This is the story of a year in the life of Holly Golightly, as told by a young man living in a tiny New York apartment. We know very little about our narrator, except that he’s an aspiring writer, is perfectly nice and perhaps a little conventional. His apartment is directly above Holly’s, and he develops a keen curiosity in his neighbor. She’s beautiful, mysterious, keeps very strange hours, and has a great many gentleman callers.
He finally meets Holly one chilly night, when she steps off the fire escape and into his tiny apartment. She has a drunk and amorous suitor downstairs, and needs a place to wait until he passes out. Our narrator is intrigued by her boldness and her quirky charm. Holly tells him that he reminds her of her much-loved brother, Fred, and that she’s therefore immediately fond of him – and will call him Fred. They pass an amiable night together, and so begins their acquaintance.
As the months roll by, the narrator gets further glimpses of Holly’s world. She seems to glide along the surface of life, hedonistic, unattached, a temporary visitor with undefined plans. She refuses to put down roots – her lounge is furnished with unpacked boxes and a single bookshelf. But she’s warm and open-hearted, generous and thoughtful, and loyal to her friends. It’s clear that she’s involved in some kind of illegal activity, although she seems to be blissfully unaware that she’s doing anything wrong. She’s courted by naval officers and silver-haired politicians, wealthy businessmen and Hollywood agents, all hoping for a slice of her attention.
Through a chance encounter, the narrator learns a little about Holly’s tangled past. She was a child bride in a dustbowl community; and a fledgling movie starlet who skipped out on her big Hollywood opportunity. The real Fred, Holly’s brother, is a somewhat slow young man who’s been drafted into the army. We never meet him but we learn that, amidst the swirl of Holly’s transient relationships, he’s her only anchor to ‘real’ life. She dreams of securing a future in which they’ll be safe and happy together.
A year passes, and things are looking very promising indeed for Holly. She’s on the verge of securing herself a handsome diplomat, who’s suitably rich and rather nice. The wedding is to take place in Brazil, the plane tickets are booked, there’s nothing left to do but say goodbye.
Then, without warning, her dreams are shattered. To anyone else, the blow would be devastating. But Ms Golightly is no wilting violet. With a single suitcase containing her earthly possessions, she boards a plane and jets off – like a cat with multiple lives – the wealthy Senhores of Brazil firmly in her sights.