Breakfast at Tiffany's - A Short Novel and Three Stories

( 97 )

Overview

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving ...

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Overview

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany's; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote's best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Truman Capote is the most perfect writer of my generation. He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm.”—Norman Mailer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679745655
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: First Vintage International Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 44,446
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Truman Capote (1924-84) rose to international prominence in 1948 with the publication of his debut novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms. His other works of fiction include Breakfast at Tiffany's, A Tree of Night, The Grass Harp, and Summer Crossing, the author's long-lost first novel, which was rediscovered in 2004 and published by Random House in 2005. He is also the author of Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote. His nonfiction novel In Cold Blood is widely considered one of the greatest books of the twentieth century.

Biography

Truman Capote was a native of New Orleans, where he was born on September 30, 1924. His first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was an international literary success when first published in 1948, and accorded the author a prominent place among the writers of America's postwar generation. He sustained this position subsequently with short-story collections (A Tree of Night, among others), novels and novellas (The Grass Harp and Breakfast at Tiffany's), some of the best travel writing of our time (Local Color), profiles and reportage that appeared originally in The New Yorker (The Duke in His Domain and The Muses Are Heard), a true-crime masterpiece (In Cold Blood), several short memoirs about his childhood in the South (A Christmas Memory, The Thanksgiving Visitor, and One Christmas), two plays (The Grass Harp and House of Flowers and two films (Beat the Devil and The Innocents).

Mr. Capote twice won the O.Henry Memorial Short Story Prize and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in August 1984, shortly before his sixtieth birthday.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 30, 1924
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, Louisiana
    1. Date of Death:
      August 25, 1984
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Trinity School and St. John's Academy in New York City and Greenwich High School in Connecticut

Reading Group Guide

A. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

1. The story begins when the bartender Joe Bell and the narrator talk about Mr. Yunioshi’s report that Holly Golightly had been living in Africa.  What aura does the opening chapter lend to the character of Holly?  What feelings does Holly evoke in Joe Bell?
 
2. What does Holly mean by her advice about powder-room change to Sid Arbuck, when she refuses to let him into her apartment (12, 21)?  Holly tells the narrator, “I’ve simply trained myself to like older men, and it was the smartest thing I ever did” (16).  Why has she trained herself?  How does Holly support herself?
 
3. Holly decides to call the narrator “Fred” after her brother.  Why, after her brother’s death, does she stop calling him Fred (63)?
 
4. O. J. Berman tells the narrator that Holly is a phony.  What does he mean?  Why has she decided not to become a Hollywood actress (24-25, 31)?
 
5. What does Holly mean by “the mean reds”?  Why does Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry store on Fifth Avenue, make her feel better (32)?
 
6. When the narrator and Holly tell each other stories about their childhoods, Holly admits that hers is untrue (43-44).  Is Holly dishonest, or is she, like the narrator, a kind of storytelling artist?  How would you describe Holly’s approach to life?
 
7. Why is Rusty Trawler a good choice as a boyfriend for Holly?  Why does Holly allow the narrator to see her in the bathtub and in other states of undress?  What is assumed but never stated about his sexuality?
 
8. The story takes a surprising turn with the arrival of Doc Golightly.  How is he described?  How do his story, and the photograph he shows the narrator, transform your understanding of Holly and her past (52-56)?
 
9. Holly has transformed herself into a stylish New Yorker, but how much is she still attached to her past?  How does Holly explain her feelings for Doc (58)?  How does she react to the death of her brother Fred (63-67)?
 
10. The narrator sees a birdcage in an antique shop, and later Holly buys it for him as a surprise gift, but tells him never to keep a living thing in it (47).  Later, she tells Joe Bell, “Never love a wild thing, Mr. Bell” (59).  Does Holly imply anything about herself and her relationships with these references?
 
11. Holly explains her ideas about ethics: “It’s a bore, but the answer is good things only happen to you if you’re good.  Good?  Honest is more what I mean.  Not law-type honest...but unto-thyself-type honest.  Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart” (66).  Would you agree?  Does Holly have a high standard of behavior for herself?
 
