilities made me enjoy the storyline an awful lot more! And suddenly I could understand (some of) the fuss around this film. However, I still didn’t buy into the whole love story!!!

And then we come to the novella…

And I’m right back at square one again!!!

I just did not like it!!! I can fully appreciate the writing style; there are some beautiful quotes and passages that can really touch you to your core… But these characters: Holly, our nameless narrator, the bar keeper, the roommate… For whatever reason they all blended together and no part of the story really jumped out and grabbed my attention.

I couldn’t feel it.

I wanted to, and at times I felt heartless because of some of the lovely prose…

“Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell,’ Holly advised him. ‘That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things. A hawk with a hurt wing. One time it was a full-grown bobcat with a broken leg. But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up, Mr. Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.”

But I had that same problem with Holly again, I could not connect to her.

And this time there was no Audrey Hepburn to rescue me.

Holly was just too irritating for me. I know she is very much the proverbial bird that you can never cage and I do appreciate the beauty and bittersweet nature of that essence of her. But all her interactions with Sal ‘the tomato guy’, her leaving Fred… I could not reconcile myself to those parts of her personality.

I did however love the ending. Oh it’s waaaaay better than the film’s ending. Much truer to Holly.

“You can love somebody without it being like that. You keep them a stranger, a stranger who’s a friend.”

But here is the thing. I don’t mind reading books where I don’t like the main character. If a book is well written enough, with a plot that holds my attention, then it does not matter if the protagonist is likeable or not. In fact it can make a story a lot more interesting if the main character is morally reprehensible in some way.

So what happened here???

For all the lovely quotes I can pull from the book, there are many more that I did not care for. I know this book was first published in the late fifties but that still doesn’t excuse some of the offensive language and stereotyping for me. I couldn’t move past it and it just made me uncomfortable and really hampered my ability to fully enjoy this. Also, I didn’t like the structure of the story, wasn’t a fan of the pacing…
If I’m honest there was very little that I did like. (I know…sorry Holly fans!)

To me the story of Holly was told to us by a narrator who loved Holly. Someone who could see all her flaws, could see the past that had scarred her, someone who could see that she was a beautiful bird that should never be snared…

So through his eyes shouldn’t I have also seen Holly like that and therefore loved her wholly???

I think that is my primary problem with this story. I was supposed to love Holly… but sadly I never did.

So I’m in a bit of a quandary. Should I leave this book for another few years and come back to read it then? Perhaps then I will learn to love Holly as I did in the film. Who knows!

For now this just wasn’t a book I loved but I reserve the right to revisit this story in the future and to hopefully fall in love at second sight. (Or should that be fourth sight if I include the film viewings?????)

And because I love Audrey Hepburn and this song…

“Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day. Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker, Wherever you’re going I’m going your way.

Two drifters off to see the world. There’s such a lot of world to see. We’re after the same rainbow’s end, Waiting ’round the bend, My huckleberry friend, Moon River and me”

Moon River
Music: Henry Mancini.
Lyrics: Johnny Mercer

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