Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reading Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

At first I intended to read In Cold Blood by Capote, my interest piqued by the film. However, as the book was not to be found neither at the library nor at a book-shop, I decided to read Capote's famous novella Breakfast at Tiffany's.

The novella focuses on a few months in the life of Holly Golightly as seen through the eyes of her neighbour, who is an aspiring writer and never named (Holly calls him Fred, after her own beloved brother but that is not the author's real name.). At first the author isn't so fond of Holly, but later he is drawn to her because of her charming, persuasive and unothodox manners.

Holly is a daring young (just 19) lady who is trying to succed on her own and is by no means afraid to use her charms, to lie, trick, decieve or appeal to one's better nature. In many ways she resembles her nameless cat - she doesn't talk about her past, of her family or relations. Even her name is made-up. Whenever a discussion takes an undesirable turn she just scratches her nose and quicky changes the topic without any other sign of discomfort. And like her cat, she tries to appear as though she existed since forever (the author remarks she could be any age between 16 and 30) and belongs to nobody, is rootless. (So less pleasing to her when her husband locates her and tries to talk her into returning home.)

She appears superficial and lacking in understanding of the world's ways, but rather than this, she seems to like to please her friends and company. She's a woman who discovered at a young age that flattering and pleasing someone can enable you a decent living. She also educates herself on topics of interest to men whom she dates so as to appear interesting longer. Undoubtedly some of her unorthodox ways and views were "invented" for the same purpose.

Holly's main problem is that she doesn't like (actually abhorres) her past (one can see why) and has -- in want of something better for herself -- invented a new name and future for herself. But while having run away from home has given her a chance to reinvent herself, it has also robbed her of her identity, of her roots - of the thing she can always rely on, on having somewhere to go, someone to love and be loved in return. Even the socially-savvy Holly cannot hide the fact that she has no one to care for her and thus forms a very tight relationship with the author and some of her boyfriends.

Holly doesn't strike the reader as someone who is happy (and content with life) but as someone who appears as who she wants to be, but still seeks happiness. Holly's youthful inexperience and the lack of a sense of direction also contribute to her inability to be happy. It takes Holly a long time to realize what it is she really wants from her life. (Intuitively, she seems to understand her deeply rooted wishes, but fights against them for long as though by admitting them she would appear too vulnerable, too much like any living person.) The realization comes after losing her no-name cat. And even at the end of the novella, she is still in search of home (unsteady relationship with a Brazillian married man).

All in all, I wasn't too impressed with this work. While undoubtedly it is masterfully composed, a certain someting lacked - perhaps I found the story too ordinary(?) and Holly slightly overbearing. This is a good book to read when you have an hour to spare, but will not make you see the world differently - or at least it didn't in my case.


posted by Nadezhda | 00:43


Anonymous marko said...

For an interesing story with beatifully portrayed characters check out Steinbeck's East of Eden. I liked the book's optimistic atitute, altought it's quite dark at some places. I felt inspired every time I was reading it.

The best book I read this year.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Thanks for your suggestion, Marko. I've been meaning to read this book for quite some time, but obviously have never got to doing it. I intend to, though.

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