Vanity Fair (Everyman's Library)

Vanity Fair (Everyman's Library)

Hardcover(Reissue)

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Overview

A panoramic satire of English society during the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair is William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece. At its center is one of the most unforgettable characters in nineteenth-century literature: the enthralling Becky Sharp, a charmingly ruthless social climber who is determined to leave behind her humble origins, no matter the cost. Her more gentle friend Amelia, by contrast, only cares for Captain George Osborne, despite his selfishness and her family’s disapproval. As both women move within the flamboyant milieu of Regency England, the political turmoil of the era is matched by the scheming Becky’s sensational rise—and its unforeseen aftermath.

 

Based in part upon Thackeray’s own love for the wife of a friend, Vanity Fair portrays the hypocrisy and corruption of high society and the dangers of unrestrained ambition with epic brilliance and scathing wit. With an introduction by Catherine Peters.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679405665
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/28/1991
Series: Everyman's Library Classics
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 800
Sales rank: 311,772
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 8.29(h) x 1.68(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

William Makepeace Thackeray, whose satiric novels are often regarded as the great upper-class counterpart to Dickens's panoramic depiction of lower-class Victorian society, was born on July 18, 1811, in Calcutta, India. His father, a prosperous official of the British East India Company, died four years later, and at the age of six Thackeray was sent to England to be educated. After graduating from the Charterhouse School in London, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1829 but left the following year without taking a degree. After reading law for a short time at the Middle Temple he moved to Paris in 1832 to study art. Although he eventually abandoned the idea of painting as a career, Thackeray continued to draw throughout his life, illustrating many of his own works. When financial reversals wiped out his inheritance, he resettled in London and turned to journalism for a livelihood. By then he had married Isabella Shawe, a young Irishwoman with whom he had three daughters.

Thackeray's earliest literary success, The Yellowplush Correspondence, a group of satiric sketches written in the guise of a cockney footman's memoirs, was serialized in Fraser's Magazine beginning in 1837. Catherine (serialized 1839-40; published 1869), his first novel, parodied the crime stories popular in Victorian England. Under the name Michael Angelo Titmarsh, the most famous of his many pseudonyms, Thackeray turned out The Paris Sketch Book (1840) and The Irish Sketch-Book (1843), two popular volumes of travel writing. The Luck of Barry Lyndon (1844), which chronicles the adventures of an Irish knave in eighteenth-century England, marked his first serious attack on social pretension. In The Book of Snobs (1848), a collection of satiric portraits originally published in Punch magazine (1846-47), he lampooned the avarice and snobbery occasioned by the Industrial Revolution.

Vanity Fair, Thackeray's resplendent social satire exposing the greed and corruption raging in England during the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars, brought him immediate acclaim when it appeared in Punch beginning in 1847. "The more I read Thackeray's works," wrote Charlotte Brontë, "the more certain I am that he stands alone-alone in his sagacity, alone in his truth, alone in his feeling (his feeling, though he makes no noise about it, is about the most genuine that ever lived on a printed page), alone in his power, alone in his simplicity, alone in his self-control. Thackeray is a Titan. . . . I regard him as the first of modern masters."

Read an Excerpt

Chiswick Mall

While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows of the stately old brick house. Nay, the acute observer might have recognized the little red nose of good-natured Miss Jemima Pinkerton herself, rising over some geranium pots in the window of that lady's own drawing-room.

"It is Mrs. Sedley's coach, sister," said Miss Jemima. "Sambo, the black servant, has just rung the bell; and the coachman has a new red waistcoat."

"Have you completed all the necessary preparations incident to Miss Sedley's departure, Miss Jemima?" asked Miss Pinkerton herself, that majestic lady; the Semiramis of Hammersmith, the friend of Doctor Johnson, the correspondent of Mrs. Chapone herself.

"The girls were up at four this morning, packing her trunks, sister," replied Miss Jemima; "we have made her a bow-pot."

"Say a bouquet, sister Jemima, 'tis more genteel."

"Well, a booky as big almost as a haystack; I have put up two bottles of the gillyflower water for Mrs. Sedley, and the receipt for making it, in Amelia's box."

