Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories

I decided to read Breakfast at Tiffany’s after watching some bits of the movie on TV. I knew that it was the source of inspiration for several contemporary romance novels and that its protagonist was seen as a symbol of incredible elegance, so I was quite shocked when I found out that Holly Golightly was a prostitute, pardon an escort!

The novel written by Truman Capote was published in 1958, but it’s mainly set during World War II. Holly Golightly, whose real name is Lula Mae Barnes, is an almost nineteen-year-old girl who moved to New York hoping to find a rich husband. She had a sad childhood, but being poor shouldn’t justify such an immoral behavior. She could have found an honest job as a cleaning lady, a waitress or in a factory, but no… Holly’s so tremendously frivolous and ambitious. She admits that she only likes men who are at least forty-two and that she trained herself to like older men. Holly is fond of horses and baseball is only part of her effort to please men. That’s appalling!

Fortunately, she gets what she deserves: the attractive Brazilian José changes his mind and goes back to his country alone when he finds out about Holly’s involvement with the criminal Sally Tomato. Holly decides to flee to Rio, taking advantage of the flight José had bought for her and she asks the narrator (who is a writer like the author himself) to get her “a list of the fifty richest men in Brazil, regardless of race or color”.

Holly finds a rich lover in South America. He’s married. After Brazil she visits Buenos Aires. The years go by and in 1956 the photographer Yunioshi, a Californian man of Japanese descent, sees a wooden sculpture that resembles Holly in Africa. The woodcarver tells him that in the spring of that year a woman and two white men arrived in the village…

I admired Capote’s writing style because he was able to convey empathy even for hideous characters like Holly Golightly. Well, hideous for me. I’m sure he found her adorable, like every other man in the world, even if he wasn’t attracted by women.

The 50th anniversary edition of Breakfast at Tiffany’s contains also other three stories from the same author: House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar and A Christmas Memory.

I read House of Flowers while I was lying in bed at night and it gave me the creeps! This time the setting is Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Ottilie is a seventeen-year-old prostitute with light skin and almost blue eyes. Her mother is dead and her father is a planter who has gone back to France. She believes in many Gods and one day she falls in love with a beautiful ginger-skinned boy. Royal’s house is like a house of flowers, but he lives with his grandmother and there is only a room. The old woman is known as a maker of spells. Five months after the marriage, Royal begins staying out at night as he had done before. He thinks that a man has to have his pleasures. But Royal’s grandmother is Ottilie’s real torment. The old woman tries to cast a spell putting dead animals in Ottilie’s sewing basket, but the young woman reacts using them as ingredients for the old woman’s food. When Ottilie tells her the truth, the old woman dies, but Ottilie soon realizes that Old Bonaparte is dead but not gone…

A Diamond Guitar is the story that I found the least interesting. A prison in the forest. There are two sleep houses: the white men occupy one and the black men and the only Chinese the other. Mr. Schaeffer is one of the important men. He has reddish, silvering hair. Some winters before, the fifty-year-old Mr. Schaeffer became best friend with an eighteen-year-old Cuban boy. He had a guitar with jewels (glass diamonds). The blue-eyed and golden-haired Tico Feo convinced him to escape together, but Mr. Schaeffer failed while Tico Feo left the country.

A Christmas Memory was instead a pleasant surprise, despite the slow start. In this autobiographical tale, we can find the friendship between a seven-year-old boy (the author) and a woman in her sixties. The boy and the old woman are distant cousins and they live in a house with several relatives. Capote’s parents divorced when he was four and he indeed spent the following four-five years with his mother’s relatives. He had a horrible childhood because of his unloving parents, but in this tale he recalls some nice moments like helping his distant cousin to make more than thirty fruitcakes or going to the woods to cut a tree for Christmas.

It’s wonderful how such different topics can become interesting thanks to Capote’s writing genius!

 

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