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Since the two books I read before this one had been awful and disappointing respectively, I turned to this one for a reasonably-guaranteed good read. That's the advantage of literary classics - people are likely to have kept reading and recommending them for a reason, so you're on safer ground than with something new and untried. This one was lent to me by [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 probably up to a year ago now, when the film was on at the Cottage Road cinema and we were thinking of going to see it. In the end, we didn't, but I kept the book anyway and this was its time. I have seen the film in the past, but before I began regularly blogging films here I think.

Breakfast at Tiffany's itself is a novella of c. 100 pages. It's told in the first person from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who is a writer by profession, and has a fresh, light modern style which seems simple but is actually quite finely crafted when you stop to look at it. The broad set-up is similar to the film - Holly Golightly moves into the same brownstone apartment block as the narrator, lives an expensive and aspirational lifestyle funded by her rich lovers, turns out to be the child bride of a simple Texan farmer, gets arrested for inadvertently assisting a drug trafficker, and is then released on bail. But the ending is very different, in that the film gives Holly and the narrator-character (Paul for screen purposes) a romantic happy ending, whereas in the novella she gives him the slip and disappears from New York and his life forever. This is hugely more in keeping with everything we learn about her character over the course of the novella - she is a fly-by-night, living in the moment but always searching for something better, who is fundamentally incapable of settling down anywhere or with anyone. That doesn't mean her portrayal in the film, or its ending, isn't appropriate and satisfying in its own right, of course. It's just that the two have to be treated as quite different animals.

The novella paints a picture of New York living which must have seemed quite shocking at the time (and certainly led to a bit of difficulty getting it published). It's not just Holly's transactional relationships with men, but the fact that she smokes weed, speaks openly about her 'dyke' friends and at one point declares that a person ought to be able to marry men or women because "Love should be allowed. I'm all for it." Indeed, the same sort of subjects come up in two of the other three stories included in the book. The first, 'House of Flowers', is about a Haitian woman who starts the story as a sex worker in Port-au-Prince and ends up going into the mountains to marry a simple farmer (who treats her appallingly). She's a kind of reverse Holly Golightly, in fact. The second, 'A Diamond Guitar', is about an older prisoner who becomes such close friends with a younger man who arrives in the compound one day that "Except that they did not combine their bodies or think to do so, though such things were not unknown at the farm, they were as lovers." Capote himself was gay, but also clearly more broadly interested in challenging conventional morality and exploring the lives of people at the bottom of the social pyramid. The final story, 'A Christmas Memory', is more sentimental and wholesome, featuring the friendship between a young boy and a much older female relative who conspire to make Christmas cakes together despite their very limited means, but Wikipedia confirmed my instinct that it too reflected Capote's personal experiences, drawing on his rather financially and emotionally deprived childhood. I certainly read it at the right time of year, since I finished this book in early December, though I hadn't planned that.

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