Currently reading… or more accurately, finished reading…

11 Jun

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

breakfast at tiffanys

The main image that pops into my head when I think of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is that beautiful opening scene in the 1961 film with Holly Golightly, as played by the gorgeous Audrey Hepburn, peering in at the window display of Tiffany’s, dressed in a chic black dress and an elegant up-do.

So it was interesting to compare the film with the original novella by Truman Capote and having watched the film first, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to properly immerse myself in the book as I would have the film at the back of my mind.

I needn’t have worried.

Capote is a true master of language and his writing entices you into a world of such vivid and colourful character that all recollection of the actors in the Hollywood movie fall by the wayside.  Reading the novella, I can see why Capote was against the casting of Hepburn and more in favour of Marilyn Monroe to play the role.  She is described in the book as twenty years old with dyed blonde hair, blue-green eyes and an upturned nose.  Her character in the book flits between acting far more mature than her years, a given considering her primary occupation, and appearing far younger than her years, at one point looking like a ‘twelve year old’.   The novella, as one would imagine, is far darker than the movie and the reader, like the narrator, almost falls in love with the enthralling Golightly who is both strong and vulnerable at the same time.  The narrator’s name is Burt but this is only mentioned towards the end of the novel highlighting that the story is ultimately about Holly.  He is one of many nameless admirers and observers of Holly but his increasing significance in her life warrants him being named.

I love the way Capote uses metaphor to underline Golightly’s inner turmoil and there is one particularly touching scene when, recovering in hospital, Burt gives her a letter with some bad news and she stops to apply her makeup before reading it.  This simple yet rather surprising act highlights her vulnerability: her makeup acts as a mask, an armour to face the world and it is easy to forget that for all the bravado, underneath she is a young vulnerable girl looking for somewhere she feels at home.  The reader is provided with snippets of her darker past: we learn that she and her brother had to fend for themselves, both being starving orphans with only each other to depend on, which explains her supposed nonchalance at capitalising on her good looks as a means of survival.

Perhaps my melancholic nature means I tend to favour the sadder endings as they feel far more real to me.  Coming to the end of novella, I felt wistful but also hopeful.  The themes that Capote touched upon could have been sentimental but never ended up so – they were explored with an amazing subtlety that was all the more moving, and has inspired me to explore more of Capote’s work.

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