"And I trust, Miss Jemima, you have made a copy of Miss Sedley's account. This is it, is it? Very good—ninety-three pounds, four shillings. Be kind enough to address it to John Sedley, Esquire, and to seal this billet which I have written to his lady."

In Miss Jemima's eyes an autograph letter of her sister, Miss Pinkerton, was an object of as deep veneration as would have been a letter from a sovereign. Only when her pupils quitted the establishment, or when they were about to be married, and once, when poor Miss Birch died of the scarlet fever, was Miss Pinkerton known to write personally to the parents of her pupils; and it was Jemima's opinion that if anything could console Mrs. Birch for her daughter's loss, it would be that pious and eloquent composition in which Miss Pinkerton announced the event.

In the present instance Miss Pinkerton's "billet" was to the following effect:

-The Mall, Chiswick, June 15, 18-

Madam,

After her six years' residence at the Mall, I have the honour and happiness of presenting Miss Amelia Sedley to her parents, as a young lady not unworthy to occupy a fitting position in their polished and refined circle. Those virtues which characterize the young English gentlewoman, those accomplishments which become her birth and station, will not be found wanting in the amiable Miss Sedley, whose industry and obedience have endeared her to her instructors, and whose delightful sweetness of temper has charmed her aged and her youthful companions.

In music, in dancing, in orthography, in every variety of embroidery and needlework, she will be found to have realized her friends' fondest wishes. In geography there is still much to be desired; and a careful and undeviating use of the backboard, for four hours daily during the next three years, is recommended as necessary to the acquirement of that dignified deportment and carriage, so requisite for every young lady of fashion.

In the principles of religion and morality, Miss Sedley will be found worthy of an establishment which has been honoured by the presence of The Great Lexicographer, and the patronage of the admirable Mrs. Chapone. In leaving the Mall, Miss Amelia carries with her the hearts of her companions, and the affectionate regards of her mistress, who has the honour to subscribe herself, Madam,

Your most obliged humble servant,
Barbara Pinkerton

P.S.—Miss Sharp accompanies Miss Sedley. It is particularly requested that Miss Sharp's stay in Russell Square may not exceed ten days. The family of distinction with whom she is engaged, desire to avail themselves of her services as soon as possible.

This letter completed, Miss Pinkerton proceeded to write her own name, and Miss Sedley's, in the fly-leaf of a Johnson's Dictionary—the interesting work which she invariably presented to her scholars, on their departure from the Mall. On the cover was inserted a copy of "Lines addressed to a young lady on quitting Miss Pinkerton's school, at the Mall; by the late revered Doctor Samuel Johnson." In fact, the Lexicographer's name was always on the lips of this majestic woman, and a visit he had paid to her was the cause of her reputation and her fortune.

Being commanded by her elder sister to get "the Dictionary" from the cupboard, Miss Jemima had extracted two copies of the book from the receptacle in question. When Miss Pinkerton had finished the inscription in the first, Jemima, with rather a dubious and timid air, handed her the second.

"For whom is this, Miss Jemima?" said Miss Pinkerton, with awful coldness.

"For Becky Sharp," answered Jemima, trembling very much, and blushing over her withered face and neck, as she turned her back on her sister. "For Becky Sharp: she's going too."

"MISS JEMIMA!" exclaimed Miss Pinkerton, in the largest capitals. "Are you in your senses? Replace the Dixonary in the closet, and never venture to take such a liberty in future."

"Well, sister, it's only two-and-ninepence, and poor Becky will be miserable if she don't get one."

"Send Miss Sedley instantly to me," said Miss Pinkerton. And so venturing not to say another word, poor Jemima trotted off, exceedingly flurried and nervous.

Miss Sedley's papa was a merchant in London, and a man of some wealth; whereas Miss Sharp was an articled pupil, for whom Miss Pinkerton had done, as she thought, quite enough, without conferring upon her at parting the high honour of the Dixonary.
Although schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs; yet, as it sometimes happens that a person departs this life who is really deserving of all the praises the stone-cutter carves over his bones; who is a good Christian, a good parent, child, wife, or husband; who actually does leave a disconsolate family to mourn his loss; so in academies of the male and female sex it occurs every now and then that the pupil is fully worthy of the praises bestowed by the disinterested instructor. Now, Miss Amelia Sedley was a young lady of this singular species; and deserved not only all that Miss Pinkerton said in her praise, but had many charming qualities which that pompous old Minerva of a woman could not see, from the differences of rank and age between her pupil and herself.

