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Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero

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A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.


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A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.

30 review for Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero

  1. 4 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    Here I am, 54 years old, and for the very first time reading William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. "Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero." I disagree with Thackeray. The 'Hero' of Vanity Fair is the steadfast and stalwart William Dobbin; of that there is no doubt. This novel is not the coming of age, or bildungsroman, of Becky Sharp. No, Miss Rebecca Sharp sprang from the womb enlivened with her desire to claw her way to the top. She can't help it, and nor should she; is she really any diffe Here I am, 54 years old, and for the very first time reading William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. "Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero." I disagree with Thackeray. The 'Hero' of Vanity Fair is the steadfast and stalwart William Dobbin; of that there is no doubt. This novel is not the coming of age, or bildungsroman, of Becky Sharp. No, Miss Rebecca Sharp sprang from the womb enlivened with her desire to claw her way to the top. She can't help it, and nor should she; is she really any different than any of us? No, she's not. It is her methods that vary from what you and I might use; or do they? To me, the narrator's voice in the novel was most amazing. It seemed that at every opportune moment, the narrator took a step back and informed us, the reader, of some nugget, some little moral, that placed the actions of the participants in the Fair in context. Vanity Fair is with us, all around us; and many times we never fully understand the roles that the players play. This voice of reason grounds us; makes us understand the joy, the pain, the happiness, and the sorrow that accompanies each of us in our journey through life. If we care to, we can learn to become better parents, better husbands, better wives, and better friends. I also learned through the course of the novel that I can't outright condemn Becky Sharp. Becky is perhaps not a woman easily liked, but she is an admirable woman, a tough woman, and a woman I can respect. Strong-minded and willed, a terrible mother, but a battle-axe to those who take her head-on. Miss Becky Sharp -- Mrs. Rawdon Crawley -- is committed to living life at its fullest, and not one jot less. She is a woman of purpose, and that is a rare quality in many people. The novel drips with satire from page to page; it is full of wit and sardonic humor. It is through the use of satire that we realize that the characters at the Fair are us -- have been us, and always will be us -- generation after generation, and nothing will change; only the time will change. There will always be Lord Steynes, Jos Sedleys, Old Osbornes, Mother Sedleys, Sir Pitt Crawleys, Miss Crawleys, the George Osbornes, William Dobbins, and Amelias. Our task, according to Thackeray, is to figure out how best to treat them, how best to interact and understand them, how to live with them. The real challenge, however, is how best to love, appreciate, and care for the Miss Becky Sharps in our lives. We do deserve to know her, to care for her, to appreciate her for whom she is, and she deserves to be brought in from the rambunctiousness and vagaries of the Fair. In the end, it is Miss Sharp that gains at least some measure of redemption. It is she, and she alone, that removes the mote from Amelia's eyes regarding her feelings for William Dobbin. For Becky Sharp does understand honor, virtue, and integrity (or, does she?). Thackeray finishes appropriately -- For truly it can be said, "Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? -- Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out." A magnificent novel from start to finish.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    "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 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 too short than otherwise and her cheek "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 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 too short than otherwise and her cheeks a good deal too round and red for a heroine..." I just chose this passage randomly out of the first few pages of the novel to illustrate how much I love Thackeray's voice. He himself is the best character in the novel. To use theatre terminology, he definitely breaks the 4th wall into the story quite frequently. Reading it is rather like watching the play, but with periodic pauses for the playwright to jump up on stage and offer his commentary upon the action, and also upon his perceptions of the feelings of those watching his creation. (Thackeray himself terms the "Vanity Fair"- his comment on society in general- a sort of play.) This might sound annoying to some, but, really, it isn't. If you're already reading the book critically... I suppose it could also be compared to reading a chunk of a book for class and then stopping to discuss your reactions with a professor determined to make you see things beyond the surface and expose whatever prejudices you might have against the book. I loved debating with Thackeray in interpreting scenes and actions. The margins are filled with my disagreements or indulgence of his point of view. And I almost never write in books. It was irresistable in this case. It is as interesting trying to draw a portrait of Thackeray's character as it is the rest of them. He is sometimes defensive, sometimes judgemental of his audience, at times quietly insightful, at times ironic, at times as gleeful as a child at some trick he believes he's played upon us. You can just see him cackling over his writing, clapping his hands when he thinks of something good and scribbling away furiously into the night. He makes the tale seem brightly, urgently alive just in the sheer immediacy of his feeling and force of personality. Right. As to the story itself? Very solid, old fashioned tale of love, war, betrayal, money, family. All the standards for an epic. But in the way it is executed, it is anything but standard. Particularly for its time. It was subtitled, "the novel without a hero," by Thackeray. It is a book filled with, as the best are, very grey characters with motivations and actions sometimes very hard to fathom. The epitome of this is of course Becky Sharp, the main character if not the "heroine," of the piece. Capable of both acts of great kindness and selflessness, and sheer, naked cruelty when it suits her, it is hard to either condemn or praise the woman in the end. I grew to root for her anyway, though. She's awful, she really is, but she does seem to learn by the end of the book. She changes, progresses, and all while getting everything she's ever really seemed to want. She's ambitious and cutthroat, but manages to do well in a world that tries to slap her down at every turn. (Not that she doesn't deserve it sometimes, I will admit.) There is also a more standard, sweeping love story for those of you in it for the more conventional aspects. The above described Amelia is involved in that plotline. Also? This book has the best, the longest, the most throughly researched and detailed description of the battle of Waterloo that you are likely to find. A huge chunk of the book is devoted to that day and the reaction to that day, and it is as epic a war novel as one could hope to find for that space of time. In some ways, I feel like Thackeray was trying to encompass his century as a whole, not just the very specific time of the Napoleonic wars. He deals with class, money, ambition, war, roles and rights of women, questions of morality, and times that inevitably change and change again, pushing the old world and the old ways into ever faster irrelevance. Just as the 19th century did. I think Becky Sharp might well be a fitting symbol of the whole century: she wants to rise high in society, she wants as much money as she can get her hands on, she wants the appearance of morality (but doesn't much care for the actuality), she is from the lower class and spends the book working her way up the ladder tooth and nail through representatives of the "old guard," at any cost to herself or others. And yet, she still holds sentimental feelings for Amelia, for her husband, she does what she thinks is best for her son (however controversial that might be and at whatever cost in pride), and she cannot quite bear to be completely alone.... I don't know. I'm really just remembering things I wrote down when I read this over two years ago, re-piecing together theories, so I hope you'll forgive me if they're a wee incoherent. There is more to it than that, but I do not think that any review of reasonable length can encompass everything in this book, particularly when I've already rambled about my favorite things for so long, and things are already this disorganized. Fitting, I suppose, in such a merrily chaotic book. So I'll just leave you with the quote that I think explains and drives much of the action and is one of the major points of the novel: "Vanitas Vanitatium! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? Or having it, is satisfied?"

