Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Book and Movie Review)

Reposting this review from earlier this spring because the audiobook is on sale today only (Aug 13) for $1.95.
Breakfast at Tiffany's Book Review Breakfast at Tiffany’s is one of Truman Capote’s best well known works.  It is considered a novella as it is quite short with a listening length of just under three hours.  The short novel is about an enigma of a young girl, Holly Golightly, who is residing in New York making a living by hanging out with rich men.  This “American geisha” (Capote’s words) lives downstairs from this unnamed narrator whom she calls Fred because he reminds her of his brother.  Through the narrator’s interactions and conversation with Holly we slowly learn more and more about the contradictions in her life and what makes her a “real phony”.

Truman Capote is a person of whom I knew very little about before I read this story.  I was so amazed by his work that I felt like I needed to learn more about him.  I wanted to know how in the world someone could have come up with a story like this. It seems that there has been much debate over who exactly the character, Holly, was actually based on and the answer appears to be that aspects of her personality, her past, her reactions to events were a mixture of various women in Capote’s life.  Similarly to Holly, Capote’s own mother left her husband and children to move to New York and become known in the “café society”.  And, apparently one of Capote’s friends became inconsolable as she threw everything in her room when she found out her own brother had died.

This idea that Holly is a real phony reminded me of another character but I couldn’t think of whom until I realized it was Jay Gatsby.  With both characters, I got the sense that while the lives they were leading were fake and that their life was the only life that mattered to them and that they were committed to making that fake life the truth.  I love how minimalistic the story is, yet it says so much.  I love that the narrator probably knew her the best yet he hardly knew her at all.  In this short story, not a single word was wasted.

The film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), is one of my mother’s favorites and she even owned the soundtrack on record.  Needless to say, I have seen the movie a number of times and I have listened to the record even more times. The song, Moon River, which I just learned was written specifically for this movie, is performed beautifully in this movie.  The narrator, who is named Paul in the film, catches a glimpse of the country girl side of Holly when she is out on her fire escape singing this song.  I love that Audrey Hepburn’s voice is far from perfect and yet she still sings the song because it signifies that she knows (even if for one brief moment) that her life is far from perfect.  Audrey Hepburn is often known best for this film but prior to Breakfast at Tiffany’s she had already gained notoriety for being in Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Funny Face, which were mostly romantic dramas. Afterwards, she was cast in more serious roles such as The Children’s Hour, Charade, and Wait Until Dark.  Having seen many of these films, I wouldn’t argue that Hepburn was terribly diverse with her acting abilities but she was extremely good at performing the niche roles that she was cast in.

I wouldn’t argue that the movie was a perfect adaptation of the novel but it was pretty good.  Because so little was said about the narrator, it was necessary to build a back-story for him and actually give him a name.  I thought that it was interesting that the screenwriter chose to make Paul a kept man because it made him relatable to Holly and it also added tension as they each threw the fact that they are both kept people in each other’s faces.  I read that someone’s opinion of the movie is that it is great if you can just forget that Mickey Rooney was ever in it.  It is baffling to me why they felt like they needed the comic relief of having Rooney playing a bumbling, grumpy upstairs Asian neighbor.  While there was a character in the book that made many complaints about Holly, she was not a goofy Asian stereotype.  Also, part of the beauty of the novella was that Holly so whole-heartedly believes in her ideals that she goes to Brazil anyway.  She leaves her cat and her life in New York and goes on to the next one. The movie instead ties everything up with a pretty bow in the end.

I would recommend this novella to anyone who truly loves the movie and to others whom I know enjoy reading about impeccably written characters.  I really enjoyed listening to this book and probably wouldn’t have picked it up because it is so short except for that it is narrated by Michael C. Hall (Dexter).  It was so fun hearing Dexter’s voice in another media. And, the story itself was even better than I thought it would be.  I am now interested in picking up some other Capote works.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s Movie Purchase Links: Amazon Streaming, DVD

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook


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