Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (novel #108)

"Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart." ~ Holly Golightly

Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the story of a simple country girl, turned New York café socialite and climber, early 1940s – with one of the best names in literature – Holly Golightly (born, Lulamae Barnes). When the narrator first reflects on his memories of Holly, 

I didn’t care for her. She was vain, fickle, materialistic, manipulative, and ambitious. Somehow, perhaps by those very characteristics, I thought at first, she was a stereotypical “dizzy blonde”.


She was intelligent, informed, witty, and tough. In one instance, the narrator who was infatuated and often vexed with Holly, jabs her with a very subtle insult to her intelligence. She responds coolly…
“Everybody has to feel superior to somebody,” she said. “But it’s customary to present a little proof before you take the privilege.”

Holly is likeable in the same way that Scarlett O’Hara or Becky Sharp are likeable. She is nobody’s fool, bold, and relentless – in spite of inner fear, doubt, and vulnerability.

She holds no job, but rather depends on the generosity of wealthy men – though she is not a prostitute. Capote called her: "An American geisha".

She is probably a fictional composite of numerous people: the author himself, his mother, and others. Numerous starlets have claimed they were the inspiration – only natural – if Audrey Hepburn plays the role, others will flatter themselves it was based on themselves.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel satisfies – Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 – Category: a 20thCentury classic.

This is the first time I’ve read Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Truman Capote. I am instantly a fan of Capote’s writing. He writes in simple prose, but with earthy and accessible color.
The walls were stucco, and a color rather like tobacco-spit.

Capote uses a good deal of symbolism. The most poignant being an elaborate birdcage that Holly and the narrator both admire. Holly buys it for him one Christmas, but demands that he never keep a bird in it. The empty birdcage seems to represent Holly’s desire to be free and uninhibited.

The story was captivating, but I wanted more. I’m sure the lack of precise closure to Holly’s story was intentional, but not a device I’m fond of – hence 4 stars, that could easily have been 4 ½. I wanted to know what became of Holly. Have you read this novella, Truman Capote? What did you think?

Other excerpts:

I simply trained myself to like older men, and it was the smartest thing I ever did. How old is W. Somerset Maugham?

Holly also likes Wuthering Heights – calling it a story that “means something”

“Let’s wish the Doc luck too,” she said, touching her glass against mine. “Good luck: and believe me, dearest doc – it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.”

And finally, a bit of trivia.  Did you know that Truman Capote was a childhood friend of Harper Lee? And that the character Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird is modeled after Capote?.

Film rendition: 1961 starring...is it really necessary to say it...Audrey Hepburn.  If you are prepared in advance that it is quite different from the book, it might be OK. Hepburn definitely owned the role.



  1. I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally like this story. But not the movie. I quite dislike the movie's ending, and then someone told me that the story ended differently, so I read the original and was astonished by how much I liked it!

    I should read more Capote. I've read this and a few other short things, and In Cold Blood, but that's it. Hmm.

    1. I have yet to see the movie. I've read it is quite different from the book. Capote has definitely intrigued me. I must read more.

  2. Well, this is an encouraging review. I'll put it on my TBR.

    I think I've told you some time ago that you have to read In Cold Blood. You have to. If you enjoyed B@T, I think you'll really appreciate ICB. Truly amazing writing!

    1. Yes, I can definitely recommend it, and I have In Cold Blood queued up soon. Thanks Ruth.

  3. Yes, Holly definitely thought of one of the most colourful names for herself, that's for sure, all tied up with the intelligent way she re-invented herself. I so agree with you about the power of Capote's prose. He takes such a small amount of space to say so much. I do want to read 'In Cold Blood' as others have recommended. The lack of closure in Breakfast at Tiffany's is annoying, but true to life maybe :)

    1. Yep, I must read more from Capote. Thanks Paula.

  4. Thanks for the review. Somehow I never connected Truman Capote and this book/movie, and I didn't know the film was different from the novel. I'm adding it to my TBR!

  5. My book also had three of his short stories in the back, which added a little more to Capote knowledge - my conclusion - like many authors, he wrote to work out the demons from his childhood.

    1. Hmmm....Harper Lee wrote a character mapped to Capote, I wonder if Capote ever wrote a character for Lee?

  6. I read this a few years ago and the post I did on it remains the #1 post on my blog. I was somewhat disappointed in it perhaps because I was expecting a lot from it.

    I do like your pointing out the birdcage--I had forgotten about it.

    A few years ago I read A Christmas Memory, another Capote short story, and loved it so much. Highly recommend. I also read In Cold Blood, which was excellently written but a relief to finish.

    I recently reread To Kill a Mockingbird, and for me Dill is Truman Capote completely. Did you ever watch the movie Capote? The portrayal of the friendship of Harper Lee (Nelle) and Capote was fascinating.

    1. Yeah, I just watched Capote...mixed feelings overall, but very well cast and acted. Now both the boy who played Dill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are Capote.


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