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bionic Jean

    Written in 1848, Vanity Fair is an excellent satire of English society in the early 19th Century. Thackeray states several times that it is a novel "without a hero", and at a couple of points tries to claim that Amelia, a good person but who inevitably comes across as rather wishy-washy, is the heroine. But we all know that a "bad" girl or boy is infinitely more interesting than a "good" girl or boy, so I suspect Thackeray of dissembling even here. Becky Sharp is out and out the anti-hero(ine) Written in 1848, Vanity Fair is an excellent satire of English society in the early 19th Century. Thackeray states several times that it is a novel "without a hero", and at a couple of points tries to claim that Amelia, a good person but who inevitably comes across as rather wishy-washy, is the heroine. But we all know that a "bad" girl or boy is infinitely more interesting than a "good" girl or boy, so I suspect Thackeray of dissembling even here. Becky Sharp is out and out the anti-hero(ine) in this book, which could well have been named, "The Rise and Fall of Rebecca Sharp". Thackeray apparently saw people as "abominably selfish and foolish", and this negative view comes across loud and clear with his use of vicious vocabulary, and his unremittingly dark portrayal of human nature. The author's voice is continually present, and his wry observations do contribute to making the novel vastly entertaining. They were also intended to make it instructive to his readers. Interestingly the author makes a habit of commenting on particular instances of female behaviour, and drawing from this to make a general observation of all women. At first the reader is inclined to think how astute this is; how well Thackeray knows women and how unusual and refreshing it is to find this in a male writer of his day. However, these observations are invariably judgemental, whereas he tends not to apply the same maxims to his male characters. The men are seen much more as individuals. A modern reader becomes uneasy with this after a while; it begins to seem less witty and apt, and in fact rather tiresome. Here is an example of Thackeray's views on women: "What do men know about women's martyrdoms? We should go mad had we to endure the hundredth part of those daily pains which are meekly borne by many women. Ceaseless slavery meeting with no reward; constant gentleness and kindness met by cruelty as constant; love, labour, patience, watchfulness without even so much as the acknowlegement of a good word; all this, how many of them have to bear in quiet, and appear abroad with cheerful faces as if they felt nothing. Tender slaves that they are, they must needs be hypocrites and weak." Thackeray's perceived audience will have been male readers, of course, and this is clear when he addresses the reader personally referring to "your wife", "your sister" or "your servants." And the audience will have been educated, land-owning white males at that. Some of the "witty" observations about an heiress from St. Kitts, or a black manservant called "Sambo" make the modern reader cringe. The author is scathing about all his characters' partialities and weaknesses, yet because he is a man of his time, culture and class, he cannot see his own prejudices, complacently considering that this is the only correct stance. Vanity Fair was serialised in 20 monthly parts. As with other novels which were originally issued in this way, the structure is not as tight as the reader would wish. There are great swathes of writing about charades, or a play, or a battle, which are rather flabby. Some parts seem very ponderous, or lead nowhere, whereas others are extremely witty and/or exciting. Authors such as Thackeray and Dickens (to whom this applied for nearly all of his novels) would surely have wished to edit their work, or even rewritten scenes or altered characters, had they had the opportunity. It is incredible to a modern reader that they fared as well as they did under this draconian regime. And it is therefore unfair to compare this with the more structured later novels, as it is not a level playing field. "Vanity Fair is a wicked foolish place, full of all sorts of humbugs and falsenesses and pretensions," states the author. This theme of "Vanity Fair" is reiterated over and over again, and throughout the reader will be thinking that nothing has changed over a century later. Thackeray's observations of human behaviour are so apposite, the descriptions of situations, personalities, expressed motives and hidden motives (which are inevitably very different) are timeless. And this of course, coupled with the deliciously droll manner of Thackeray's writing, is what makes this novel a classic. It is hugely entertaining in parts, and would have been a 5 star novel had Thackeray's voice and attitudes not been quite so dominant throughout. EDIT: Interestingly each monthly installment of Vanity Fair only ever sold 5000 copies at the most. At the same time, the hugely popular figure Charles Dickens was publishing his novel "Dombey and Son", which was also being serialised by the same publisher. Before long the episodes of "Dombey and Son" were selling 40,000 copies per month - eight times as many! Yet of the two, nowadays, probably Vanity Fair is the more popular.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    1. I liked the company of Thackeray who is breezy, ebullient and cynical about everyone’s motives. And he’s very confident too. He thinks he knows everything, although there’s not a word about how the poor live here, that’s not his subject. So he’s like the mid-19th century version of Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen, two authors (among many others) who also think they know everything. I don’t mind them thinking that. It’s a good quality in a writer who’s trying to depict all of society. 2. An examp 1. I liked the company of Thackeray who is breezy, ebullient and cynical about everyone’s motives. And he’s very confident too. He thinks he knows everything, although there’s not a word about how the poor live here, that’s not his subject. So he’s like the mid-19th century version of Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen, two authors (among many others) who also think they know everything. I don’t mind them thinking that. It’s a good quality in a writer who’s trying to depict all of society. 2. An example of his cynical sermonizing – here he waxes forth about our – yours, mine - postmortem fate : Which of the dead are most tenderly and passionately deplored? Those who love the survivors the least, I believe. The death of a child occasions a passion of grief and frantic tears, such as your end, brother reader, will never inspire. The death of an infant which scarce knew you, which a week’s absence from you would have caused to forget you, will strike you down more than the loss of your closest friend… and if you are old, as some reader of this may be or shall be – old and rich or old and poor – you may one day be thinking for yourself – “These people are very good round about me; but they won’t grieve too much when I am gone. I am very rich, and they want my inheritance – or very poor and they are tired of supporting me.” 3. I can’t believe everyone who has read this has read every page. For instance the eight pages of satire about the small German Duchy of Pumpernickel (p 726-732). Or the detailed descriptions of charades at upper class parties (p 594-601). Mother of God, these sections are unreadable. This is what drags the rating down to 4.5 stars. 4. Why is this book 800 pages long? Many passages like this: The house was dismantled; the rich furniture and effects, the awful chandeliers and dreary blank mirrors packed away and hidden, the rich rosewood drawing-room suite was muffled in straw, the carpets were rolled up and corded, the small select library of well-bound books was stowed into two wine-chests, and the whole paraphernalia rolled away in several enormous vans to the Pantechnicon, where they were to lie until Georgy’s majority. 5. The author breaks the fourth wall all the time, as they liked to do in the early-ish days of novelling, before such stuff was frowned upon as being uncouth and inartistic. So on p 296 we get : In the course of the evening Rawdon got a little family note from his wife, which although he crumpled it up and burnt it instantly in the candle, we had the good luck to read over Rebecca’s shoulder. “We” here means the author and the reader. And later on page 721 whilst talking about his main characters holidaying in Germany he suddenly announces It was on this very tour that I, the present writer of a history of which every word is true, had the pleasure to see them first, and to make their acquaintance. 6. The author is not embarrassed to jump in and comment directly on his characters, like this : I like to dwell upon this period of her life, and to think that she was cheerful and happy. You see she has not had too much of that sort of existence as yet, and has not fallen in the way of means to educate her tastes or her intelligence. She has been domineered over hitherto by vulgar intellects. It is the lot of many a woman. You wouldn’t get a modern novelist doing any such thing but it’s kind of fun. 7. He has a brilliant section called “How to Live Well on Nothing a Year”. Essentially, you could maintain your place in well-to-do society by racking up credit extended to you by umpteen tradesmen and servants (who would do it because you had a place in well-to-do society!) and robbing Peter to pay Paul continually ; plus, the wife would inveigle loans out of rich old guys who thought they might have a chance to get something going with her; and the husband would contribute with winnings from cards and billiards. It’s a precarious way of life but if you have strong nerves it can be done. 8. Which leads us to the issue of Becky and her husband Rawdon. Becky is the best, most interesting character by far. Lots of commentators describe her as in some way morally questionable, even “bad”. At first this seems quite unjust. She has no family, she’s as poor as a mouse, so she schemes and ducks and dives to land a husband with money. This goes awry (she gets the husband but he doesn’t get the expected inheritance) so she dodges and weaves and figures out how to live well on nothing a year (see above). In the time-honoured way of plots in novels, all her maneuvering and manipulating and cajoling and flattering and flashing of bosoms is just about to pay off handsomely when it all goes tits up. Not her fault. She’s a woman trying to get by in a world where money and position is everything. Then she disappears from the novel for a hundred pages or so. When we meet her again she’s a fully fledged demimondaine and now you can say her moral bankruptcy has blossomed – Thackeray makes a song and dance about not being able to set down exactly what she’s been up to because this is a family show, so he drops hint after hint, ending in the possibility of murder. All the ambiguity is I suppose understandable; but after it all she’s still the only character with a zest for life in the whole mutton shop. 9. Meanwhile her husband Rawdon is a military gentleman until he resigns from the Army and then – does nothing. Continues with his cardsharping and pool-sharking but as for gainful employment, raises not one hand. And Thackeray who likes to describe most other aspects of these people’s lives ignores this as not worth commenting on. Rawdon writes a pitiful letter from debtor’s prison at one point : I wasn't brought up like a younger brother, but was always encouraged to be extravagant and kep idle. And that’s all the explanation you get. 10. The subtitle of Vanity Fair is “A Novel without a Hero” meaning that we are not following one particular character and we do not see the story through any one person’s eyes. Nor yet, really, is it that much of a story. A couple of women make rash marriages. After which there are some ups and downs. There was a song in the 1920s called “After You Get What You Want you Don’t Want It” and Thackeray believes people are exactly like that so happy endings and neat bows are not his thing. He leaves us with the image of Vanity Fair itself, that whirligig of human foolishness, rocketing on like a perpetual switchback ride. Best thing to do is not get on in the first place, the ride is not worth the admission fee, but if you’re on, then don’t fall off, because the drop will be considerable hard on your feelings.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luffy

