I first watched the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s some years ago, and whilst I liked it, I was not immediately captivated by it. I was still so keen to read the novella, however, and was so pleased to find a beautiful Penguin edition in a secondhand bookshop in Coventry a couple of years ago. I read it almost immediately, and was thrilled to learn that the novella is so much better than the book that a comparison in the favour of the original is barely necessary. (A quick synopsis of the reasons why, for me, the book is far better than the film, however, are as follows: the entirety of the novella is lively and compelling, and to me, the characters are far more realistic on the page than on the screen. I do not feel that the film characters were made of the same stuff, as it were, as the novella’s protagonists). I was not planning to re-read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as the story was still so vivid in my mind, but once I began to look at it once again, I could not help myself but become immersed in Capote’s words and plot.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, probably Capote’s most famous work, was published in 1958, and has remained popular ever since. It focuses upon the character Holly Golightly, whom I remembered as being such an intriguing being; feisty and unusual in her characteristics, decisions and mannerisms. The novella is told from the first person perspective of a male narrator who lives in the same apartment building as her, and is set (as I am sure everyone already knows) in New York City. A chance likeness of Holly spotted in a photograph is what prompts the narrator to tell her story.
Holly is first introduced when she has forgotten – or lost – the key to her apartment, and consequently wakes the Japanese man, Mr Yunioshi, who lives on the top floor. I absolutely adore Capote’s initial description of his heroine: ‘… the ragbag colours of her boy’s hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino-blond and yellow, caught the hall light. It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a slim cool-black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker. For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks’. She is ‘shy two months of her nineteenth birthday’. The narrator goes on to say: ‘One might have thought her a photographer’s model, perhaps a young actress, except that it was obvious, judging from her hours, she hadn’t time to be either’.
At first, she seems oblivious to the existence of the narrator, only making him the focus of her frequent entrances into the apartment block without her key. He, however, learns more and more about her as the story goes on. They meet each other properly when one evening, Holly climbs up the fire escape to the narrator’s apartment on the floor above hers, in order to escape an odious man who is in her room.
The characterisation in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is incredibly strong; Holly is quirky, vivacious and not afraid to speak her mind, and it is impossible to forget her in a hurry. One trusts the kindly narrator immediately. The dialogue between the two, and which encompasses some of the more minor characters in the novella too, is exemplary. Capote’s prose and the tone which he sets is utterly perfect. He brilliantly demonstrates the power of friendship in his memorable and stunning novella.
This is the last post of mine and Lizzi’s Big Summer Readathon, and I have had such a fun time working on our little project. Thanks so much, Lizzi, for co-hosting this, and I hope we can focus on another author soon!