12. While Holly seems genuinely to care about the narrator, she seems to have no other real friends. At the party, she makes the gathering of men understand that Mag Wildwood has a sexually transmitted disease (36).  Does her opportunism with regard to the rich men in her life also extend to Mag?  Does she see Mag as a rival?  Why then does she decide to let Meg move in with her (42)?
 
13. The narrator describes a walk with Holly to Chinatown, a chow mein supper and a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  “On the bridge, as we watched the seaward-moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline,” she tells him that many years hence, she will bring her “nine Brazilian brats” back to see New York (67).  Why is the narrator sad at this moment?  Is theirs an ideal friendship?
 
14. We are reminded of the suffering in Holly’s life when she loses “the heir,” when José leaves her, and when she tells the narrator about her hallucinations of “the fat woman” after Fred’s death (77-82).  Considering what Holly has been through in her earlier life and the fact that she is now under criminal indictment, what do you think of her attitude toward her future?
 
15. During the drive to the airport, Holly lets her cat out onto the street and then regrets it.  The narrator fulfills his promise to find the cat—who has a new home—and he completes the tale with the hope that Holly, too, has arrived where she belongs.  Capote told The Paris Review, “Finding the right form for your story is simply to realize the most natural way of telling the story. The test of whether or not a writer has divined the natural shape of his story is just this: after reading it, can you imagine it differently, or does it silence your imagination and seem to you absolute and final?”  Is Breakfast at Tiffany’s an example of Capote’s ideal?  Do you find the story’s structure, with its interlocking beginning and ending, satisfying? 
 
16. Norman Mailer wrote, “Truman Capote is the most perfect writer of my generation.  He writes the best sentences word for word, rhythm upon rhythm.”  Ask each person in your group to choose a favorite sentence, and discuss why Capote is such a great prose stylist.

B. “House of Flowers”

1. Why are Rosita and Baby surprised that Ottilie will not return to the city with them? 
Why is it significant to their bond that Royal and Ottilie are both country people, and both believe in voodoo?  Why does she stay with him after he has punished her?

C. “A Diamond Guitar”

1. Given the description of Mr. Schaeffer (111-112), why do you think he is drawn to Tico Feo?  What details of description and character intensify the emotion of this love story? 

D. “A Christmas Memory”

1. How does the scarcity of money bring out the creativity and generosity in these two friends? 

2.  The old woman realizes, after they fly their kites together, that she doesn’t have to wait for death to see divinity: “I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are...just what they’ve always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes” (141).  Why is this insight especially relevant on Christmas?  Why, when the boy later hears the news of her death, does he feel that it as “sever[s] from me an irreplaceable part of myself, letting it loose like a kite on a broken string” (142)?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 97 )
Rating Distribution

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(48)

4 Star

(29)

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(12)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 97 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2008

    Strawberry-cream dish

    A seductive story that brings excitement to every word you read. In this book, the author, Truman Capote, uses a descriptive language that makes you feel and understand the way the characters live. Holly Golightly, a New York woman that lives her life like in a theatre play, meets her wonderful neighbor, and together they get to know themselves in a story accompanied with passion and greatness. Both characters get to know each other enough to know that she comes with a dark past with a husband and children and that he is a writer with big hopes and dreams. Throughout the story, Holly is constantly in helped by his neighbor to get out of trouble. Together they guide us through a story of friendship, hopes and dreams, passion and trouble where every word represents a feeling. This is by far one of the best books I have ever read. In every page I experimented excitement, curiosity and a passionate feeling. Reading through the book was like eating a strawberry-cream dish. Truman Capote makes you feel you never want to stop reading it is a book that makes you know you¿ve never wasted your time.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Truly a Classic

    Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote was published in 1958. The novel also contains three other short stories, House of Flowers, A Diamond Guitar, and A Christmas Memory. Breakfast at Tiffany's is considered to be Capote's crowning literary achievement.