    The author makes his presence known towards the end of the book. It was both eerie and uncanny. He kept breaking the fourth wall, then he conjured that apparition of his in one of the last chapters. Vanity Fair contains no real heroes. That was a fact that Thackeray himself stated, and who am I to dispute that. This book of his is quite droll in its stitching together. There is a threat of a continuum, then everything is put back into question. Classics are a strange beast. With them, I feel attac The author makes his presence known towards the end of the book. It was both eerie and uncanny. He kept breaking the fourth wall, then he conjured that apparition of his in one of the last chapters. Vanity Fair contains no real heroes. That was a fact that Thackeray himself stated, and who am I to dispute that. This book of his is quite droll in its stitching together. There is a threat of a continuum, then everything is put back into question. Classics are a strange beast. With them, I feel attachment like it's the result of Stockholm Syndrome. My delight at finishing these Mesozoic beasts is unique to the genre. Long may it continue.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I realize that I'm not making friends here by only giving what is considered a masterful piece of literature what amounts to a "meh" review but that's really how I felt about this book. On a small scale, I thought the writing was too long-winded. This is not a fancy story and it could have been told more concisely. I was mostly bored reading it. On a bigger scale, I had serious issues with the heroine. Rebecca is the type of woman who has always made my stomach churn in anger and to ask me to sym I realize that I'm not making friends here by only giving what is considered a masterful piece of literature what amounts to a "meh" review but that's really how I felt about this book. On a small scale, I thought the writing was too long-winded. This is not a fancy story and it could have been told more concisely. I was mostly bored reading it. On a bigger scale, I had serious issues with the heroine. Rebecca is the type of woman who has always made my stomach churn in anger and to ask me to sympathize, even for a brief moment was just too much for me. I ended up despising every single character in the book. Which, if you want to get all literatti about it might be a good thing - having a visceral reaction to the written word is often seen as a power few can manage but it didn't make me like the author, the characters or the plot any better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    I finish the book and wonder how to best convert the muddy puddle of my impressions into some-kind of a coherent rich picture of a review. Well what is is, imagine an exhibition of of George Cruikshank's drawings or of those of Gilray perhaps, there is wit and fun, but after a while , maybe they are a little wearisome. In this it reminds me of when I was a student and sometimes, not knowing any better I'd read The Economist, eventually I noticed whatever country or problem was discussed the analy I finish the book and wonder how to best convert the muddy puddle of my impressions into some-kind of a coherent rich picture of a review. Well what is is, imagine an exhibition of of George Cruikshank's drawings or of those of Gilray perhaps, there is wit and fun, but after a while , maybe they are a little wearisome. In this it reminds me of when I was a student and sometimes, not knowing any better I'd read The Economist, eventually I noticed whatever country or problem was discussed the analysis was the same: slash public spending, liberalise markets and open them to foreign trade as you open a person's chest for open heart surgery, and be smug. Then I moved on to Private Eye for a while - here the message was aside from the staff and readers of that journal that everybody is stupid and stupidly commits stupid acts, everything always has been stupid, everything always will be. This I felt was worse, because it was also depressing. About that time I suppose I also read Vanity Fair for the first time (view spoiler)[ unless I didn't, its hard to tie these things down sometimes, it was before I had a computer let alone be introduced to Goodreads (hide spoiler)] . Again it is a classic, perhaps, at least in English, the classic moral sandwich book - a wafer of morality on either side of an oozing filling of vice and stupidity and greed(view spoiler)[ indeed a vanity fair, maybe even vanity fayre (hide spoiler)] . Then again one might say it is an English War and Peace a family saga structured around the Napoleonic wars, with characters questing for self actualisation, except as satire rather than the seeking to satisfy the reader emotionally. It is maybe an ancestor of Bonfire of the Vanities a slice of life in which everybody is reprehensible or ridiculous to varying degrees. There is problem in terms of the book as a moral sandwich, in that the title would suggest that we are in the moral universe of Pilgrim's Progress hurrying through the vanity fair, shunning its sinners seeing only the self inflicted misery, however the author does not seem to wearing John Bunyan's shoes, his attitude to vanity fair is a relaxed amusement and from the first he suggests to the readers of the novel attitudes to the characters and their doings that don't really fit into the world of Pilgrims Progress instead he suggests that the reader can be sympathetic or amused. Of course by moving the story into the recent past, he is not suggesting that such dreadful goings on that place in Victorian society - oh no, it is the people of the reign of George IV who were so foolish and louche! The problem with laughing at the characters is that author has chosen the barrel and selected his fish, watching him shooting them for eight hundred pages, well I return to my original point. Vanity Fair like so much nineteenth century novels was written for publication in instalments in a magazine, Thackeray earned himself a handsome £60 an issue (for about eighty printed pages) this was very good for him, the reader however can easily imagine sitting down with a sharp knife and a pot of glue and revealing the slim novel that may be struggling instead it to get out. It can be very droll and amusing as I hope the excerpts quoted below give some idea, it can also go on a bit, and if certain sections were not there would I have missed them? The other problem about the weakness of the moral wafer is that we are left cheek by jowl with Thackeray. I read somewhere (view spoiler)[ but have forgotten where and so am unsure if this is true or just speculation (hide spoiler)] that Thackeray dropped early on the ever smiling Sambo the black servant and the 'amusingly' named Miss Swartz daughter of a German-Jewish father and a black Caribbean mother on account of reader criticism, I don't know if he was Racist as such, or it was more a case that all non-English people were inherently ridiculous in his opinion, indeed when Dobbin's regiment is posted to India his chief danger is that he may end up getting married to an Irish girl (steady the Buffs), though at least she isn't Roman-Catholic (for the benefit of the ladies and gentlemen at the back, smelling salts will be passed round), having said that if you are going to read it, don't read this edition, get this one or another with Thackeray's original illustrations - Glorvina looking at Dobbin across the dance floor is particularly fine. The flip side of this is if you've ever wondered where this British empire thing is in the British novel, it is mostly hiding out in vanity fair: the intrinsic humour of mixed race children, exotic servants, fancy shawls and foods (view spoiler)[ i>'Oh I must try some, if it is an Indian dish,' said Miss Rebecca. 'I am sure everything must be good that comes from there.' 'Give Miss Sharp some curry, my dear,' said Mr Sedly, laughing Rebecca had never tasted the dish before. 'Do you find it as good as everything else from India?' said Mr Sedley. 'Oh, excellent!' said Rebecca, who was suffering tortures with the cayenne pepper. 'Try a chilli with it, Miss Sharp,' said Joseph, really interested. 'A chilli,' said Rebeeca, gasping. 'O yes!' She thought a chilli was something cool, as its name imported, and was served some. 'How fresh and green they look!' she said, and put one in her mouth. It was hotter than the curry; flesh and blood could bear it no longer. She laid down her fork. 'Water, for Heaven's sake, water!' she cried. Mr Sedley burst out laughing (he was a coarse man, from the Stock Exchange, where they love all sorts of practical jokes).(p.61), I quote at length because this is a good taste (view spoiler)[ ha, ha (sorry) (hide spoiler)] of Thackeray's humour - Miss Sharp trying here to ingratiate herself (view spoiler)[ ie snare herself a husband (hide spoiler)] with Sedly Junior - just back from a spell in India with the east India company, here for once Miss Sharp out done by an even sharper meal I think it is pretty funny, but if you don't then I warn you fair and square this is about as good as it gets (view spoiler)[but my sense of humour is fair cruel, I am still amused at the memory of my father complaining about my greatgrandfather urging him to pick up a rabbit which then scratched him, admittedly this particularly funny because my father was still indignant twenty years after the event, mind you I'm still amused and they're all dead now, (especially the rabbit) (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] The joy of the novel I fear lies most in the side characters and the sketches of the hunting, shooting and boozing parish priest and his boxing gin drinking son (I guess also bound for the clergy (view spoiler)[ sobriety after-all is generally preferred in most other professions (hide spoiler)] town before the Great Reform Act 1832 which sent two people to parliament but which might have one or up to a handful of voters, perhaps all controlled by one family to rent out a seat in a Parliament, which brings in a few pennies. A problem is that Thackeray's principal characters can never develop there always has to be some angle or several angles at which they are ridiculous and mocked by the author. Interestingly (from my point of view) Thackeray's conception seems Wordsworthian - the child is the father of the man admittedly in part because the child remains a child - I think I recall one of his drawings of his characters as children but flopping about in adult clothes to underline that idea - but then getting back to the moral sandwich idea you might ask where the adult is in the book - but there isn't one, this is a book resolutely without a hero. But digressing back to my digression I digress to Thackeray criticising Goethe's Elective affinities, which for Thackeray is morally dangerous, however we may feel psychologically much more sophisticated . Rereading I felt a little more sorry than I remembered from previously for Becky Sharp as she comes across as the most intelligent - but in the way of tv cartoon villains - she knows her end desire, and she knows what she can do do, but she can't see that there is no road between the two. All the characters are so completely conditioned by their childhoods that there is no possibility of growth they are doomed to be slaves of satire forever, Dobbin so whipped and beaten as his name invites in childhood, that as an adult he has to visit the same on himself (view spoiler)[For native speakers of British English it is impossible to see anybody called "Dobbin" as a hero, but perhaps one needs to be over a certain age now to know that (view spoiler)[ particularly since it is a long while since Brian Cant was on the TV (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] . Obviously Becky Sharp is your girl if you love the idea of always having the last word witty come back, more cutting than the world hairdressing championships, plainly in the contemporary world she'd be the leading edge CFO keeping a financial empire just about afloat by lending money to herself, currencies moving through jurisdictions like planes landing and taking off at an international hub airport. We get to enjoy her wheelings and dealings and then her comeuppance, yet I feel post vindication of the rights of woman and Jane Eyre that her fatal fault is that she is too French(view spoiler)[ because your French woman of course, unlike an English woman is never a mother, sure, sure she make give birth and all, that but they are hopelessly compelled to be floozies at them there soirées what they has in France, while your English woman, she'll have none of that, devote herself to her babies she will because she's a mother, and if she don't, you scratch her she'll be no Englishwoman but foreign o some sort French most probably like this here Becky Sharp with her French mum (hide spoiler)] , it's all in the blood of course so it can't be helped but there you go. Biology is destiny. Ancestry is destiny. But it is all for laughs, the problem with satire is I feel sometimes the line between humour and a horrible world view, as with the treatment of non-English characters above, can be pretty fine (view spoiler)[ but then I am humourless(view spoiler)[ except when it comes to people eating chillies imagining they will be delightfully cooling (view spoiler)[ as to be fair, their name implies (hide spoiler)] , or being indignant over having been scratched by rabbits twenty years previously (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)] "Everybody is striving for what is not worth the having!" (p.563) On the rereading I found less funny than I remember, though I suppose it is just possible that the book has stayed the same while I have grown less tolerant, it doesn't seem to me to be the kind of book that requires multiple readings or which grows and grows in the rereading, I did this time notice the tightness of the London geography - still, amusing, but if you are going to give it a go - get yourself an edition with the original illustrations!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Apatt

