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4.6 out of 5 stars
Breakfast at Tiffany's
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 30 December 2003
Although it is the title tale this book is most frequently remembered for, the accompanying short stories should not be overlooked: With a dash of humour and a sprinkling of warmth, this magnificent compilation of four stories was truly a pleasure to read. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, following the mysterious aspiring young actress Holly Golightly, had me hooked from the first few pages not only due to the secrecy regarding her past, but also the way in which there is little or no information offered about the narrator. The reader, experiencing Miss Golightly’s company through the eyes of the storyteller, is unaware of even the simplest facts about the narrator’s own life (to such an extent that we never even learn his name). Such is his obsession with his new friend, that it is as if his own existence becomes unimportant. I believe it is this unusual method of storytelling that is largely responsible for the book’s success.
Another aspect of Truman Capote’s writing I greatly appreciated was his sensitivity and attention to detail: “We giggled, ran, sang along the paths toward the old wooden boathouse, now gone. Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the only smudge on the quivering air. I thought of the future, and spoke of the past.” It is the relationship between Holly and the narrator that stands out in my mind when remembering the story. Their friendship is touching, and the way in which the narrator longs for Holly is often heart-rending.
Of the other stories, ‘House of Flowers,’ (about a changing relationship) ‘A Diamond Guitar’ (following a group of prisoners) and ‘A Christmas Memory,’ it is the latter which stood out for me. The tale revolves around a seven-year old child and his elderly (distant) cousin. The innocence with which the story is narrated is particularly emotive, as although the two are years apart in terms of age, mentally they appear on a par: “We eat our supper (cold biscuits, bacon, blackberry jam) and discuss tomorrow. Tomorrow the kind of work I like best begins: buying. Cherries and citron, ginger and vanilla and canned Hawaiian pineapple… why, we’ll need a pony to pull the buggy home.” The two friends occupy themselves with the baking of a number of fruitcakes, a tradition of theirs.
On the outset, this is not the kind of book I would usually pick up, but am immensely glad I did. It was the warmth and compassion employed by the author throughout the book that appealed to me the most. The wealth of kindred, and often-eccentric characters was most agreeable, and I intend to locate a copy of Capote’s murder-mystery ‘In Cold Blood’ as soon as possible. I whole-heartedly recommend the magnificent Breakfast at Tiffany’s – it is the literary equivalent of an ice-cream sundae. Great fun.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2002
I was pleasantly surprised by this book - I vaguely remember seeing the film with Audrey Hepburn but could remember nothing about it at all. The book, however, made much more of an impression. It's an easy read and is entertaining and atmospheric. My guess is it'll stay with you longer than the film will. I thought it would be sugary sweet, a romantic comedy with a happy ending but the characters and relationships are more flawed and interesting than that. An interesting book. Worth a read.
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
The well-known short novel, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and three of Truman Capote's most famous short stories make for a continually fresh and exciting look at how human beings successfully connect with one another. No matter how many times you read these stories, you will be moved by Mr. Capote's marvelous sense of and appreciation for the specialness of each life and the ways we belong to each other. Having not read Breakfast at Tiffany's for about 30 years, I came away much more impressed with the novel than I was the last time I read it. Perhaps you will have the same reaction upon rereading it as well. If you are reading it for the first time, you have a very nice surprise ahead of you!
Breakfast at Tiffany's revolves around Holly Golightly, the former starlet and cafe society item, who floats lightly through life (like cotton fibers in the wind) looking for where she belongs. Ms. Golightly is and will remain one of the most original and intriguing characters in American fiction. Like a magician, she is both more and less than she seems. But she has an appreciation for people and animals that goes to the core of her soul that will touch you (if you are like me), especially in her desire that they and she be free.
The novel has a harder edge and is more revealing about human nature than the movie is. Of the two, I suggest you start with the novel and graduate to the movie. You will appreciate the portrayal by Audrey Hepburn of the inner Holly more that way. The same humor is in both the novel and the movie, as well as the innocent look at life for what it can be, believing in the potential of things to work out for the best.