For she could not only sing like a lark, or a Mrs. Billington, and dance like Hillisberg or Parisot; and embroider beautifully; and spell as well as a Dixonary itself; but she had such a kindly, smiling, tender, gentle, generous heart of her own, as won the love of everybody who came near her, from Minerva herself down to the poor girl in the scullery, and the one-eyed tart-woman's daughter, who was permitted to vend her wares once a week to the young ladies in the Mall. She had twelve intimate and bosom friends out of the twenty-four young ladies. Even envious Miss Briggs never spoke ill of her; high and mighty Miss Saltire (Lord Dexter's granddaughter) allowed that her figure was genteel; and as for Miss Swartz, the rich woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitt's, on the day Amelia went away, she was in such a passion of tears that they were obliged to send for Dr. Floss, and half tipsify her with salvolatile. Miss Pinkerton's attachment was, as may be supposed from the high position and eminent virtues of that lady, calm and dignified; but Miss Jemima had already whimpered several times at the idea of Amelia's departure; and, but for fear of her sister, would have gone off in downright hysterics, like the heiress (who paid double) of St. Kitt's. Such luxury of grief, however, is only allowed to parlour-boarders. Honest Jemima had all the bills, and the washing, and the mending, and the puddings, and the plate and crockery, and the servants to superintend. But why speak about her? It is probable that we shall not hear of her again from this moment to the end of time, and that when the great filigree iron gates are once closed on her, she and her awful sister will never issue therefrom into this little world of history.

But as we are to see a great deal of Amelia, there is no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance, that she was a dear little creature; and a great mercy it is, both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially) abound in villains of the most sombre sort, that we are to have for a constant companion so guileless and good-natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid that her nose was rather short than otherwise, and her cheeks a great deal too round and red for a heroine; but her face blushed with rosy health, and her lips with the freshest of smiles, and she had a pair of eyes which sparkled with the brightest and honestest good-humour, except indeed when they filled with tears, and that was a great deal too often; for the silly thing would cry over a dead canary-bird; or over a mouse, that the cat haply had seized upon; or over the end of a novel, were it ever so stupid; and as for saying an unkind word to her, were any persons hard-hearted enough to do so—why, so much the worse for them. Even Miss Pinkerton, that austere and godlike woman, ceased scolding her after the first time, and though she no more comprehended sensibility than she did Algebra, gave all masters and teachers particular orders to treat Miss Sedley with the utmost gentleness, as harsh treatment was injurious to her.So that when the day of departure came, between her two customs of laughing and crying, Miss Sedley was greatly puzzled how to act. She was glad to go home, and yet most woefully sad at leaving school. For three days before, little Laura Martin, the orphan, followed her about like a little dog. She had to make and receive at least fourteen presents—to make fourteen solemn promises of writing every week: "Send my letters under cover to my grandpapa, the Earl of Dexter," said Miss Saltire (who, by the way, was rather shabby). "Never mind the postage, but write every day, you dear darling," said the impetuous and woolly-headed, but generous and affectionate Miss Swartz; and the orphan little Laura Martin (who was just in round-hand), took her friend's hand and said, looking up in her face wistfully, "Amelia, when I write to you I shall call you Mamma." All which details, I have no doubt, Jones, who reads this book at his Club, will pronounce to be excessively foolish, trivial, twaddling, and ultra-sentimental. Yes; I can see Jones at this minute (rather flushed with his joint of mutton and half pint of wine), taking out his pencil and scoring under the words "foolish, twaddling," &c., and adding to them his own remark of "quite true." Well, he is a lofty man of genius, and admires the great and heroic in life and novels; and so had better take warning and go elsewhere.

