Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Review of "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

One of those books that you think you've read, but you haven't. In my mind it was a frothy quirky romantic comedy sort of thing. On reflection after reading the book I thought it might have been because I was influenced by the film, only then I realised I hadn't actually seen the film either...just seen the poster with Audrey Hepburn looking pretty and cute, and maybe seen a few clips. I'll remedy the film thing shortly.

But the book turns out to be really dark, and rancid, which is not surprising given that it's Truman Capote. It is a fine piece of writing, though it's hard to ignore the casual racism with which Holly Golightly peppers her speech. Holly is not quite a prostitute - Capote subsequently described her as an American Geisha, though that's not quite right either...she's more of a professional mistress, in the French nineteenth century mode. The book is very direct about what that involves, physically and emotionally. Most of the men to whom Holly makes herself available are pretty nasty - Mafia Dons, pro-Nazi tycoons, and so on. She is almost totally devoid of sentimentality herself. The denoument is not exactly unexpected, but the book is well structured and plotted, and a pleasure to read despite the material and the tone.

It's set at a time in which people like the narrator, an aspiring writer without money or success, can apparently afford to rent his own apartment in Manhattan - something that seems much further away than the sexual and social mores it depicts. Oh, and it's war time, 1943, though that barely intrudes on the narrative, apart from the odd military parade in the city. Somehow that seems to magnify the cynicism of the book.

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