Books Every Woman Should Read: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
DESERVEDLY, Audrey Hepburn has long been an icon – someone who epitomises the kind of elegance and grace that we all wish we had. Key to her appeal is her role in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The story of the quirky, loveable Holly Golightly and Hepburn’s timeless black dress and sunglasses combo cemented her in the pantheon of true stars.
The film, however, started life as a novella by one Truman Capote. Capote was a true innovator. After Breakfast at Tiffany’s, he wrote the world’s first ever true crime book, In Cold Blood, which detailed the murders of the Clutter family. He also inspired the character of Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. The author, Harper Lee, grew up alongside Capote and the pair were ‘best friends’.
While the film was a light-hearted romp through New York City (and featured a cringeworthy cameo from Mickey Rooney as a Japanese neighbour) the book is a different animal.
The narrator, who is never named, becomes fascinated with his upstairs neighbour. Holly is the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl: quirky, alternately bright and brittle, fond of cats, singing at random moments, funds her lifestyle through indeterminate means and is in love with Tiffany’s. Indeed if the film was to be remade today, there is only one woman Hollywood would cast in the role – hipster queen Zooey Deschanel.
But to simply label Holly as a proto-hipster is to miss the point of the novella. When the story opens, our narrator is an a bar where he reminisces with his friend on the girl they once knew and haven’t seen for years.
While the film had the romance between Paul and Holly, there is nothing of the sort in the book. Capote confirmed that the narrator was gay, like himself. This adds an extra dimension to the story. The narrator and Holly begin their friendship because they are both outsiders. Our lonely hero is whisked on an endless round of parties and fabulous people through Holly. However, he can see the darker and unpalatable aspects of her character as well; Holly gets the ‘mean reds’, horrible mood swings, often treats her friends and even her pet with contempt and she is running from a couple of dark secrets. One particular soul from her past follows her to New York City where Holly must face her nature as a ‘wild thing’.
At its heart, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a bittersweet tale about friendship and the people who drift in and out of our lives; about how the past can trespass on the present, and above all, about being true to one’s nature and the freedom that can be found in escape. Better still is Capote’s wonderful prose, which sings off the page.
Many editions of the book contain three other stories; ‘House of Flowers‘, ‘A Diamond Guitar‘ and ‘A Christmas Memory‘. While all three stories are beautifully written, it is ‘A Christmas Memory‘, a poignant tale based on Capote’s own troubled childhood, which will linger long in the memory.
Photos c/o fact.co.uk, fanpop.com