I haven’t read any Capote before but have always wanted to, so when the lovely people at penguin sent me a few as part of their gorgeous new modern classics range I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself away from them for long, but which one should I read first? I plumped for Breakfast at Tiffany’s because I had seen the movie, which is the opposite way to how I normally do the whole book to film routine, but with a new author as Capote was to me I thought that it might actually help with the reading and in some ways it did.
The story itself is much darker than the one in which Audrey Hepburn starred. Holly Golightly (which I think is a fantastic name) is a much darker and more ruthless and naughty character than the one in the film. I could instantly see how the narrator of the tale was drawn to her, her first scene is arriving a little drunk with a gentleman caller waking the neighbours by forgetting her keys, and she then causes quite a scene on the stairwell. I knew from then on I was going to enjoy the book a lot. She is ‘irresistibly top banana in the shock department’. I also didn’t realise how tragic she is in her own way. Once again the book is better than the movie which is of course a classic.
I found the way Truman uses her to describe people and social etiquette and climbing in New York in the 1940’s really insightful. You can of course see that in people today, I just wasn’t expecting it to be so dark, and I like a novel with dark parts mingled amongst cocktails parties and wonderful characters. There is no doubt in my mind that if you haven’t read the novel then you should and you should get this one.
Not only does it have possibly the best ‘film cover’ I have seen on a book, as most of them lets be honest can be pretty horrid, but there are three more stories there two of which I was completely taken with. My least favourite was ‘The Diamond Guitar’, I kept thinking of Fitzgerald’s story ‘A Diamond as Big as the Ritz’ for some reason. Though it wasn’t a bad story and the relationship and friendship between two prisoners was impeccably written it didn’t get into my head as much as the title story or the other two.
‘A Christmas Memory’ is delightful told from the eyes of an unnamed seven year old who bakes cakes every year with his sixty plus year old cousin and sends them to various people including the president. It is as it says simply a memory but one that made me think of all the special times I have had with different members of my family. However the gem hidden away (again bar the title story) for me was the story ‘House of Flowers’ which tells of another lady of the night like Holly called Ottilie.
Ottilie, who despite her job in a house of ill famed repute, desperately wants to fall in love. She is told that when she does she will know because she will be able to pick up a Bee and it won’t sting her, for a while she gets stung until she meets the unlikely love of her life Royal. She leaves the brothel to move in with him where she meets his bitter mother. I won’t say anymore than that – oh apart from the fact that it’s like a dark modern fairy tale. It’s brilliant as is the collection and I know I will be revisiting this collection again and again.