Well, then. The flowers, and the presents, and the trunks, and bonnet-boxes of Miss Sedley having been arranged by Mr. Sambo in the carriage, together with a very small and weather-beaten old cow's-skin trunk with Miss Sharp's card neatly nailed upon it, which was delivered by Sambo with a grin, and packed by the coachman with a corresponding sneer—the hour for parting came; and the grief of that moment was considerably lessened by the admirable discourse which Miss Pinkerton addressed to her pupil. Not that the parting speech caused Amelia to philosophise, or that it armed her in any way with a calmness, the result of argument; but it was intolerably dull, pompous, and tedious; and having the fear of her schoolmistress greatly before her eyes, Miss Sedley did not venture, in her presence, to give way to any ebullitions of private grief. A seed-cake and a bottle of wine were produced in the drawing-room, as on the solemn occasions of the visits of parents, and these refreshments being partaken of, Miss Sedley was at liberty to depart.

Reading Group Guide

1. In her Introduction, Joanna Trollope asserts that "one of the huge charms of [Vanity Fair] is that nothing is conventional." Do you think Thackeray's choice of a protagonist speaks to this claim, given the novel's picaresque structure? How does this choice inform the novel? In what other ways does the novel confirm Trollope's claim?

2. What is your opinion of Thackeray's preface, "Before the Curtain"? How does it illuminate for you what he is attempting to do in the novel? In what ways is Thackeray "manager of the performance"? Discuss the role of the narrator in the novel. Is he reliable?

3. Why does Thackeray insist that this is a "novel without a hero"? Do you agree? What are the implications, if any, of such a claim?

4. Compare Becky and Amelia. What, if anything, does Thackeray intend by their contrasting destinies? Does one represent or confirm Thackeray's moral viewpoint better than the other, or do neither? What do you think of the preponderance of unlikable characters? Do you find Thackeray's outlook in any way misanthropic?

5. Anthony Trollope points out that many of Thackeray's contemporaries concluded upon reading Vanity Fair that he "was no novelist, but only a cynic." Do you agree? Do you think this judgment was simply a consequence of the period?

6. Robert Louis Stevenson, in a comment about the novel, remarked on Rawdon's striking of Lord Steyne in chapter 53, saying, "If Rawdon Crawley's blow were not delivered, Vanity Fair would cease to be a work of art." Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?

7. Discuss the significance of the Battle of Waterloo. What role does this crucial event play in the novel? Does it in any way serve as a metaphor for other episodes in the text?