    Vanity Fair is a big surprise for me. I was expecting a story about the trial and tribulations of a couple of plucky lady friends what I discovered was a witty, satirical novel that made me laugh several times, engaged my attention always and even moving at times. On the surface Vanity Fair is a story of the two main characters Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two childhood friends from the opposite ends of the moral and intellectual spectrum. Becky is ambitious, conniving and smart, Amelia is humb Vanity Fair is a big surprise for me. I was expecting a story about the trial and tribulations of a couple of plucky lady friends what I discovered was a witty, satirical novel that made me laugh several times, engaged my attention always and even moving at times. On the surface Vanity Fair is a story of the two main characters Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two childhood friends from the opposite ends of the moral and intellectual spectrum. Becky is ambitious, conniving and smart, Amelia is humble, kind, simple, and rather dim. The novel concurrently charts Becky’s rise from her humble station in life to the rank of the fashionable high society, while Amelia meets with several misfortunes and becomes penniless. It is quite a lengthy novel of more than 800 pages with a large cast of characters who revolve around the lives of the two protagonists. The most interesting feature of Vanity Fair is how meta it is. Thackeray often breaks the fourth wall to address the reader directly with sly and humorous asides, making light of the novelist’s omnipotence. Thackeray’s satirical self-portrait The characters are very well drawn (in more ways than one), particularly Becky who is basically a femme fatale but still manages to show the odd flashes of conscience. Amelia is too virtuous for her own good yet unintentionally takes advantage of a man who has an unrequited love for her. Nice but dim Amelia It is an interesting trope of a lot of fiction that the nicest, kindest man is immediately friend-zoned by the love of his life. This is very much the case for William Dobbin the man who longs for his (dead) best friend’s girl Amilia like a Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the fjord* My only minor criticism of the book is that some of the characters are just a little too stupid to be realistic. Amelia is well aware of Dobbin’s love for her but feels unable to return his love because she feels that she would be betraying the memory of her dead husband. Although Amelia is naïve, dimwitted and does not care for him Dobbin – an intelligent fellow – cannot get over his obsession with her. Amelia’s brother Jos is even worse, he has seen with his own eyes that Becky is dishonest, mercenary and cannot be trusted but he still falls for her entrapment. His stupidity is surprising because he is described as talented and singlehandedly recues his father and his sister from extreme poverty. Thackeray’s writing is wonderful, excessive usage of the word “prodigious” notwithstanding. I don’t think I have read anything this witty since The Picture of Dorian Gray. Like all long novels it is something to sink into and live with rather than just passively reading. The book makes me reflect that being virtuous is not enough to be of much use to the world if the virtue is not supported by intelligence and wisdom. On the other hand being clever like Becky and achieving wealth and fame is a hollow accomplishment if you are left with no genuine friends and family and viewed with disdain everywhere you go. Becky being Sharp One of my favorite Victorian novels, if you like reading the classics Vanity Fair is a must. _________________________ Notes For a change the free audiobook does not come from Librivox.org, they have their own edition but it is read by multiple readers several of them are very bad. The edition I listened to is from Lit2Go, beautifully read by Amanda Elan. My favorite quotes are not included on GR’s quotes page for this book so I’ll drop them here: LOL: “Though he was familiar with all languages, Mr. Kirsch was not acquainted with a single one, and spoke all with indifferent volubility and incorrectness.” Meta: “If, a few pages back, the present writer claimed the privilege of peeping into Miss Amelia Sedley's bedroom, and understanding with the omniscience of the novelist all the gentle pains and passions which were tossing upon that innocent pillow, why should he not declare himself to be Rebecca's confidante too, master of her secrets, and seal-keeper of that young woman's conscience?” * Hi Cecily! ;)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    Spoilers! Miss Rebecca Sharp's Guide to the Regency Society 1. If a young lady is not born into either rank or fortune, she will be looked down upon by good society and forced to exist in a humiliating dependency on others for life, unless the said young lady is willing, nay, not merely willing, but most strenuously strive to improve her situation. 2. If the said young lady, despite being a poor orphan, happens to have the good fortune of being admitted into an exclusive academy for young ladies a Spoilers! Miss Rebecca Sharp's Guide to the Regency Society 1. If a young lady is not born into either rank or fortune, she will be looked down upon by good society and forced to exist in a humiliating dependency on others for life, unless the said young lady is willing, nay, not merely willing, but most strenuously strive to improve her situation. 2. If the said young lady, despite being a poor orphan, happens to have the good fortune of being admitted into an exclusive academy for young ladies as an articled pupil, she has to ensure that she makes the utmost effort to learn everything that she could in that fine establishment. The modern languages, Greek, Latin and the rudiments of Hebrew, as well as music and dancing are important subjects that need to be mastered by an accomplished young lady, but most important of all is the ability to speak good French with the purest Parisian accent, for it enables the speaker to pass herself off as a daughter of the French aristocracy, even though in reality her mother is a mere stage actress. 3. “A woman with fair opportunities, and without an absolute hump, may marry whom she likes”. A wealthy husband should be prospected immediately after the young lady completes her education. The brother of a school friend is most suitable, even if the said young man is a fat dandy and not very sensible, as long as he is of ample inheritance. Beware of the gluttonous young buck though, for an overindulgence in a bowl of punch might thwart a young lady’s designs on him! 4. “Schoolmistresses' letters are to be trusted no more nor less than churchyard epitaphs”. There are notable exceptions, it must be admitted, but they are exceedingly rare. Nevertheless, the young lady, should she fail in her initial effort to land a wealthy husband, should endeavour to gain a letter of introduction that would recommend her as a governess to the most respectable of households. Such households, though populated by dissolute aristocrats, might house a number of potential spouses. A younger son of a baronet, even though he is a scoundrel, gambler, swindler and murderer, is a most suitable prospect, provided that he is to inherit an elderly relative’s fortune. 5. “Let them show ever so little inclination, and men go down on their knees at once: old or ugly, it is all the same”. A little sweet talk and a wink, and they all fall on your feet bearing trinkets of pearls and gold. It doesn’t matter a whit if he happens to be your best friend’s husband, nor if you yourself is somebody’s else’s wife. It is best, however, if the gentleman admirer is a wealthy, powerful nobleman, for the advantages that a clever lady could get from him, financially or otherwise, is great indeed. Why, not only is he able to provide the lady’s household with a thousand-pound cheque at a whim, he is also able to bestow a profitable colonial governorship on the lady’s husband. Beware of the jealous husband, though, who through an imaginary affront to his honor might destroy all of the lady’s clever schemes! 6. How To Live Well On Nothing A Year. Appearances must be kept: a residence in Mayfair, a smart carriage, the best game and wines for one’s entertainments, and the latest Parisian fashions. How to afford all these when one has no regular income? Not to despair, the ingenious lady always has means to do so. Prevail upon the generosity of friends and relatives. Impose upon your landlord and your greengrocers, washerwomen and other domestics. Unlike banks or Hebrew money-lenders, these little people are very unlikely to set loose a bailiff upon your respectable self, especially if they are in awe of your noble family. 7. If all these schemes fail, and both your husband and gentleman admirer abandon you in a cloud of scandal, despair not! A lady of some talent can always flee abroad and sing for her supper, if necessary. Better still, if you could rekindle a relationship with a former beau, now older and ailing, who though his own fortune is much encumbered, would take a life insurance naming your pitiful self as a beneficiary. The small fortune that ensues from such a settlement is surely enough to tide you over until your estranged son succeeds into his baronetcy and is finally able to provide you with a generous allowance. Then you can spend your declining years as an admirably pious and charitable society lady. Thus a penniless orphan girl need not condemn herself to a life of servitude and penury, but instead rise into the pinnacle of society through her industry and ingeniousness!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Ok, ok...I'm reading this as a break between books for classes in Grad School. Is that the dorkiest thing you could ever imagine? Yes. It is. It just is. But the first two pages, the author's introduction....greatest two pages of introductory prose I've ever seen. Better than Kafka, better than Nabokov, better than whatever. Fucking brilliant- vivid, funny, rambunctious, wise, sarcastic, immortally satirical. I was hooked each time I picked up the book and read through it. Sometimes there's that Ok, ok...I'm reading this as a break between books for classes in Grad School. Is that the dorkiest thing you could ever imagine? Yes. It is. It just is. But the first two pages, the author's introduction....greatest two pages of introductory prose I've ever seen. Better than Kafka, better than Nabokov, better than whatever. Fucking brilliant- vivid, funny, rambunctious, wise, sarcastic, immortally satirical. I was hooked each time I picked up the book and read through it. Sometimes there's that first blush kind of thing going on, when a book seems amazing in the first few minutes of poking around in it in a bookstore and then it loses its shine when you take it home and read it. Not so w. Vanity Fair... I'm maybe a hundred pages in and I'm savoring it. It's deliciously wise and cyncial and knowing and filled with its own combustion engine, perpetual storytelling (ie serialization, 'let's throw in a subplot so we can go out to eat for the next week') is a lost art. this is prose I already know I'm going to re-read after I'm finished. One thing, an objection anticipated- Story being overtold? Concision? Legitimate grounds...in context. How much story does one really need? What is a story without the very thing which comprises it? The protein in the beef, the fiber in the bread....LANGUAGE. For me as a reader, it's all about language- the way things are said, not (as much) what's said. How many buildungsroman 'idealistic young man from the sticks hits the big city and gets more than he bargained for" stories does one need to read (The Red And the Black, On The Road, Huck Finn, Great Gatsby, Portrait, whatever....all these can arguably be included in the genre but they're not the same novel at all, because they're not written by the same author) and that individual stamp can indeed be read in any amount of ways but it best manifests itself in language.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Excessively Long Book Syndrome: It takes ages to read and it's more than a 100 years old, therefore it must be great, right? Wrong! So wrong, in this case, that the editor's claim that it "has strong claims to be the greatest novel in the English language" is laughable. It's not even the greatest such novel of its century by a huge stretch - seriously, the best works of Hardy, the Brontes and Austen are all better by a country mile, not least because they don't carry such a ridiculous weight of Excessively Long Book Syndrome: It takes ages to read and it's more than a 100 years old, therefore it must be great, right? Wrong! So wrong, in this case, that the editor's claim that it "has strong claims to be the greatest novel in the English language" is laughable. It's not even the greatest such novel of its century by a huge stretch - seriously, the best works of Hardy, the Brontes and Austen are all better by a country mile, not least because they don't carry such a ridiculous weight of excess verbiage. A modern editor would need to employ slash and burn to prune this jungle back. Most of the excess is Authorial Voice going off along lengthy tangents before getting back to describing the action. It's extreme even by Victorian standards. Leaving the sheer length aside, the tone of the book ranges from scathing, sarcastic and satirical to farcical, comical and ironical by way of such stations as bitter, sympathetic and moralistic - with the clear message that Earthly pursuits are all vanity, as encapsulated in the title metaphor, which is repeated ad nauseum through-out. Beyond that there are clear attitudes in regard to the conduct of both women and men that go back-and-fore across the line between cliche-Victorian stereotypes and socially progressive campaigner. The over-all bitter and satirical tone, however, seems to detract from rather than strengthen the power of these themes; Hardy's all-out Tragic approach is much more effective (and he is far more advanced in his views anyway). The same goes for Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, where the real terrors of marriage to an addict are laid bare. Austen's wit and humour and wish-fulfillment in Pride and Prejudice is far more entertaining and has a female character everyone can get behind and root for. That's completely absent here; the two contrasted female protagonists are on the one hand, increasingly evil as the story progresses and on the other, dull and lacking all perception of character in others. It's hard to like either of them after about the first third of the book. Instead we have a Stoic hero, who whilst admirable in many ways, is also unexciting for the most part. By now you may be wondering why I staggered through all the 811p of relatively small print constituting the main text. (The rest is notes and other "apparatus'). Occasionally I wondered whether it was worth it, myself, but in fact, there is a good, if diluted, story here and some snort-worthy humourous cracks and comic scenes as well as drama: there are times when Thackeray focuses on his story-telling and the book becomes involving. Sufficiently so to drag the reader (or at least this one) through to the end simply to find out how the whole mess of family conflicts and marital disasters turns out for everybody (and there are so many characters that even Thackeray can't keep them all straight at times, renaming a serving maid or two here and there and the like.) And there are two great moments, two great sentences, one at the half-way point, at Waterloo, the other right at the end in the closing paragraphs, that show a way forward to a superior kind of writing - but I can't tell you what they are without spoiling everything. Over-all, yes it was worth the effort, but when it comes to famous gigantic novels, Les Misearbles and War and Peace are vastly more rewarding.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Safa Fatima

