Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, for Holly Golightly: glittering socialite traveller, generally upwards, sometimes sideways and once in a while - down.
Anyone who has seen the Hollywood adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's will be highly disappointed in the novella. The reasons they would be disappointed, however, are the things I like about the story. This isn't a romance tale of a beautiful socialite falling in love, but something much darker, and much more investigative of the human spirit and its reactions.
Holly Golightly in the novella is in no way in need of a knight in shining armour to save her, or love her. She isn't enamoured with the concept of love in the slightest. She isn't your typical 1950s Hollywood girl; she's far more real, and far more layered, than all that. Holly is all about perception and deception. She runs away from an old life, and invents a new one, feigning culture and knowledge to seem to be the person she wants to be - but who, ultimately, she cannot become. We see her fear of being caged and pinned down by someone contrast with her fear of being alone. She desperately wants freedom, and to see the world, but also craves stability. She is constantly changing her priorities according to her whims, and despite having an epiphany near the novella's finale, we are finally given the news that years later she hadn't changed at all. What a life.
Our narrator was interesting in that he was barely a character at all. He was constantly on the outside looking in, and although he was friends with Holly, he simply acted as a peephole into her life. Very little was mentioned of his past, and I would have liked to have learned more about him. He is a serious contrast to his counterpart in the Hollywood movie, as in the novella it is implied that he's gay. Although he absolutely loved Holly, I suppose churning out love story films makes more money in the industry than exploring non-sexual love. Not only the narrator, but a number of men in the novel were peppered with hints of homosexuality, and this leads us to consider their love for Holly as something other than sexual, and also the consequences of being gay in the 1950s.
I wanted to love this supposed masterpiece, but only liked it (a bit). Although I liked the message Capote was giving about Holly's nature and desires, the plot barely gripped me at all. I could only warm to Holly at times, and at others found her loathsome, with the narrator's shallow depth and outsider's vision becoming a total bore.
Surprisingly, my edition had three short stories included, and it was these that I absolutely loved. House of Flowers, the first, was my favourite as it explored the power of love against the power of wealth and comfort. The Diamond Guitar looked at a friendship ending in betrayal, and how this is dealt with. The Christmas Memory was a powerful story of love between two friends (and a dog), who are each others' world. I found each of these little stories to be far more gripping, poignant, and illuminating than the main event, and would recommend you pick up Breakfast at Tiffany's only if you find an edition with these three included.
If you're one of those Sex and the City girls who love the Breakfast at Tiffany's film - don't bother.