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Vanity Fair 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 248 reviews.
inkarus More than 1 year ago
Surprisingly, after over 150 years, Vanity Fair is still a page-turner. This novel is supposed to be a groundbreaking work of "English realism" for its time (middle 1800's), but is surprisingly pertinent to today's consumer-oriented culture. Anyone who wants a slightly cynical look at the human condition will really enjoy this rendition of the foibles of human society and the sharply drawn characters of Becky Sharp, Emmy Sedly and her brother, Jos., and Thackeray's alter-ego, Dobbin (who is a bit too virtuous, of course). Not only is it a classic but it is very entertaining. It helps, however, to know just a bit of French an German, since there are a few foreign phrases salted in here and there. Even if you are in the dark about these exotic expressions, however, there are plenty of quips and escapades to keep you amused and anxious to move from chapter to chapter. I would have given Vanity Fair five stars, except for the difficulty of downloading the entire novel. My first attempt produced a (1853) download of the beginning third of the book (despite being told I was downloading "Vanity Fair"). My next attempt got farther, however this version ended in mid-sentence. I then downloaded another "Vanity Fair, Vol. II", which picked up later than the point at which I was dumped by my second attempt,and this third (and final) download also included another short novel not noted on the cover page. Furthermore, the OCR image of the "Vol II" final download had a fair number of uncorrected errors, although it was usually possible to understand what was in the original. I managed to fill in the missing chapters between my second and third downloads from a paperback I had purchased (I had only downloaded to the Nook because it is more convenient to read than a fat paperback). These problems with the descriptions of the various copies available for download limit the overall enjoyment of the reading experience. B&N needs to clear up these problems before they can expect perfect scores! The novel is well worth the effort, however.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading vanity fair and was very pleased with the book. There were some parts that were alittle boring but the rest of the book makes up for it. The ending, in particular, could not have been better. This is a very big book and does take alot of time to read, however, it is well worth it. I read Anna korenina right before Vanity Fair, and I have to say that this one is much better. Vanity Fair is definately going into my book collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The difference between right and wrong- who doesn't know it? This book is all around amazing. You know, before reading Vanity Fair, I had no idea how bad the magazine disgraces this great book. I loved it! It's not like it goes into detail about who is cheating and such like a country song, but shows what is wrong and write. It also simply shows the dark side of this seemingly innocent era.
twigtip More than 1 year ago
This is an epic social satire with spot-on observation and biting commentary. The characters are wholly believable and recognizable, even in today's society. I must add that it is very, very long, and to be fully appreciated probably needs to be read at a leisurely pace. Set aside a week's worth of spare time. You'll be amply rewarded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always thought that this would be a drag to read because it looked like a snobby, long Victorian novel. However, once I started reading it, I was addicted.
prettybrowneyes More than 1 year ago
I loved reading Vanity Fair. Rebecca Sharp is one of the most evil but intelligent characters I have ever read! Thackeray reminds me alot of Charles Dickens by the way he describes the characters and the enviornment they live in.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of all time, so clearly I am a biased reviewer. That said, there are many reasons for why that is so. The character of Becky Sharp is engaging and well-developed--beautiful, witty and ambitious, she is capable of manipulating her way through society at any cost, even that of 'implied' murder. Thackeray's range in the novel is tremendous: he takes us from the drawing-rooms of the great Lord Steyne, to the country parsonage of Bute Crawley, to the battlefields of Waterloo and back again. His delineations of social class are equally widespread, and delightfully perceptive. Additionally, the Barnes and Noble edition happens to have an extremely good introduction and notes--which cannot be said for every title in their classics series. I think I need not say that it is superior to the movie in every way imaginable 'although, granted, the film was not bad'. Highly, highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vanity Fair is not a short novel. It is long, and has many difficult words (so get a dictionary). However, by assiduously following the plot, one is quickly enchanted by the characters, and the intricately woven plot. It's a novel that needs some work to be appreciated, but the footnotes (with translations of the occasional French dialogue and cultural notes)are helpful in achieving this task. I finished the novel after reading it in installments for half a year, and it made me more aware of Victorian culture than any history book ever could. It's historical, romantic, and comedic. I'd give it six stars if I could.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While it may be long, it is far from boring. Thackery makes hilarious commentaries on British society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
William Thackeray's Vanity Fair is, by far, one of the most amazing works of fiction I have ever read. Unlike most authors of his age (especially those who wrote similar serials), Thackeray remains the consummate third-person satirist, creating characatures of some of the greatest minds in England of the time. Reading Vanity Fair was like eating the richest possible chocolate. Do not be turned off by the size, Vanity Fair is well worth the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Drama and comedy mix beautifully in this period character study. The story line does not necessarily go where the reader anticipates; but it is never disappointing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
