Classic Corner: Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Rating:
4/5

Name: Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Author: Truman Copote

Year: 1958

Genre: Novella

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the 1958 novella by Truman Copote, which inspired the classic 1961 movie starring Audrey Hepburn and it is the next book I am going to be looking at on my list of short classics which I am challenging myself to read through.

I hadn’t actually seen the movie or read the book before though everyone knows the iconic image of Audrey Hepburn with the black sheath dress and satin gloves. The novella is written from the perspective of an unknown narrator as he initially meets Joe Bell, the owner of a bar which he used to visit when he lived close by. Together they reminisce about Holly Golightly, a free-spirited, romantic lop-sided girl about town and Joe Bell believes he has seen a photograph of her in the newspaper.

The story then moves back to 1941 where the narrator was living in the apartment above Holly Golightly’s. Holly is an 18-19 year old country girl who has reformed turned into a New York Cafe’ girl. She has no job and instead relies on men to take her to clubs and restaurants and shower her with expensive gifts. She also likes to shock people with tidbits about her life and views on a range of topics.

Over the course of 1941, Holly lets the narrator into her life and tells him more about herself and some of her secrets, such as her real name is Lulamae Barnes and she comes from Texas and was a teenage bride but fled her husband to live in New York. 

However trouble brews when in Holly’s naivety she meets a kingpin crime boss in prison once a week and unwittingly becomes a gangster’s moll in the media who helped him run his criminal empire from inside prison which ultimately becomes Holly’s downfall.

The novel also contains three short stories which I will briefly talk about here.

House of Flowers – Ottilie is a young Haitian call girl is attracted to a young Haitian man and on a whim marries him and goes to live with him and his grandmother, who seems to despise her until one day she decides to kill the grandmother.

A Diamond Guitar – Set in a prison in Alabama, Mr. Schaeffer is serving a 99 year sentence for murder when he recounts the story of a former prisoner, Tico Feo who came in and formed a bond with Mr. Schaeffer that is both intimate and platonic which starts as Tico plays his diamond studded guitar. Mr. Schaeffer and Tico agree to escape the prison on Valentine’s day but whereas Tico succeeds, Mr. Schaeffer does not.

A Christmas Memory – narrated by an unnamed seven year old boy who is friends with his elderly cousin (who calls him Buddy), relatives and their dog Queenie. The book describes their life together with little money and how they try to make ends meet for Christmas. However unbeknownst to them this Christmas is the last one they ever get to spend together as the boy is sent to boarding school and the cousin passes away.

Overall I did quite enjoy the novella and collection of short stories. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1940’s New York vividly comes to life and the characters are all larger than life, in particular Holly Golightly whose glamorous, yet mysterious persona drives you through the novel as you want to find out more about her.

In particular for me, the novella has quite a few similarities to The Great Gatsby which I reviewed a few months ago and I would recommend reading them in partnership with one another as they have more than a few similarities.

Holly Golightly can almost be seen as the female Jay Gatsby in how she tries to reinvent herself in an idyllic, romantic light yet ultimately her past catches up with her and her association with crime becomes her undoing in a very similar way to Gatsby’s story.

Both stories are also told from the perspective of a first-person narrative, though in Breakfast at Tiffany’s we never know the narrator’s actual name, only Holly’s given nickname of Fred however both narrators live through the subjects in their stories, yet at the same time judge them and influence us as the readers opinion on them.

I would say probably in terms of the language used that Copote’s novel is probably more accessible than The Great Gatsby which can sometimes be very hard to follow but both are fascinating to read to see the differences and contrasts in the 1920s and 1940s set novels.

However, I have been a long standing fan of The Great Gatsby and I like how Fitzgerald’s novel builds the characters and relationship between Daisy and Jay more so than how Holly’s relationship is built here and how The Great Gatsby feels like a puzzle where each time you read it something new stands out which I don’t think is really the case with this book..

I would also say the novella doesn’t have any chapters which is also something I prefer as well so I can stop reading at certain points rather than mid sentence.

The short stories are all enjoyable and in the case of A Christmas Memory especially was very emotive and made me shed a tear at the end as the relationship between Buddy and his cousin is beautifully told in a very short space of time.

A Diamond Guitar is also great a it reminded me of the relationship between George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men as it was platonic yet also intimate in the same way.

Overall I did enjoy the book and would recommend people give it a try. If you disagree I would love to here your views in the comments below.

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