Friday, January 20, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #2 Fifth Avenue, 5 AM, Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Dawn of the Modern Woman

I'd make an excellent Mid-Century woman.  I enjoy making meatloaf and deviled eggs and jell-o molds.  I passionately watch The Dick Van Dyke Show, Ozzie and Harriett and Mad Men, longing for the times when women made cakes from scratch, cigarettes were smoked in front of children, people drank at every occasion (I love a good mixed drink in a perfectly shaped glass poured over perfectly shaped ice) and couples slept in separate beds, sometimes separate rooms. I understand that even Mad Men is a stylized version of this era, but I can't help it, I love the dresses, the food, the struggles and the imperfections of this time in American history.

Fifth Avenue, 5 AM by Sam Wasson encompasses that era with equal parts nostalgia and grit. It is the story of Audrey Hepburn and her reluctance to be the poster girl for Modern American women, her desire to be a mother, her failed relationships and, in the end, her willingness to accept herself in her imperfections. Audrey Hepburn is the reason why women wear little black dresses, but Holly Golightly (the heroine of Breakfast and Tiffany's) is the prototype of the modern female. Holly is the perfect combination of sex and femininity and, Wasson will tell you, she was the perfect bridge between June Cleaver and Marilyn Monroe.

Wasson deftly weaves touch tones of America into this tale. He describes how Hepburn helped revolutionize the fashion industry, making designer clothing appeal to the average working class woman. He talks about class, a smidgelette about race, fashion, the film industry, the music industry (where would the movie be without Mancini's "Moon River"?), gender, sexuality and Truman Capote (yes, Mr. Capote belongs in a class all his very own) and gives us enough information to know that he's in love with all of it and, yet, wants us to love it for ourselves not because he says so. 

Everytime I picked up the book and began reading I was propelled back to a time of dualities; on one hand America's need to look and be picture perfect and, on the other hand, a nation who wanted to show it's true, unglossy, promiscuous self. I gotta tell you I love both sides. I also love that Wasson makes sure that his readers understand that it is Breakfast's at Tiffany's (the film more than the movie) that signifies our break from trying to be the perfect Land of Liberty.

I didn't realize I would identify with Audrey Hepburn so much. Her struggle to balance her personal desires to be a good wife and mother, with those of her husband and those of one of the first modern career women kept me reading just to see how she was going to succeed through /in-spite of it all.

Read this book (doesn't the title just make you want to?). Be prepared to laugh and cry (OK, I didn't cry, but I did gasp a few times at the glorious story). Be prepared to hum "Moon River" in the shower. Be prepared to yearn for cigarettes and martinis and a time when everything was new and America was a blushing debutante. 

4 Stars   
Wasson interrupts my flow of reading a little too much with all of his topic headings. Oh, and I also didn't like that he didn't have nice things to say about George Pippard. Who doesn't like Hannibal?

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a fantastic book! I love Audrey Hepburn and all of her movies, especially Breakfast at Tiffany's, so I'm going to be sure to add this to my TBR list. Thanks for the awesome review!



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