W.M.Thackeray did a wonderful job in grasping the convictions and the rationalisms of the 19 Century in England. The book is filled with over a dozen truly genuine characters who have much to teach us about the true characters of men and women in circumstances of much opulence and poverty. In the story one of the pivotal characters , Becky overcomes many of the social barriers imposed by her low station in society by using her charms, magnetism and charisma to raise her self in society. The Barnes & Nobles Classics Editions was much helpful for it provided; critical background information and important language translations which made the text a lot more agreeable. Due to the fact that the book was published in installment its lengthy and requires a significantly long time to finish reading it.
SarahJenny More than 1 year ago
Excellently written, yet I have never, ever so disliked a heroine. I couldn't feel concern for such an awful character and was awaiting her demise with glee!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story of blind ambition and blinder honesty manages to be several things at once: it is laugh-out-loud funny and at some points tragic; it is a what-will-happen next potboiler and a philosophical exploration; it offers bleak cynicism and surprising tenderness. Perhaps what helps it to work is the fact that it was published in chapter-long installments, and Thackeray needed to keep the public coming back. But it's much more than just a soap opera. The emotional range is hugely impressive, on occasion it moves from farce to tragedy within a single sentence. The book has a surprisingly modern feel to it, considering its age. With most classics you have to steel yourself a little bit to get through them. This was quite the opposite for me: I looked forward to every opportunity to read it.
Radella on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love the 19th century... but the movie was better. The book was a bit tedious, disappointing, really.
vrchristensen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vanity Fair is about the adventures of the young Becky Sharp, born to humble circumstances but given certain opportunities to raise herself, which she takes full advantage of, sometimes to her benefit, more often to her detriment. As heroine's go...well...she isn't one, hence the book's subtitle, "A Novel Without a Hero". It is written as social satire. For a man fully entrenched in Victorianism, the early part of the century provided a great deal of fodder for novel material. But there's nothing funny about it. The Napoleanic War, the fight for Social survival, the harsh realities of a class system, and thrown into this is the avaricious and scheming Becky Sharp, who takes advantage, and with a realism that at times persuades the reader to sympathise with her. In her path, however, she leaves a wake of ruin. Sympathies change, though, as the book progresses, and while, at first, we may have rooted for one non-heroine, by the end, we are rooting for quite another. The book has a happy-ish ending, with a sobering monologue to put all in its place and to cast a shade of reality over it. But one is left, at the conclusion, with the impression that Thackeray rather tired of his characters before he had quite completed his novel. Overall, it was an interesting look into a Victorian gentleman's view of the decades before him, but it is not by any means one of my favourite books of the era.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This lengthy novel at times tries the reader's patience, but the firey Becky Sharp commands attention to the end.School chums Amanda Sedley and Becky Sharp come from two different backgrounds: the former from privelege, the latter from poverty thanks to a starving artist father. Amanda is meek while Becky is cunning, and the novel depicts how these two different personalities make their way through life. Amanda falls in love with Osbourne, a handsome scoundrel whose father ruined the Sedleys financially. Becky takes her place befitting her station as a servant in the Crawley household, but is determined to make it to the top any way she can. Her main weapon is flirtation and deceit, and many men are ruined in her wake. Even Osbourne, who sees through Becky, eventually makes himself a fool over her. Amanda remains blindly devoted to her husband while she, meanwhile, is blindly devoted to by Osbourne's fellow soldier Dobbin, a man who is strong when it comes to the military, but an absolute pushover when it comes to Amanda. Becky Sharp remains one of the most dynamic characters in English literature. Even if her fellow characters were not so weak-willed and wishy-washy, she still would be a force to be reckoned with. Little shames her except the sting of poverty. She's unfaithful, deceitful, and cruel to those who love her, even her own son. She's played the survivor's game for so long that, to the end, Becky Sharp remains her first priority. She's been thrown off the top of the world so many times that you know she always has a trick up her sleeve, a new plan to regain wealth and position. She does not need love because she will always love herself. This makes her a terrifying force among the other, weaker characters. Sounds awful, right? How can readers like her? Perhaps because Thackeray gives us no other hero, we cling to Becky for her never-say-die attitude. She's the catalyst that finally pushes milquetoast Dobbin and Amanda together, albeit in her usual cruel way. But it's a relief after reading hundreds of pages of Amanda pining for undeserving Osbourne while Dobbin shoots her the puppy-dog eyes. In the end, no character is left with respect for Becky, but she comes out just fine. She was never out for people's respect; she just wanted their money. On the whole, it's a biting satire of society life, and the things one does to "make it" among its confines.
wrmjr66 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This one took me a long time to read. It's a good book--I'd say about 60% of it is a great book--but it wanders and lags a bit too much for me. The characters are either interesting but inconsistent (like Becky Sharp) or consistent but uninteresting (like Dobbin). None of the characters are ultimately very likable, but that isn't a weakness, in my opinion. More of an issue is that the book is really two novels that intertwine a little bit at some key moments. One novel is the satiric look at the rise and fall of Becky Sharp and the other is the "romance" of Amelia and Dobbin. The former is by far the stronger part, and the scenes of Becky's triumphs in London are written without any allusion to Amelia and Dobbin. The romance isn't of much interest, and given the other narrative, the very idea of romance is treated with ambivalence. The problem, though, is that one plot or the other will take over for a hundred or more pages, and by the time Thackeray returns to the other plot, I had forgotten many of the important but undifferentiated characters. I'm glad I read it, but I would not say it is a "must read" novel from the 19th century.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