    Breakfast at Tiffany's is the story of Holly Golightly, girl-about-New York. An un-named narrator reflects back on his time living above Holly in a New York City brownstone. Holly is a naive, charming, quirky, sexy, flirty, smart, witty fledgling of a woman who men pay to be with. Holly has the ability to make everyone fall in love with her and they almost always do. The narrator tells the reader of how his friendship with Holly came to be, and what he learned of her past and it's effect on her present and future.

    The language of the book is absolutely charming. You get pulled into Holly's world and are deeply enchanted with it and her, leading to an understanding of how she's become the "it" girl of New York City. The terminology the book is written with has a cool beatnik slang feel to it.
    "So, he said, what do you think: is she or ain't she?..You're wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you're right. She isn't a phony because she's a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes."

    It gives the book a timeless feeling as Holly can be any woman at any time in any given place. This is one of the big reasons she remains so popular today. She represents an ideal that woman can control their own lives and chose their own destinies. She changed the notion that only men can use sex to their advantage. As much as sex is an important part of Holly's character, it's not outright discussed that she is a prostitute. Reading this work is more about reading in between the lines, than what is actually written.

    I really did enjoy the novel, but found the film version to be more complete. I did however enjoy the characters and side stories that didn't make it into the film. they all added new dimensions to Holly's character. I would like to mention that those familiar with the film version to be prepared for a slightly different story. The film version altered the print version, most notably changing the ending.

    If you chose to read this novel I heartily recommend Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M - Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and The Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson. Fifth Avenue is about the creation of Holly Golightly and how she changed the view of the modern woman. It also gives background on how the novel was written and also how the novel was turned into a film.


    Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Breakfast at Tiffany's

    Interesting and amusing,this story has oddball characters one imagines would be good friends for an unstable life-style. For me, the ending in the book was more apropos to the type of story this is than was the movie ending. The short story "A Christmas Memory",included in this volume, is by itself worht the price of this book.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Breakfast at Tiffany's: A Novel & Three Stories

    The book Breakfast at Tiffany¿s by Truman Capote is a book about a writer telling of a friend. It excels in imagery and has a point of view from an interesting perspective of an outsider looking in. The book is the story of Miss Holiday Golightly from the Narrator¿s perspective. She is a woman of mystery to everyone in her life, and the narrator can only learn about her life by watching her through a ¿window¿ and can only see what is on her surface. The only person less reliable is Holly herself. ¿You¿re wrong. She is a phony. But on the other hand you¿re right. She isn¿t a phony because she¿s a real phony. She believes all this crap she believes¿ (Capote 30). The narrator is told this earlier on from a longtime friend of Holly. As the narrator begins to learn more, more the reader knows of Holly lies. Holly lies because she wants no responsiblitiy or ties to people or things. She wants to ¿Golighty¿ through life. Things in her apartment are left packed and she shows her disconnection with her cat by not naming it and the narrator by not calling him his real name, only her estranged brother¿s name, Fred. Holly will not settle down until she has found home. It has to be as stable and luxious as Tiffany¿s. This becomes her goal for her life. Besides her telling the narrator about her brother, Holly confesses one more thing her weekly visits to a gangster, Sally tomato, who is held in the Sing Sing prison. The narrator can easily observe Holly¿s relationships with her social life friends are unstable and soon even theirs falls apart as Holly insults the narrator¿s writing and he insults her way of life. The reason of Holly¿s social life because clear when her brother dies. She falls apart and the author realizes then why Holly doesn¿t let people get too close. Her brother¿s death changes Holly. She begins to stay home and settles down with Jose. She gains weight, starts cooking and finishing her apartment. She and Jose plan their move to Brazil to begin their life and find a home when Holly finds out that she is pregnant. On Holly¿s and the narrator¿s last day together the narrator is injured in a horse-back riding accident. Holly is comforting him when the police arrive. Holly is arrested for conspiracy with the gang because of her visits with Sally Tomato, the prisoner in Sing Sing. Jose leaves her and her inner social circle disowns her only the narrator visits her. Holly tells him she has lost her child, but plans to escape to Brazil. The narrator helps Holly escape. Holly lets go of her cat and leaves her life. The narrator will never see Holly Golightly again, only a postcard to say that she has found a home in Buenos Aries. Holly is a phony she hides herself behind interesting lies and an eccentric lifestyle. She keeps disconnected and unloving for the freedom of her feelings. Understanding describing her and revealing mysteries of her life is the challenge that has to be met by the narrator, it proves his worth as a writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    A true classic

