Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Classics Club: Breakfast at Tiffany's

For years, Breakfast at Tiffany's by T. Capote has been a beautiful, atmospheric movie with an extraordinary Audrey Hepburn and a seriously attractive George Peppard.  It involved some less than polished situations, but all in all it was so sweet...

It was time, however, for me to read the novel itself and see to what extent it had inspired the film. I had high hopes for this novel and wanted to be swept away just as I was by the film. 
Alas, it was not meant to be.  The novel has nothing of the fairy tale that the movie has, and, without this, all that is left is a bitter, cynic, sarcastic tale of two less than perfect people struggling between the need for a stable, homely environment on the one hand and the desire for independence on the other. 

The novel starts with the unnamed narrator meeting Joe Bell the barman about some photos.  A trip down memory lane ensues about a girl he used to know:  Holly Golightly, a young girl who pretty much relies on her connections with older men of the underworld, receiving change for her trips to the powder room (which I really don't understand) and meeting with prison inmates to pick up "weather reports".  She feels she does not belong anywhere, and her only purpose is to marry a "catch".  She is depicted as a rough girl, using quite a lot of swearing (which was  remarkably absent in the movie), but just as intelligent: she educates herself in subjects that will interest her prospective suitors. She loses out on two very respectable would-be husbands, only to flee to Brazil at the end of the novel, where she is rumoured to have found a wealthy señor... Meanwhile, the unnamed narrator is a struggling writer who at the end succeeds in publishing his work - and not rely on the financial contribution of the respectable, wealthy lady of the movie version (probably because Capote had acknowledged this character as gay).

I found the novel remarkably depressing in its description of the difficult road girls like Holly have to travel, originating from the South where they are born as Lula Maes, getting married at the tender age of 14, leaving behind husbands and families to go to the big city, where they rely on wealthy, much older men to make a name in society.  Apparently, Capote based this character on many of his acquaintances who had succeeded in this transformation, but I suppose on many more that did not or were still en route. Still, I could not sympathise with Holly:  I could not find any depth in her character, and by the end of the novel I rather disliked her superficiality...

What I missed in this novel was this sense of hope that I had in the movie version, that despite the many lemons we all receive in life, in the end all will be well.  I have no doubt that this story resembles more an actual depiction of any Holly Golightly, but it did shatter my Breakfast at Tiffany's...L


  1. I have been debating for a while wondering if I should go for the book or for the movie first - I'm one of the rare people who hasn't seen it. Your review kind of clarifies that debate - thanks!

    1. yes, the movie is lighter for a first encounter...

  2. I'd heard that the film was very different from the book, I didn't realize how much!

    1. Yes, it was a disappoiintment for me too...

  3. Anonymous7/9/12

    Just wanted to say thanks for the great (and honest) review! I only read the first bit because I want to read it and see it without knowing what happens. I used a quote and linked to you for the September Classics Club Meme!





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