Vintage Classics, 1958, 192 pages
It's New York in the 1940s, where the martinis flow from cocktail hour till breakfast at Tiffany's. And nice girls don't, except, of course, Holly Golightly. Pursued by Mafia gangsters and playboy millionaires, Holly is a fragile eyeful of tawny hair and turned-up nose, a heart-breaker, a perplexer, a traveller, a tease. She is irrepressibly 'top banana in the shock department', and one of the shining flowers of American fiction.
This short novel is about Holly Golightly (obviously not her real name), a petite little bundle of scandal in World War II New York society. She works her way through mobsters, playboys, media moguls, and any other men who can pay her tab. The narrator, an aspiring Capote-like writer, is her neighbor in their (not-so) trendy NYC apartment building. He is witness to her parade of gentlemen callers, and as he befriends her and falls in and out of love with her, bears witness to her dramas and the slowly revealed facets of her character and history.
The dialog in Breakfast at Tiffany's is snappy, very much of the era, but it still sounds almost contemporary in tone if not in verbiage. Holly loves easily and leaves easily. She is easily angered and quick to forgive. She buys expensive gifts on a whim, expects to be treated to expensive things regularly. Eventually we find out where she's really from and how she became Manhattan's Girl About Town. Then she gets in some legal trouble and goes on the lam, leaving the narrator to pine wistfully over her postcards from Brazil or wherever she's fled to.
It's a cute, almost whimsical novel, and was probably much more scandalous when it was written. Neither the author nor the narrator ever come out and say that Holly is a whore, but it's heavily implied. At best, she lives a "sugar daddy" lifestyle. Today her behavior would barely raise an eyebrow in Manhattan, but in the 40s, when it was written, such a female protagonist was more shocking,
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
Audrey Hepburn's iconic role as Holly Golightly, costarring George Peppard, was toned down a little and set a decade later, in the 1950s. It does preserve the essentials of Holly's character, and portrays the same Manhattanite party lifestyle as in Capote's book.
Hepburn is a beauty and a charmer and perfect for the whimsical but dark role of Holly. Like the book, it's a fun movie to watch. Typical of Hollywood, however, it replaces the rather unsatisfying ending of the book with a more tidy Happy Ending for the two main characters, which rather contradicted the entire point of the character that Truman Capote wrote.
Also, while I usually don't take much notice of SJWs screaming about "whitewashing," Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Holly's Japanese upstairs neighbor, Mr. Yunioshi is... really something. It's as if the director told Rooney, "Be as over-the-top offensive as you can, because screw Japs."
My complete list of book reviews.