    Maybe I've matured as a reader now but I think I haven't enjoyed any classic as much as I did this one. It was thicker and longer than many a novel, but I enjoyed it the better for it. By the end, I understood why it was so long, the ending justified it. I was so daunted by its iconic title to read it before, but it was easier to read than most classics. The experience was complete, there wasn't anything missing, it had everything and so so much more. Published in 1847-1848, Vanity Fair is a Vict Maybe I've matured as a reader now but I think I haven't enjoyed any classic as much as I did this one. It was thicker and longer than many a novel, but I enjoyed it the better for it. By the end, I understood why it was so long, the ending justified it. I was so daunted by its iconic title to read it before, but it was easier to read than most classics. The experience was complete, there wasn't anything missing, it had everything and so so much more. Published in 1847-1848, Vanity Fair is a Victorian satire and covers the English era during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The novel is about two women, totally opposite to each other, who after completing their education set out into the world. One an orphan, alone and friendless in the world except for her companion who is charming, witty, satirical, poised, manipulative, and striving to make her way into the world while the other, good-natured but passive and naïve, engaged from early childhood and belonging to a prosperous family. Thus the adventure begins, of love and loss, death and tragedy, trickery and deceit, innocence and naiveté, war and conflict. Thackeray talks about British Raj of those times and the Battle of Waterloo which changes the course of the lives of the protagonists. The writing is rich with historical, Biblical, and literary allusions and references. The omniscient narration is most endearing. The title of the novel, Vanity Fair, has been iconic to this day. Turns out it comes from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a Christian allegory published in 1678. The author explains his title again and again in the novel bringing its significance to light. The author declares the heroine of the novel in the very beginning but subtitled his novel "A novel without a hero" which I don't agree with, by the way. I recognized a hero in William Dobbin by the latter part of the novel. Thackeray's writing portrayed a realism unfound among the writers of his time. Thackeray discusses the human nature, explores the hypocrisy of society, and takes the curtain off the mysteries of life for a moment and lets us take a peek in. The novel is about sticking to the idols we make, ourselves, of people we think we love but which are nothing like the reality, our need to believe in our ideals no matter how false they may be, the egotism and of course the vanity of the innocent and the cunning, the rich and the poor alike, the human infidelity, the brutal reality of being poor, human greed, of closing our eyes to what is right in front of us, the truth, the frailty of relations, of friendship and opportunism. Thackeray shows us and believes that love triumphs in the end, but so does villainy, it doesn't get retribution enough, but I had the underlying sense that depravity is a punishment in itself. "All is vanity". Ecclesiastes 1.2. (Originally published on: https://ibreatheinemotions.wordpress....)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Helga

    “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?” Vanity fair! A novel without a hero! A puppet show! The puppets are the flawed and unlikeable characters and the acts are hypocrisy, callousness, betrayal and artfulness. Narrated by Thackeray himself who is unreliable and voluble, the story is about two opposites. The manipulative, cunning, scheming and pleasure-seeking Becky Sharp and the weak, naive and kindhearted (in my opinion stupid and annoying) “Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?” Vanity fair! A novel without a hero! A puppet show! The puppets are the flawed and unlikeable characters and the acts are hypocrisy, callousness, betrayal and artfulness. Narrated by Thackeray himself who is unreliable and voluble, the story is about two opposites. The manipulative, cunning, scheming and pleasure-seeking Becky Sharp and the weak, naive and kindhearted (in my opinion stupid and annoying) Emmy Sedley. Vanity Fair is the portrayal of human nature at its worst. It is about the vanity of human affairs and not an easy book to like. It took me more than 3 months to read it, whereas I finished Les Miserables and War and Peace respectively in 3 and 4 weeks and devoured Charles Dickens novels like they were chocolate dipped peanut butter crackers! And so as Dante says, “Abandon all hope - You Who Enter Here.”

  14. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Probably First Realistic Femme Fatale of Modern Lit The Prototype for Most Who Followed "Now I ain't sayin' you a gold digger, you got needs. *** Get down girl, go 'head, get down." "Gold Digger," Kanye West, Ray Charles, Renald Richard, 2005 Becky Sharp is perhaps modern lit's first exemplar of today's femme fatale. Clever, charming, attractive, as well as artful, duplicitous, hyper-ambitious, a superself-centered woman who uses sex as one of her tools to manipulate men but only to serve her needs. Probably First Realistic Femme Fatale of Modern Lit The Prototype for Most Who Followed "Now I ain't sayin' you a gold digger, you got needs. *** Get down girl, go 'head, get down." "Gold Digger," Kanye West, Ray Charles, Renald Richard, 2005 Becky Sharp is perhaps modern lit's first exemplar of today's femme fatale. Clever, charming, attractive, as well as artful, duplicitous, hyper-ambitious, a superself-centered woman who uses sex as one of her tools to manipulate men but only to serve her needs. She is the anti-heroine without a scruple in this (subtitled) "novel without a hero." "I think," she says, "I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year." I think we've all known at least one Becky Sharp, she usually comes from relatively nothing yet is the first to ridicule those less fortunate. "Old Sir Pitt...chuckled at her airs and graces , and would laugh ... at her assumptions of dignity and imitations of genteel life." There is really only one character who could be characterized as "redeeming" in the entire lengthy novel. Nonetheless, I was thoroughly impressed with and enjoyed reading this 1848 novel which is set in England around the time of Waterloo.