    LOVE THIS BOOK! READ IT EVERY COUPLE OF YEARS B/C IT'S LIKE REVISITING AN OLD FRIEND--- CAPOTE WAS A GENIUS W/WORDS, BUT I HAVE TO DISAGREE W/HIM ABOUT HOLLY; I KNOW HE WAS SAID TO HAVE MARILYN MONROE IN MIND AS HOLLY, BUT COULD U IMAGINE ANYONE BUT AUDREY HEPBURN BRINGING HER "PSEUDO"-SOPHISTICATION TO LIFE? I LOVE MM, BUT SHE COULDN'T PULL IT OFF IN A MILLION YEARS!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I had no idea that Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote was g

    I had no idea that Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote was going to be so easy to read and enjoyable, but I guess I should have known!  The movie is fantastic, so of course the book is better.

    This novella follows Holly Golightly, a gorgeous, troubled, captivating, flighty woman who yearns for beauty, success, and to find herself.  She throws parties, dates many men, and has a few secrets.  For instance, Holly Golightly visits a mafia boss in jail on a weekly basis and passes on the "weather report."

    If you are in need of a short, light classic to read, Breakfast at Tiffany's is a great one to pick up.  It's witty, charming, and you might not be able to stop yourself from falling in love with Holly Golightly.

    Who else has the song in their head? 

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not what I expected, but great nonetheless.

    First of all, if you have seen the movie and are simply browsing about the book, I highly recommend you read the book because they are very different stories. This is one of my all time favorite stories. It is a classic and I think everyone should have a little Truman Capote in their lives. Its just an overall interesting story with an incredibly interesting woman at the center of it all with a few inconsequential people flitting about around her and the narrarator who falls in love with her while trying to find out the true nature of a woman who doesnt really understand herself or who she really is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2007

    Love it, Darling!

    The first time i saw Breakfast at Tiffany's (the book) was at my library, all by itself. i then knew it was put there for a reason, for me to find it and read it,and im glad i did. This book is about a man telling us of a friend he had, Holly Golightly and all the 'adventures' he had with her, like attending a party at her appartment and spending a whole day doing things they've never done. And through these adventures with her, our narrator is falling more and more in love with Holly Golightly and her charm. Throught the book's obsicles, they both discover heartbreak and disappointment, but the narrator can always help out Holly Golightly, even when her multiple lovers couldn't. It is definately a little different from the movie but in a good way. I just bought it a couple of days ago, because i loved it sooooo much. Truman Capote did an amazing job writing this novel and is definately one of the best books ever. -'It's better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear...' Holly Golightly

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Wonderful, as amazing as the film

    Wonderful, as amazing as the film

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2013

    Amazing

    So far so good trumaan is an amazing author

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  • Posted November 22, 2013

    recommended

    This book is good for book clubs to for a lively discussion with the questions printed out on line.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    Breakfast at tiffanys

    Want my kund of book, either that or its just bad!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Wonderful

    A beautifully and well written story. I've seen the movie but reading it presents a whole other visual view. Recommend to all. Truman is at his best. I didn't want to put it down until it was finished.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    a fun read

    loved it and the other short stories too

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Tiffany

    There is a girl in school that I have a crush and her name is Tiffany

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Love this story

    Some of the most beautiful words ever written!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2013

    Zane

    Zane

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    How does this work How does this work?

    How does this book sound?I think it is personal information,but whatever. I honestly don't want to know. It sounds different and odd. Who (please reply/rate) agrees with me?

    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Dear Holly

    You can not remain free while being free spirited. Constant search will bring you nowhere. Restless mind will fail you. May be you are not smart at all just desperate for action or attention. Learn to take care of yourself first. If you choose to remain care free then prepare to get hurt.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    The movie was spectacular! Audrey Hepburn brought such exuberance to her role! I'm scared to read the book because I think that it won't be as good as the movie but, I've gotta try it.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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