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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote

I can't believe it's taken me so long to get around to reading this novella. I honestly do always try to read books before watching their movie adaptations but somehow this one slipped through the net. When a film is so iconic it is difficult to avoid - who could resist Audrey Hepburn's portrayal of Holly Golightly, the very definition of chic? But I have finally finished Truman Capote's original story and was interested to find it's quite a different beast to the film, although still every inch a classic.
What I expected from Breakfast At Tiffany's was basically lots of gadding about amongst New York's glamorous high society. I imagined that Holly Golightly would be this ditzy and naive little-girl-lost, enchanting any man who crosses her path. And there was some of all that, but the atmosphere is much darker than I expected.

Holly Golightly is essentially a high-class prostitute, wily and manipulative, acting without concern for the feelings of her friends or the men who fall in love with her. And indeed, acting without concern for the law. Yet she manages to remain somewhat endearing and I can see how some readers fall in love with her, too (I didn't). I suppose part of her charm is that she's so enigmatic and there is always a sense that there's an emotionally scarred little girl bubbling away underneath the hard face and lipstick. She borders on manic in nature, throwing her cat out of the window of a moving car one second, then feeling almost immediately regretful the next, exhibiting an unusual display of tenderness as she desperately searches for him.

It's interesting to look at the way the covers of this book have changed over the years. It was first published as a feature in Esquire magazine, considered to be borderline obscene and very controversial. This is echoed in the early covers - "The wickedly funny experiences of a delightfully uninhibited playgirl" along with that image of Holly casually letting her strap slip off a bare shoulder, bottle of liquor at her side. Contrast this with the later movie tie-in covers showing the immaculately-coiffed Hepburn. And then the modern image on the front of my edition has a girlie, almost chick-lit feel to it that doesn't at all reflect the melancholy tale between the covers.


I don't read many short stories or novellas, generally preferring something a bit lengthier to sink my teeth into, but occasionally a book like this one goes to show that 100 pages can be just enough when the writing is top notch.

9 comments:

  1. I hate to admit that I have never read Breakfast at Tiffany's, but now I think I need to. I love that you shared the different book covers. It is interesting to see how the marketing changes over the years. I read Capote's In Cold Blood many years ago but it would be nice to try his writing on a much lighter theme. Great review!
    Happy Reading,
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

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    1. It's interesting, isn't it! I noticed when I was searching for a cover image and there were so many different versions it was really striking. I might start looking for similar trends in classics I read in the future, because it is fascinating how marketing trends change.

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  2. I had not thought of doing this story as a book to movie comparison. I have seen the movie, not read the book. The only book I have read is In Cold Blood, and that was a long time ago. I got interested in Truman Capote recently when I read To Kill a Mockingbird, since Harper Lee and he grew up in the same small town and she based a character on him.

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    1. It would be a good one to do because it's very short and there are so many differences between the book and the movie! I really want to read In Cold Blood, it's on my wishlist. I never knew that about Harper Lee - which character is based on Capote?

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  3. What a wonderful choice, many people think of this book a a classic, but I can't think of many people that have read it (I know I haven't)

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  4. Interesting review. I didn't realize this was such a short book - I should really try it out. I'm not sure I could fall in love with her character, either, but it IS a classic, after all!

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  5. I haven't read the book nor I have watched the movie, but it is on my list of "someday I want to read it". The problem is that I didn't like In cold blood very much, so I'm not keen or reading more books of T. Capote.

    I have also have read a lot of reviews that say they loved the main character, what a shame you didn't, but I see that it have let you like the book.

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  6. I read this for the first time not long ago. I was delighted by it. I haven't seen the film but I plan on it...one of these days ;)

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