Despite that upbeat note, her weakness is that for all of her ability to understand what motivates other people she does not understand herself well enough to know when she does belong with and to others. This is symbolized by her abandonment of her unnamed cat, and quick realization that they do belong together. As for the friends she leaves behind, she never seems to appreciate how much they love her and want to be with her. As a result, she abandons them as well . . . leaving them with memories to warm their winter nights.
Mr. Capote is now realized to have been a more autobiographical writer than was appreciated when he first published his fiction. Your understanding of Breakfast at Tiffany's will grow if you keep in mind that it was modeled in part on his friendship with Marilyn Monroe. If you do not know her history, you will find that it closely paralleled Holly's through age 18.
The same is true of his short story, "A Christmas Memory." I suggest that you read about Mr. Capote's childhood in the recent book, A Southern Haunting of Truman Capote, to fully appreciate the magic of this story. His "friend" in the story was based on a beloved figure in his young life, who endowed him with a special sense of being loved and appreciated that formed an important foundation for his character and his skill as a writer. The beautiful devotion that she showed to him is reflected in the loving descriptions he makes of their experiences during their last Christmas together before he was shipped off to military boarding schools at age 8.
"A Diamond Guitar" is about the Platonic love of an older man for a younger one in prison. Like all unrequited love, the older man eventually finds himself embarrassed and exposed. But the experience remains a touchstone to tender feelings in his heart, and he keeps his young friend's glass-diamond-studded guitar under his bed . . . even though it doesn't sound good when others play it and is becoming shabby with age.
"House of Flowers" is a hard look at the vast differences in the ways that women and men view their relationships with one another. Even when loving, the message seems to be that the men will always take advantage of the women. The women, however, acquire soulful beauty in their ability to overcome that needy exploitation and appreciate belonging to one another and to the men.
This story tells the tale of a young woman who works in a house of ill fame in Haiti, and is charmed into "marrying" a young, poor hill man who is dominated by his spell-casting grandmother. Together, the young couple overcome the challenge, and build on their love for one another.
Budding novelists are sometimes encouraged to study nature closely to draw inspiration. Although I do not know if Mr. Capote ever received or followed that advice, it is very clear that he retained a childlike ability to see the world as fresh and new every time. No detail, no nuance, no quirk was too small or unimportant to pass by him or to fail to cast its charm upon him. Kindly and gently, Mr. Capote takes the reader by the hand and shows what makes these elements so interesting to him. In this way, the reader's world is expanded, enlightened, and improved.
These four stories reverbrate against one another, like the continuing vibrations after a large bell after pealing four times, and create a combined effect beyond what any single story can provide.
After you have finished enjoying these stories and the movie, I suggest that you makes some notes about where you belong, who you belong with and to, and what that says about you. In this way, you can notice important connections that mean a lot to you and others that you may be slighting. Honor those tendrils in the way that Mr. Capote would if he were writing a story about your life.
Notice and touch life intimately and lovingly to find truth and beauty!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2003
Four beautiful stories relating to innocents and the unfeeling worlds in which they find themselves engulfed, worlds playing to different rules and marching to very different beats. This truly is one of the best collections of short stories I have ever come across, better than anything I have read by Saki or Fitzgerald, both of whom I am fond. Never maudlin or contrived, Capote manages to generate a depth and breadth of emotion I have rarely ever felt, and often in fewer words than one might sensibly imagine possible. The highlights for me are The Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory, stories which leave you stunned by their brilliance and literally incapable of conscious thought, so much is there to absorb, for some long time after you've finished reading them. I cannot recommend this highly enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 25 June 2007
Breakfast at Tiffany's takes its cue from Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Both are short, beautifully written New York novels in which semi-invisible narrators wrestle with more self-indulgent characters, who take centre stage - and with whom the narrators enjoy ambiguous, shifting relationships.