  15. 4 out of 5

    El

    There was a girl I knew in school that made my formative years (for this purpose I'm considering the "formative years" to be 11-14) a bloody hell. She was a nasty, manipulative, cruel girl who, unfortunately for me, also had the luck of being beautiful and popular. She was wretched to the little people, and I was a little person. She was mean to me but I so wanted her to be my friend because I thought if I was her friend and a part of her circle, then everything would be okay. Life would be perf There was a girl I knew in school that made my formative years (for this purpose I'm considering the "formative years" to be 11-14) a bloody hell. She was a nasty, manipulative, cruel girl who, unfortunately for me, also had the luck of being beautiful and popular. She was wretched to the little people, and I was a little person. She was mean to me but I so wanted her to be my friend because I thought if I was her friend and a part of her circle, then everything would be okay. Life would be perfect. I remember one day in class as we were down to the last few minutes before the bell, our teacher just let us all sit around and talk. There was a school dance that evening and it was all anyone wanted to talk about. The teacher happened to ask this popular girl if she was looking forward the dance. This girl made a comment that has stayed with me all these years: "Yeah, but I still haven't decided how I'm going to act tonight." The teacher asked what she meant by that and this girl went on to explain, "Well, if I act sad I can get a lot more attention from people, like the boys." She said it so nonchalantly, as if this was something she did every day, like waking up and brushing her hair; looking back I realize she probably did. She probably did think about what sort of attention she would get based on how she behaved. I was sort of scared of her in that moment - someone my age who knew more about human nature than I thought I ever could, someone who knew how to manipulate everyone around her. It was freakish and sort of awesome all at once. I thought of that girl a lot while reading Vanity Fair. Becky Sharp is just as dangerous a character as that girl I knew was in real life. The concept of "being nice" was foreign to both of them; why bother being nice to people who couldn't get you anywhere in life? Why bother being nice to someone who is, for all intents and purposes, below you? It's a crazy thought process but that's what Becky (and this other girl) were all about. What's interesting to me is that Becky is not really the main character of the story. Just like that girl I knew in school. As far as I was concerned at the time, the sun rose and set because of her. Everyone knew who she was, everyone wanted to be her friend, even the teachers. Looking back as an adult I realize everyone was really just afraid of her as I was, but I thought there was something more to the power she held. But no, she (and Becky Sharp) were just that insidious. There were other people in the school - myself included - but none of those other people mattered when she was around. Same holds true with Vanity Fair. There are other characters, like Amelia, but they're almost completely overshadowed by this really insignificant person - even during the parts that didn't include Becky, the reader is just waiting for her to step her precious little foot back into the story. I hear that this girl from my school days is married and has some kids and has found religion. I'm told she's not as bad as she used to be. But I'm not going to lie - that girl messed me up, and now I can't imagine her being a good mother to her kids; I sort of think she probably treats them the same way Becky Sharp treated her own child in the story: as a nuisance, serving only the purpose of gaining attention for herself when necessary. Perhaps that's being unfair to that girl from school to imagine that's how she is; everyone can change. Hell, I'm not the same kid I was back when I knew her, so chances are she's just as capable of change as well. But a part of me needs her to still be that nasty little bitch I knew then because it makes me feel better about me - which, funnily enough, isn't that different from Becky Sharp at all. The truth of the matter is that we all have a little Becky Sharp in us somewhere. It may be larger piece in some than in others, and maybe we all have a little bit of Amelia as well (who isn't quite as interesting but worthy of a little disgust thrown her way too, just for different reasons). We all love having someone to hate on - for some it's the Kardashians, for some it's Lady Gaga. It contributes to the way society works, and no one is free of it. We love to hate, and Thackeray wrote some characters in Vanity Fair that are absolutely delicious to hate - it's just Becky Sharp is the strongest of them all. 'Cause she's a bitch, through and through.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Russell

    Thackeray's opus is a wonder. Long, yes, but so very good in so many ways. He's part Oscar Wilde, part Jonathan Swift, with a dash of Dickens, but all his own voice. Since the story is so long and sprawling, I only jotted down a few notes on my impressions. * He breaks the 4th wall, some times with savage glee, yanking it down making you look at yourself and the characters in a new light. Other times he does it with delicacy, sliding back the wall and making you feel like it's just him and you in t Thackeray's opus is a wonder. Long, yes, but so very good in so many ways. He's part Oscar Wilde, part Jonathan Swift, with a dash of Dickens, but all his own voice. Since the story is so long and sprawling, I only jotted down a few notes on my impressions. * He breaks the 4th wall, some times with savage glee, yanking it down making you look at yourself and the characters in a new light. Other times he does it with delicacy, sliding back the wall and making you feel like it's just him and you in the same room, both of you enjoying the wit and banter of this story, you his equal and friend. * It's long. He wrote it in installments, and got paid by the pound. Okay, maybe not by the pound, but it was in his best interest to keep the story going. And so it goes on for a long time. However, I was never bored, never wanting to skip this chapter and get it over. * Becky Sharp? Wicked, resourceful, likable and detestable. All too human, which is why I liked her, and deplored her. Brilliant dance of vagueness and ambiguity about how rotten she was, fantastic ending of her partial rise and questions of her motives. She is an archetype, some times playing the saint, other times playing Clytemnestra. * The title. It's from "Pilgrim's Progress" by John Bunyan. Vanity Fair sits out side the town Vanity on the path to heaven. Thackeray uses this motif to expose humanity's frailties and foibles. * All of humanities weaknesses gently mocked, virtues decried as so much humbug and hypocrisy, upper class skewered under his pen and he kept going all the way down to the lower class now and then. * Sometimes it feels like a morality play. Just a touch. There is so much more to say, but I would never be able to do this book justice. I strongly recommend this book. Yes, it's long, but you might just find a wonderful adventure among humanity in Vanity Fair.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    First things first: Don't get this edition! I recently attended my college reunion. Whilst ambling idly around the green lawns of that hallowed institution, I had chance to encounter my most distinguished and beloved professor of English. Exalted that I happened to be dandling Thackeray's baby on my knee (instead of the glossy monthly version of Vanity Fair, as is more common with me), with sparkling eyes and an enchanting smile I thrust my copy before his erudite and discerning nose. "My favori First things first: Don't get this edition! I recently attended my college reunion. Whilst ambling idly around the green lawns of that hallowed institution, I had chance to encounter my most distinguished and beloved professor of English. Exalted that I happened to be dandling Thackeray's baby on my knee (instead of the glossy monthly version of Vanity Fair, as is more common with me), with sparkling eyes and an enchanting smile I thrust my copy before his erudite and discerning nose. "My favorite novel!" the learned man exclaimed in raptures; however his face then fell as he flipped through my humble off-brand edition. "I had not," he informed me, "got the proper one." He went on to explain that Thackeray had devised a large number of amusing illustrations, which are reprinted in certain -- infinitely more desirable and impressive -- editions. "But why, good sir," I wept, "do they then publish editions such as these, deprived of pictures and designed to lead astray and to ruin the reputation of unfortunate, innocent wretches such as I?" "Because they're stupid," the scholar pronounced, and left me gazing sadly at my inferior edition. That said, I managed to enjoy my (pictureless) experience of Vanity Fair immensely! This is the best novel I've ever read on the topic of money. It's also got maybe the most wonderful and fascinating narrator in English literature, which is no small feat considering there's some virile competition. Vanity Fair is supposed to be, as its title says, A Novel Without A Hero, and much fun is derived figuring out if this claim is true. In Vanity Fair, characters tend to be ruled either by love or money; by ruthless self-interest or slavish sacrifice to unworthy others. Thackeray's narrator slyly presents these modes and their virtues alongside society's supposed and actual values, forcing the reader to ask herself who, in this Fair, could possibly be called a true hero? Of course, for this reader, the answer was clear: while there are some who may neither love nor delight in the antics of Becky Sharp, they're not in my social circle and would "cut" me rudely, should our open carriages happen to pass in the Park. Despite some superficial similarities, Becky Sharp is no odious Undine Spragg, and I can't imagine not cheering for this anti-heroine. Like the narrator, Becky's got the number of every character in Vanity Fair, and she illusionlessly proceeds based on this sound intelligence. Unlike even the noble Wm. Dobbin, Becky has no blind spots or weaknesses in judging character, and so she is that rarest of creatures: a truly charming realist who loves to have a great time. As Thackeray takes pains to remind us, Becky's not a pure cynic: she appreciates goodness in people, and doesn't begrudge others the virtue that she lacks. She is thoroughly lovable in her wickedness, as the best of us are. What a great novel! All its considerable dramatic tension comes directly from its incredible characters -- Which will taste Success? Who shall be faced with Ruin? Will Becky triumph? Will Dobbin rally? Will Amelia ever grow a pair (or will she, one wonders hopefully, please drown herself in the Thames)? -- and from the brilliant commentary and manipulations of the narrative voice. As I said above, it's a novel focused on the topic of money, and is the best of these of any that I've ever read. Obviously, it's a comic novel, and is very funny; but it's also great literature, so beyond being funny, it's true. O brother-wearers of motley! Are there not moments where one grows sick of grinning and tumbling, and the jingling of cap and bells? This, dear friends and companions, is my amiable object -- to walk with you through the Fair, to examine the shops and shows there; and that we should all come home after the flare, and the noise, and the gaiety, and be perfectly miserable in private. I cried three times while reading Vanity Fair! If you think that's pathetic, wait until you see how often the female characters in here fall to weeping. You might play a drinking game while reading Vanity Fair, and take a swig of brandy-and-water each time a character starts to cry; perhaps it might be a two-person game, in which one player drinks to the sincere and awful blubbering of dopey neurotic Amelia, while another takes a sip for each of "our little adventuress" Becky's crocodile tears. Or maybe, following the book's milieu, it wouldn't be based around drinking but instead a highly risky and addictive game of chance. There was an unholy amount of gambling in Vanity Fair, and indeed this vice seems to have been to moneyed Regency (?) England what crack cocaine was to impoverished 1980s American urban centers. Anyway, this book was great and I definitely do recommend it. I know I said that going forward I was going to make a greater effort to start quoting from the source, but I've got things to do, and anyway, it's all so choice that I hardly know where to start. Just go read it yourself -- but remember! Get the one with the pictures!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    The Good: Probably the greatest cast of human beings ever written. Glorious, miserable and frustrating, these people were the British Empire’s middle management. It’s worth noting that this was set around the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and published a generation later, like a contemporary novel taking the piss out of the 80s. It is caustic in its parody of absolutely everyone and everything, and often very funny. I thought it ended well too. The Bad: The second half of the novel is too long The Good: Probably the greatest cast of human beings ever written. Glorious, miserable and frustrating, these people were the British Empire’s middle management. It’s worth noting that this was set around the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and published a generation later, like a contemporary novel taking the piss out of the 80s. It is caustic in its parody of absolutely everyone and everything, and often very funny. I thought it ended well too. The Bad: The second half of the novel is too long (yes I understand that if it was shorter it would be less than half) and drags on its way to the conclusion. The less-than-omniscient narrator frequently yanked me out of the story, and the language can be very f------ quaint. 'Friends' character the protagonist is most like: Becky is a shark, an absolutely awesome and terrifying predator, just like Rachel. She is manipulative, ambitious and selfish, and loads of fun.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John Purcell

