Monday, February 2, 2015

Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Narrated by an unnamed young man who moves into Holiday Golightly's humble New York apartment building, the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's is an account of Miss Golightly's last months in New York City as told from her quiet upstairs neighbor's perspective.  "Fred", as Holly calls him, chronicles their friendship from the aspiring writer's move-in to the first time Holly climbs in through his window in escape of a drunken, boring lover.  He ends his story with the last time he ever sees this woman, mysterious as she is stylish, as she flees the city in a lonely taxi.

I was excited to find that Breakfast at Tiffany's reminded me of The Great Gatsby in a lot of ways.  Capote's nameless first person narrator is a peripheral one very similar to Nick Carraway.  Both are the young, introverted, and slightly aimless new neighbors of two seriously chic characters.

Holly Golightly's personality could be considered a combination of those of Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby.  She is flighty and sweetly dismissive while being smooth and grandiose.  One important difference out of many between Holly and Daisy is that Holly is a "liberated woman" of the 1940s who doesn't care what people think of her, and in fact, she enjoys shocking them.

Both Mr. Gatsby and Miss Golightly fuel their exciting lifestyles with money earned in less than honest ways.  They both move to New York City and alter their names to hide the lowly pasts that embarrass them, but they trust their stories' narrators enough to admit their secret histories.  Nick Carraway and "Fred" are fascinated by their melancholy neighbors, and though they disapprove of many of their decisions, their concern for them, whether motivated by pity or friendship, is apparent.

I didn't read this book.  I listened to someone read it to me.  Breakfast at Tiffany's was one of the first audio books I have ever listened to, but they feel familiar because they remind me of my mom reading aloud to my sisters and me.  They remind me of sitting around the living room, or more often squished in one chair, listening to the tales of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott.  My mom made sure to read us stories about brave, hard-working, and compassionate girls, and Jill and I would daydream about living in a log cabin and wearing bonnets and lace-up boots and having a fourth sister who died of scarlet fever.  You know, all that fun 1800s stuff.

With audio books, the work of reading is gone and you are a kid again with few responsibilities.  (Just kidding, you still have to do the dishes, but at least you can listen to the audio book while you wash!)  While audio books manage to feel both nostalgic and time-efficient, I have noticed that I don't hold on to the details of the story as well when I don't have the visual memory component of words on a page.  Still, audio books are great for "reading" books I probably wouldn't have read to myself.

Breakfast at Tiffany's was one such book.  I once saw the opening of the film adaptation, but I wasn't very interested in Holly Golightly beyond Audrey Hepburn's iconic black dress and dark shades.  Nevertheless, when Breakfast at Tiffany's popped up as my first Audible suggestion, I decided to give it a listen, and with the great dialogue that dominates this short novel, it turned out to be a great choice.

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