For those of us prescient in the 1960s, and those born much later, the name Holly Golightly is synonymous with sex and sophistication in the best romance novels. Even teenagers know who invented the LBD. It ushered in a new fashion essential for every woman. And for just about every man, Audrey Hepburn created a myth of a myth around femininity, with the power to seduce with grace and divine poise.
So, what are we supposed to make of Audrey Hepburn’s alter ego, Holly Golightly? There’s indeed a lot for us to not like about her as she happily steals another’s boyfriend, cares not a whit about who she inconveniences to get what she wants, and seems content in fleeting and meaningless relationships. Had it not been for the rigid censorship of the times, we would know Holly was bi-sexual and an escort who maintained her lifestyle by relieving men of their money. We would call her the classic anti-hero
But there’s also a lot to like about Holly Golightly as we question who are the good and bad people in the world, and we are challenged to decide whether we are supposed to hate her, love her, or pray she finds happiness in the end. She does not make it easy for us to answer these questions. Holly’s a dilemma for us, though for those of us who know the story, perhaps she isn’t so hard to understand.
Holly Golightly was an orphan who had a very tough childhood, forced to live with some dreadful relatives after her parents died. She runs away with her young brother to live on the street, and they are eventually taken in by a man who she marries when she is just fourteen. We learn her painful past is never far from her thoughts, and when her brother is killed in the war, she laments he was the only one in her life who ever let her hug him on a cold winter night. If we love teary stories, this is in the tradition of the best romance novels.
Audrey Hepburn, as we do know, gave up her life to devote it to exactly who we may think Holly Golightly did not represent: the underprivileged and desperate children of the world.
Much of what we know about the world comes to us via movies, newspapers, and social media megaphones. We should not forget that behind a lot of what we see and are allowed to think about, there is another world crying out for the same attention, but lacking the voice to do so.
Best romance novels? What would the anti-hero Holly Golightly make of all this?
Robert Barclay is an Australian author of some of the best Australian crime/mystery novels. His Australian romance novels and stories follow the lives of Katy Yehonala and her daughter, Clara, his strong female protagonists as they confront the evils of society.
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