Breakfast at Tiffany’s

breakfastattiffanys

If you’ve seen the movie version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you have a dim idea of what this book is about. It tells the story of Holly Golightly, a free-spirited Manhattan call girl—or at least it tells bits of her story as seen by the unnamed narrator, a writer who lives upstairs from her.

At first, the narrator observes Holly from afar, only interacting with her when she loses her key (which she always does) and rings the doorbell of his apartment to be let in:

But if Miss Golightly remained unconscious of my existence, except as a doorbell convenience, I remained through the summer, rather an authority on hers. I discovered, from observing the trash-basket outside her door, that her regular reading consisted of tabloids and travel folders and astrological charts; that she smoked an esoteric cigarette called Picayunes; survived on cottage cheese and melba toast; that her vari-colored hair was somewhat self-induced. The same source made it evident that she received V-letters by the bale. They were always torn into strips like little bookmarks. I used occassionally to pluck myself a bookmark in passing. Remember and miss you and rain and please write and damn and goddamn were the words that recurred most often on these slips; those, and lonesome and love.

Eventually, the narrator becomes wrapped up in Holly’s life, but it’s unclear whether he ever really gets to know her. She’s crafted a persona that appears to be a free and happy life of the party, but it’s hard to tell where the persona ends and the person begins. Perhaps even Holly herself doesn’t know. O. J. Berman, her former agent, says of Holly, “She isn’t a phony because she’s a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes. You can’t talk her out of it.”

This mystery of who Holly really is drives the narrative; the plot (which includes an abandoned husband, a Brazilian diplomat, and a headline-making arrest) is beside the point. Holly herself is the story, and she’s enough, especially when captured in Capote’s wonderful prose.

The edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s that I read includes three short stories: “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar” and “A Christmas Memory.” All three stories are great. They demonstrate Capote’s skill with both the sentimental and the subversive. In fact, I think they might even be superior to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


This book is my fifth for the 1% Well-Read Challenge, which leaves me with five to go!

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10 Responses to Breakfast at Tiffany’s

  1. Sarah says:

    I love Capote and have had Breakfast at Tiffany’s on my TBR list forever. I don’t know why I don’t just get the book and read it!

  2. Carrie says:

    I watched this movie years and years ago and wasn’t very impressed with it. I wasn’t aware that it was based on a book though so I found your review both helpful and informative.

    Thanks!

  3. Ann says:

    Breakfast at Tiffany‘s is one of my favourite movies (of the older ones) in part because it was a grown-up movie I could watch with my mom.

    I’ve been wanting to read the book since I read Capote’s In Cold Blood this summer and loathed it. I just can reconcile how the same author is responsible for Breakfast at Tiffany‘s so now it’s in my TBR pile.

  4. Ann says:

    Sorry, that should be “I just can’t reconcile …”

  5. Nymeth says:

    I agree with you about the short stories. As much as I love everything by Capote, I think it’s in his short stories that he really shows his genius.

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