    Make sure that you read William Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair in public, not in the hope that someone may spot you reading a classic, but so that you may see the characters of this wonderfully perceptive (and prophetic) novel wandering about in the flesh. Vanity Fair is populated not by characters but by real people and thus, will never date. Thackeray is masterful, he allows his characters the freedom to do as they please; they are autonomous and must make decisions on their own, as must we all. Make sure that you read William Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair in public, not in the hope that someone may spot you reading a classic, but so that you may see the characters of this wonderfully perceptive (and prophetic) novel wandering about in the flesh. Vanity Fair is populated not by characters but by real people and thus, will never date. Thackeray is masterful, he allows his characters the freedom to do as they please; they are autonomous and must make decisions on their own, as must we all. Some choose poorly, and yet succeed. Some choose well and yet are rewarded by misfortune. Some grab and grumble, some laugh and give, some believe they are masters of their own destinies while some are cut down in their prime. In Vanity Fair Thackeray has captured humanity in the raw - just after getting out of bed and before our first cup of coffee. You will delight in discovering people you know in its pages. You may smile when they reveal themselves as cads, you may cry when those who deserve better are treated cruelly and you may laugh when the frauds get their comeuppance. But be warned, read Vanity Fair and enjoy the show, but know that somewhere within is pages lurks a soul much like your own, and when you least expect it, maybe when you’re laughing hardest at the foibles of another, you will recognise yourself and be silenced. For whether you know it or not, we all live in the pages of Vanity Fair.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This book might be unique in that it not only claims to have no hero, but in fact has no hero. What it does have is a cast of duplicitous, weak or inane characters, none of whom stir much in the way of either pity, empathy, or affinity. It also has the bad girl to end all bad girls, Miss Rebecca Sharp. I doubt anyone would argue that Becky is not the most interesting character in the book, and while some might admire the good little Amelia, few could actually like her. Vanity Fair is quite a bit This book might be unique in that it not only claims to have no hero, but in fact has no hero. What it does have is a cast of duplicitous, weak or inane characters, none of whom stir much in the way of either pity, empathy, or affinity. It also has the bad girl to end all bad girls, Miss Rebecca Sharp. I doubt anyone would argue that Becky is not the most interesting character in the book, and while some might admire the good little Amelia, few could actually like her. Vanity Fair is quite a bit longer than it needs to be and some chapters meander aimlessly, but this, I believe, can be attributed to the method in which it was released. When a book is being presented to its audience in a serial form, it must go on for a prearranged period of time and acquire a certain length. Were it being edited for release as a novel today, I feel sure it would be shortened considerably. Thackeray breaks the fourth wall constantly, talking to the reader and urging him to see the point he has just made, in a way that can become irritating at times. But, even this conceit works for me for the most part. Toward the end of the book, the narrator explains that he has “just met” the principles, which sent my head spinning, for how could one know all the details set forth in such omniscient fashion if one just had a chance encounter with these people toward the end of their stories? Up to this point, I had accepted the narrator as an all-seeing sort of presence, not a literal acquaintance of the characters, so it was discombobulating to say the least. Vanity Fair is a moral tale, or more correctly a tale about lack of morals. One wonders if this society actually had any or if everything that passed for morals was pretense. At one point, Thackery compares the behavior of these persons to a mermaid and her tail: Those who may peep down under waves that are pretty transparent and see it writhing and twirling, diabolically hideous and slimy, flapping amongst bones, or curling around corpses; but above the waterline, I ask, has not everything been proper, agreeable, and decorous, and has even the most squeamish immoralist in Vanity Fair a right to cry fie. I believe he is trying to impress upon his reader that this is a world of pretense, a world that cares more for appearance than it ever could for virtue. Indeed, we watch Becky Sharp navigate this society in the most unscrupulous way possible, and we cannot help feeling that her flaws and shortcomings are more about survival than evil. And, there seems to be a particular emphasis on women and their relationships to one another: I am tempted to think that to be despised by her sex is a very great compliment to a woman. and As they say, the persons who hate Irishmen most are Irishmen; so, assuredly, the greatest tyrants over women are women. It does indeed seem that it is the fairer sex, who are proposed to have the gentler hearts, the nurturing instincts and the sweeter dispositions, who wield the knife most cruelly. The men, while equally dissipated, seem somehow more gullible and unaware than hateful or manipulative. I had a hard time deciding what rating to give this tome. I did enjoy it and found myself caught up in the story at times. There were also moments when I might have laid it aside and never picked it up again without the slightest hesitation. It is not the best of Victorian literature to me...it has none of the power of Eliot, none of the charm of Dickens, and none of the atmosphere of Hardy. In short, it cannot be ranked with the best of its time, but it cannot be dismissed either. I could not help feeling sorry for Thackeray, knowing that he suffered in comparison to Dickens in his lifetime and will continue to do so throughout literary history. I am happy to have read Vanity Fair at last. There are surely some important ideas addressed and some things of value that can be taken away from it, but it is not the kind of book that pleads well to be read again.

  21. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Quite unstimulating I obviously missed something. I chose audio book format because the book is so long, but I felt like it was just one long ramble, the narrator droning on and on about nothing. I also own the paperback, so maybe down the road I'll give it another try. 4/11/18 Catching up with the Classics reread going to give the paper version a try and I’m taking tiny bites. This is a classic for a reason. I’m finding it. So i dont know why I had such a hard time finishing this book in the past. Quite unstimulating I obviously missed something. I chose audio book format because the book is so long, but I felt like it was just one long ramble, the narrator droning on and on about nothing. I also own the paperback, so maybe down the road I'll give it another try. 4/11/18 Catching up with the Classics reread going to give the paper version a try and I’m taking tiny bites. This is a classic for a reason. I’m finding it. So i dont know why I had such a hard time finishing this book in the past. It was an accurate depiction of the 19th century. RTC

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Abbreviations Introduction Chronology of Thackeray's Life and Works Select Reading List A Note on the Text --Vanity Fair Notes Appendix: Parody Textual Variants

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    “Such people there are living and flourishing in the world—Faithless, Hopeless, Charityless; let us have at them, dear friends, with might and main. Some there are, and very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was to combat and expose such as those, no doubt, that Laughter was made.” This is a very different sort of tome. The author refers to it as a puppet play, and it has a removed quality. You have to be willing to see the characters as caricatures, to see the author is making fun of “Such people there are living and flourishing in the world—Faithless, Hopeless, Charityless; let us have at them, dear friends, with might and main. Some there are, and very successful too, mere quacks and fools: and it was to combat and expose such as those, no doubt, that Laughter was made.” This is a very different sort of tome. The author refers to it as a puppet play, and it has a removed quality. You have to be willing to see the characters as caricatures, to see the author is making fun of them, and not to mind when he does. It was hard for me to adjust to this. I wanted more nuanced characters, more empathy from the author. It took me hundreds of pages to figure out this out, but I did end up liking the second half more than the first, just because I got used to the style. I’d heard about and was looking forward to Becky Sharpe, but was very disappointed. I wanted, if not to like her, to find her a fun and fascinating bad girl. Unfortunately though, she just reminded me of manipulative tyrants I’ve known: those people who use their good looks or God-given talents or turns of fortune to connive their way to their goals, treading on those with morals in the process. I tried to appreciate her anyway, for her cleverness, but I didn’t see a lot of cleverness in her. Scarlett O’Hara was clever. Becky was just ruthless, and frequently helped along by men who admired her. (Maybe it’s just a different twist. Scarlett was written by a woman, after all.) Becky may have been smart, good with languages, and had style. But Scarlett made a dress out of a drapery for heaven’s sake. That’s clever. But this is the problem I kept having. I wanted characters, and I got caricatures. I wanted empathy, but the author called his creatures “our simpleton,” or “a spooney.” For what it is--especially for what it was: a serial published for 19th century readers--it has brilliance. I’m glad I read it and experienced Thackeray’s satire. On finishing though, I wished I could speak to dearly departed authors, two in particular. I’d say to Charlotte Brontё, “Your over-the top gushes about Thackeray were misplaced, my dear. Jane Eyre was infinitely better than this!” And then I’d pat Dickens on the shoulder and say, “No threat to you, old man. No threat at all.”

