Friday 1 March 2024

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I enjoyed Jenny Jackson's PIneapple Street and its 'old money' Brooklyn setting.  I was also intrigued by its epitaph - a quote from Truman Capote.  'I live in Brooklyn. By choice.'

I'd never actually read his famous novella Breakfast at Tiffany's and it's difficult to read without an image of Audrey Hepburn shimmering before you.  The Holly Golightly of the book is a rather less progressive young lady and at times is almost unlikeable.  I suppose when you consider her background, orphaned as a child and married at 14 before running away to become, let's say, an escort, her choices were limited.  The unnamed narrator is a much kinder character who brings out Holly's better self.

Of course, it's the quality of Truman Capote's beautifully descriptive prose that makes this book so good.  From the opening lines reminiscent of Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby you know that you are in the hands of a great writer.

She was still on the stairs, now she reached the landing and the ragbag colours of her boy's hair, tawny streaks, strands of albino blonde and yellow, caught the hall light.  It was a warm evening, nearly summer, and she wore a cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker.  For all her chic thinness, she had an almost breakfast-cereal air of health, a soap and lemon cleanness, a rough pink darkening in the cheeks.

A lot of the famous lines and images in the  1961 film come directly from the book; Holly sitting on the fire escape drying her hair in the sun and playing her guitar, her love of Tiffany's 'Nothing very bad could happen there'.  And of course her famous line about it being tacky to wear diamonds before you're 40!

Although written in 1958 it is actually set in 1943 during the war.  When Holly receives a telegram to say that her beloved brother has been killed the 'mean reds' (her words for depression) threaten to overwhelm her.

Certainly there are phrases and sentiments in the book which are unacceptable now but the story of a young writer's first Brooklyn apartment and his infatuation with a young women who lives in the apartment below and owns a ginger cat with a 'pirate's cut-throat face'  is utterly charming.

Outside, the rain had stopped, there was only a mist of it in the air, so I turned the corner and walked along the street where the brownstone stands.  It is a street with trees that in the summer make cool patterns on the pavement; but now the leaves were yellowed and mostly down.