During his lifetime, Thackeray described himself as being at the top of his game, duking it out with Dickens for the title of greatest living author. In my opinion, Dickens has nothing to worry about. Vanity Fair, a hefty tome like many of Dickens' novels, is most known for the character of Becky Sharp. The book isn't entirely about her though. Rather, the novel examines the lives of two women: Becky Sharp and her friend Amelia Sedley, who is as completely opposite from Becky as one could possibly be. We start following Becky and Amelia from the time they leave school as young women and through their subsequent ups and downs in life. We also become intimately acquainted with their friends, family members, and extended family members. For most of the novel, we watch as kind, humble Amelia loses her wealth and good fortunes while scheming, devious Becky rises in society and material possessions. Along the way, Thackeray will often stop and philosophize about life and the funny way it works. His characterizations at these points are particularly spot on. However, I really couldn't get into this book, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps it was that I could not really feel for the characters the way you should in a novel like this. I honestly wasn't much concerned about what would happen to them next. My dominant feeling when reaching the end of the novel was relief that it was finally finished, not any feelings about the characters and their final lots in life. Or it could have been that Thackeray wrote in the same style whether he was discussing a crucial, plot-changing event or if he was discussing a family dinner where nothing of significance happens. A plus about this particular edition of the novel is that it includes illustrations by Thackeray, which are an interesting touch. Overall, however, I would have a hard time recommending this book because I personally was not thrilled by reading this classic.
bleached on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As mysterious and delectable Becky Sharp travels up and down the social latter, the reader is enticed by her lies, manipulations, and scandals. Every character in this charming book is deep and riveting and both loved and hated for their actions, thoughts and habits. Becky, who is the most cunning of them all, is the main character and the one the reader has the most love/hate relationship with. Her betrayals are cruel but understandable. There is no middle ground with Ms. Sharp and the reader has to decide for himself whether she is heroine or villain.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a really really good story, I just wish it hadn't been so long winded. The bit where Amelia has to choose whether to part with her child is absolutely heartbreaking, really really well written. In contrast there were some bits (particularly in Belgium) which were so tedious I practically lost the will to live.
mountie9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mini Book Review: This was a truly fascinating but at time extremely boring piece of literature. At times I was laughing aloud at the biting and witty commentary about early 19th century Britain and the absurdity of the upper class society. But I found that as soon as I was enjoying it Thackery would go off on some side story that really could have been left out and quite frankly bored this simple girl to tears. I struggled less with the language in this classic as it wasn't as flowery or overly descriptive as in many pieces of literature during this period in history. I did have to put it down quite frequently as Thackery gives a very dark portrayal of human nature and I have a more hopeful positive nature and it was making me sorta depressed. The characters are very richly drawn, but they are extremely flawed and I felt no real attachment to them. I know that this is the point of the book, but I have to feel something for the characters in the story to truly enjoy. I was either disgusted with how horrific the characters were (Becky & Jos) or disgusted by how wussy other characters were (Amelia & Dobbin). As a social commentary this is brilliant and for those obviously more intellectual than I am you will enjoy. However, I am a far more simple girl and I prefer a good story that I can lose myself in.3 Dewey's (as usual this is based on my enjoyment and not on the quality of the writing)I read this as part of the BBC Top 100 Books Challenge & it came preloaded onto my Kobo
lucybrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this ages ago. First in my Victorian novel class, and a few years later at a more leisurely pace. It is a real treat. Very pointed satire made even funnier with the sly illustrations. This is certainly one for the ages; pure entertainment
mariamreza on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Vanity Fair may be a little long, with Thackeray drawing out background histories longer than necessary and 'revealing' twists long after he has already given enough hints. However, his witty satirical remarks about society and his astute observations about human nature make this book definitely worth reading. The balance in the characters is another positive; the villainous characters have redeeming qualities and the 'good' characters can be quite insuffereable at times!The names of some of the minor characters are quite comic; 'Lord Tapeworm' comes to mind!
MaowangVater on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A biting and witty satire on English social life and customs during the first part of the nineteenth century, its subtitle is ¿a novel without a hero,¿ and it could also be added without heroines. Yet the book¿s two central characters, the virtuous but dim and naive Amelia Sedley and the amoral, clever, congenial Becky Sharp both display admirable and distressing qualities as they rise, fall, and rise again in society. One of the great virtues of Vanity Fair is that while it is told in hilarious prose, with short burst of genuine pathos, it was praised by its contemporaries as a thoroughly realistic account of the society that it portrays.