In fact, the narrator in Breakfast at Tiffany's is so invisible he doesn't even have a name - apart from those the central character, Holly Golightly, gives him. The novel is a hymn to Holly - the narrator desperately wants to understand her, just as Nick Carraway struggles to understand Gatsby. Ultimately, though, hero and narrator are too different, with the heroes in both novels behaving exactly as heroes do: bolder, more inventive and almost certainly less stable than their narrators. Also like Gatsby, Holly Golightly has a hell of a backstory, slowly revealed.

Capote's prose is not dissimilar to Scott Fitzgerald's: poetic, but perhaps a little simpler and with a lighter touch, including some wry humour. Attractively written, it's difficult not to be as spellbound as the narrator is by Holly - however maddening she is. A captivating character study with prose like champagne - classy, and with fizz.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 1999
"I am always drawn back to places where I lived, the houses and their neighbourhoods" is the perfect first sentence to a novella that is perfectly written. It is hard to describe prose that is so elegant and describes characters and situations with spareness, yet with such depth and feeling.
Just as you experience New York in the early sixties in the film, you experience New York in the 1940s in Capote's story. Holly Golightly runs from herself -- and keeps running -- but the reader is not left with any sense of loss, only warmth.
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" is a true work of art. Displace one word and its genius would diminish. It is highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 1999
This is it! The sarcasm flows through the pages, this is better than the film, there are no happy endings, there is the delight of marvellous prose, of humour, of a star that burnt too brightly, too well and too quickly. If Capote had kept writing like this and hadn't become a TV standby guest for so long he'd be up there with the greats. The brilliant novel by the forgotten star of crystal prose. Buy it, Read it, Love it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2009
A young lady's hectic life in New York in the 1940's. A beautiful, unpredictable 19 year-old living life to the fullest, from one party to the next, breaking hearts here & there, in short, quite a tease. A strong character indeed, with a hidden fragility coming from an obscure past, a past that she does not want to share with anyone. Meet Holly Golightly, Travelling. She is here depicted by one of her previous neighbours, a young writer with whom she shared quite a few adventures and a strong bond. Holly doesn't seem to have peace, she is forever on her way out, dazzling, attractive. A young woman of the world, well known by New York socialites and not only. Some of her connections are questionable and will they get her into trouble? That is for you to find out.

I loved the narrative. My first book by Truman Capote, better late than never (I had seen the film but could not remember it) and a real discovery. Simple, elegant, to the point, funny and sad simultaneously, conveying Holly's character in a perfect way. I was expecting a heart-breaking love story but this was not it. It was more than that. Strong, fragile Holly (probably still travelling) is a very likeable personage. The other characters including the narrator, mostly in the background, also find a perfect niche to complement the novel.

It was an interesting choice by the author that she was depicted in an era when most ladies' place was at home. Independent, not caring a bit about being "judged". Looking for love? Looking for "something"? Is that why she is forever running around? Well, as long as she can relax with breakfast at Tiffany's, all is ok.

Read this book, a few delightful pages (it's very short) that will leave you hanging in there for an answer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2007
Having seen the movie version of Tiffany's on TV years ago when I was a child I was curious to see what the original novel had in terms of story telling. Ultimately, the story although short, takes a while to warm to. Mainly due to Capote's concise writing style, we are straight away introduced to the characters and subjected to lines of dialogue that instantly immerse you into the environment and the quirky character of Holly Golightly. I have to admit, this is the only book I've read of Capote and it took me a while to get use to his way of developing character through dialogue and conversation. Nonetheless, I was really gripped half way through the story, and leads to a rather solemn ending.

I have to confess that the extra short stories are what made this book worth the money. Unlike 'Breakfast At Tiffany's' the short stories are, well, even shorter and seems more poetic and considered than the main course. In 'House of Flowers' Capote seems to capture the resonance of good drama and love in a tale that was well observed indeed. The characters seem more real, and his portrayal of a loving relationship is subtle and very clever indeed. The other two stories are just the same, Capote is able to portray characters that feel incredibly real and humane. The book ends with 'Christmas Memory' and is a sincere account of his last innocent Christmas. A thoughtful and melancholic book from a well observed writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2007
The story of this novel is in fact an instant one day remembered by Holly Golightly's neighbor (the narrator), when passing by the apartment he first rented at the beginning of his career, in New York as a writer.
Paradoxically, is with sadness and joy that he remembers Holly and the most relevant episodes of her life while living next door to her; a life lived everyday over the top as a party girl and semi-celebrity, with some ups and downs in between; as a person, being always unconventional and independent and as a friend, loyal, funny and a constant mystery.
Miss Golightly's hopes and dreams were big, usually involving celebrities, luxury and diamonds but by other hand, many times she revealed to be a very simple if not, quite a naïve soul holding a sad and dark past that she tries to forget by constantly covering it through a new and glittering Hollywood style persona that she create for herself.

The subtle irony of her portrait, rather than be critical or bitter, like maybe O.Wilde will certainly do, is here by Capote, a more insightful and deep appreciation in a way to understand the true nature of this fascinating character. A certain melancholy and a genuine compassion, better describes his feelings about Holly; a miserable child that grown up a dazzling but inconstant woman with dreams bigger than life but still a girl trying to find herself and her place in a world that probably she will never understand.
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