Title: Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Author: Truman Capote
Narrator: Michael C. Hall
Audiobook Length: 2 hours, 52 minutes
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Release Date: 1 November 1958
Bottom Line: Much darker than I expected, which I really liked
“Golden Globe-winning actor Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under) performs Truman Capote’s provocative, naturalistic masterstroke about a young writer’s charmed fascination with his unorthodox neighbor, the “American geisha” Holly Golightly. Holly – a World War II-era society girl in her late teens – survives via socialization, attending parties and restaurants with men from the wealthy upper class who also provide her with money and expensive gifts. Over the course of the novella, the seemingly shallow Holly slowly opens up to the curious protagonist, who eventually gets tossed away as her deepening character emerges.”
Thoughts: For the most part, Breakfast at Tiffany’s the movie stays fairly true to the novella. Those areas in which the movie and the novella differ, however, change the entire flavor of the story. Readers who are only familiar with the movie may experience shock at how jaded and how very young Holly is. More importantly, they will not expect the darker feel of the story, the seediness of Holly’s relationships and the amount of manipulation she exhibits.
Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly is not the fresh-faced, harmless ingenue Audrey Hepburn created. Rather, his vision is a very clearly defined Marilyn Monroe lookalike who is all about sex and titillation. Of most importance is the fact that she is young, still several years shy of her 20s, but there is an air of hard experience that is disheartening to see. As she reveals her background to her unnamed neighbor, one realizes that the true tragedy of her life, the one that created the woman she is right now, lies in those unspoken memories she will never discuss. For all her lightness and ability to live in the moment, there is very much an aspect about her of a frightened deer, one who is always on the verge of running away to a safe spot.
Michael C. Hall does an excellent job narrating. As the unnamed neighbor, he comes across as a remote observer who is desperately trying to hide his fascination with Miss Golightly. Mr. Hall attempts to use different voices for the various characters but never lets them interfere with his main job as the unnamed neighbor/narrator. Rather, he ensures listeners understand that the neighbor’s studied indifference to Holly’s past is nothing but a front. His performance is dispassionate and collected, making the casualness with which he describes certain events that much more effective in showcasing just how much the neighbor admired and adored Holly.
The language is the true star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mr. Capote’s phrasing is superb, and those readers who like to take notes or jot down powerful phrases and sentences will have plenty of note-taking fodder. Mr. Capote’s observations about life, as filtered through Holly, are simply outstanding. He astutely tells readers how it is but does so without being overly saccharine or bitter.
While the movie version is beloved and acclaimed for a reason, one cannot help but feel the movie does Mr. Capote’s original story a disservice. By removing Holly’s harsher edges and glamorizing her lifestyle, the movie misses the point. While Audrey Hepburn captured Holly’s yearning for a better life, the movie is too much like a fairy tale, whereas the novella is much harsher in its depiction of life’s consequences. Some readers will not like the original, deeming it too dark and depressing. Others will adore the realism of the story and Holly’s very fragile sense of happiness and contentment. All readers will understand why critics consider Breakfast at Tiffany’s Mr. Capote’s masterpiece because he packs a powerful punch into a very short work of fiction.