  24. 5 out of 5

    Petra

    A look at the foibles of people and their motives. Thackeray's characters display all the aspects of "vanity". By definition, vanity is either "excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements" or "the quality of being worthless or futile". Vanity can also be "a dressing table" but I suspect that Thackeray didn't have this definition in mind (:D). Thackeray manages to give each of his characters an aspect of vanity that conflicts and contrasts with their circumstances, li A look at the foibles of people and their motives. Thackeray's characters display all the aspects of "vanity". By definition, vanity is either "excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements" or "the quality of being worthless or futile". Vanity can also be "a dressing table" but I suspect that Thackeray didn't have this definition in mind (:D). Thackeray manages to give each of his characters an aspect of vanity that conflicts and contrasts with their circumstances, life predicament or situation. He manages to juggle them all into a well told story. That said, this story is a bit too wordy and too long. There are descriptions that are pages long and have nothing to do with the storyline (but some are witty). The characters are who & what they are; they don't experience growth or development; they don't learn from their experiences. They are complete as they are. I found this difficult as it would mean that these people aren't living their lives but merely moving through it. Perhaps that is something Thackeray meant to portray. Another peeve is the Narrator. He's witty and, at times, delightful. But he skews the events and perhaps the people....and, therefore, perhaps the story. Amelia and Becky are the two main characters. As Thackeray intends, neither is a heroine. Becky, the "bad" girl, is bright, intelligent, witty and both fun and horrifying to read about. Her antics are so self-advancing. But can a poor, penniless girl be blamed for using her wiles and ways to find a moneyed husband....for finding her way to security in the only way her society allows her to? She will stop at nothing and believes she can accomplish all; that is her vanity. Amelia, the "good" girl, is a milksop. She's privileged, wealthy and her life is laid out for her. She has to try for nothing; it is all given to her. She is the other definition of vanity. Oh boy.... The other characters are no better. Drinking, gambling, boasting; it's all there. However, Thackeray has managed to put all these totally flawed people together in a delightful, although overly-long, manner. The story never bored me. At times it made me laugh. In the end, it leaves the reader with a bit of a mystery, too. What more can one want from a story? Recommended, despite being wordy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emilio Berra

    'Le ambizioni sbagliate' Libro di metà '800, colloca le vicende narrate tra l'inizio del secondo decennio e gli anni '30 di quel secolo, per un'estensione temporale quindi di oltre un ventennio. "La fiera delle vanità" ben rappresenta il periodo di transizione fra la cultura romantica e quella realistica : sicuramente c'è l'intento di tracciare un quadro della società del tempo; l'autore però non rimane estraneo alle vicende, anzi quasi manzonianamente commenta, induce esplicitamente il lettore a 'Le ambizioni sbagliate' Libro di metà '800, colloca le vicende narrate tra l'inizio del secondo decennio e gli anni '30 di quel secolo, per un'estensione temporale quindi di oltre un ventennio. "La fiera delle vanità" ben rappresenta il periodo di transizione fra la cultura romantica e quella realistica : sicuramente c'è l'intento di tracciare un quadro della società del tempo; l'autore però non rimane estraneo alle vicende, anzi quasi manzonianamente commenta, induce esplicitamente il lettore a riflettere. Possiamo cogliervi anche istanze illuministiche nell'uso della satira per correggere i vizi di arrivismo e ipocrisia, falso perbenismo e raggiro. Protagoniste della scena, borghesia e nobiltà. Diversamente dall'Italia però, dove la borghesia arricchita tendeva a vivere come l'aristocrazia parassitaria, in Inghilterra i nobili ambivano a far fruttare i loro beni economici con spirito imprenditoriale borghese, tanto da determinare una certa commistione fra le due classi privilegiate. Ed è proprio in questo ambito che si muovono i nostri personaggi. Il concatenarsi degli eventi, con rapide svolte e colpi di scena, risente delle esigenze dell'iniziale pubblicazione a puntate del romanzo. Altra carenza che ho rilevato riguarda lo scarso approfondimento psicologico. Tali aspetti 'deboli' risultano compensati da una capacità di forte rappresentazione socio-economica, da cui emergono gli stili di vita di un mondo tutto volto all'ostentazione e al successo sociale, delineato con acuminata vena satirica, che dà allo stile una vivacità e un'arguzia che contribuiscono a rendere piacevole la lettura. La deliziosa scrittura dona alle pagine una lieve patina d'antan, con quella gradevolezza ottocentesca che la buona letteratura inglese del tempo sa elargire a piene mani. Lo scrittore ci avverte che nel testo non ci saranno eroi. A mio avviso, ciò non risulta del tutto vero : il personaggio positivo, in qualche modo accostabile a Pierre di "Guerra e pace", emerge gradualmente lungo la narrazione, carattere che si scopre ben prima della conclusione del poderoso romanzo. E il lettore, ovviamente, fa il tifo per lui.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Holley

    You should probably read this book because it is pretty hilarious. If you don’t want to, though – if you’re a wuss about page length and the words Waterloo and Wellington aren’t enough to overcome it – there are some acceptable alternatives about which I will gladly tell you now. While the feature film was TERRIBLE, COMPLETELY SPOILED THE STORY, and didn’t pay attention to ANY of the jokes (shaking my fist at that ruiner, Mira Nair!), the A&E miniseries is really good. Like, really, really g You should probably read this book because it is pretty hilarious. If you don’t want to, though – if you’re a wuss about page length and the words Waterloo and Wellington aren’t enough to overcome it – there are some acceptable alternatives about which I will gladly tell you now. While the feature film was TERRIBLE, COMPLETELY SPOILED THE STORY, and didn’t pay attention to ANY of the jokes (shaking my fist at that ruiner, Mira Nair!), the A&E miniseries is really good. Like, really, really good. I could watch it over and over - and have. The other, perhaps even better alternative, however, is the modern retelling of Vanity Fair, The Real Housewives of D.C., starring Michaele Salahi as Becky Sharp. I mean, really all the Real Housewives are retellings of Vanity Fair – they all tell the same basic story – but D.C. is the only one that implicates all the grandeur of aristocracy and national security, so I think it’s the one that’s so similar it makes me pause for a moment at its awesomeness. I was horrified to hear that there is talk D.C. will be canceled, so I invite you to prevent this tragic wrong and start catching up on all the D.C. Housewives you can get your hands on. Or, you know, write a letter to your local Bravo TV rep, or whatever you do to save a show. Anyway, for those of you who want substantive information, the story of Vanity Fair, the story of the Housewives of D.C. (and all the Housewives, for that matter), is that somebody throws a party and doesn’t invite one of the girls, and then that girl crashes the party anyway. Then, people fight. The cool thing about the D.C. Housewives is that the crashed party is at the White House, and the people-fighting part involves a congressional hearing. Vanity Fair is the same, but the people fighting are at the Battle of Waterloo at one point. In VF and D.C., the uninvited girl is the truth-challenged social climber, and both have pretty poignant commentaries on wealth and credit, imo. It's been quite some time since I read this book, to be honest, but I remember vividly that once, while reading this book, I had to put it down and sit for a minute because I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t see the page anymore at this situationally hilarious joke. I still remember the joke, and I still think it is so funny. The Housewives are pretty much like that too. It is tragic that probably the traditional Vanity Fair crowd and the traditional Housewives crowd don’t mix more often. Stories about social climbing are so fun! Even if they are both really long taken in one sitting. They are serials! Don’t try to cram them if you don’t want to. But if you like to hear stories about people who, like, really like to party, these two are the same, but both worth checking out. I guess it depends on whether you feel like picking up a “classic” or saving a show from extinction. Or, if you don’t have a lot of other things going on, or a lot of parties of your own to crash, you could do both! You won’t regret it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mariel

    THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A GIRL WHO WAS ALIVE AT THE WRONG TIME.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Werner

    This is one of the Victorian classics I read as a kid, probably at the age of 13 or 14 (certainly no older); the 1999 date refers to a second reading, when I was home schooling my daughters in British Literature, and felt that I needed a refresher on this one. Though this is Thackeray's best-known novel, it's not his only one; but it's the only one I've read (although I have read his excellent short story "Dennis Haggerty's Wife," which is included in the anthology Great English Short Stories). A This is one of the Victorian classics I read as a kid, probably at the age of 13 or 14 (certainly no older); the 1999 date refers to a second reading, when I was home schooling my daughters in British Literature, and felt that I needed a refresher on this one. Though this is Thackeray's best-known novel, it's not his only one; but it's the only one I've read (although I have read his excellent short story "Dennis Haggerty's Wife," which is included in the anthology Great English Short Stories). At 784 pages, this is a sprawling novel, beginning around 1811 or so, when Thackeray was born, and continuing until around the time the book was first published in 1848. The real protagonist is self-serving, social-climbing Becky Sharp, whom we first meet as a teen girl, when she's an "articled pupil" (that is, a student who has to work for her tuition) at a boarding school catering to middle and upper-class girls. But there are a host of other, also well-drawn, characters (including Becky's school friend Amelia Sedley and her family, the Crawley family for whom Becky becomes a governess, and the army officers William Dobbin and George Osborne). Few of these people are very likeable, and they're not intended to be. Thackeray's main purpose here is holding the class-conscious, money-obsessed well-to-do society of his day --with its snobbery, its shallowness, and its indifference to genuine character or ethics, while paying them hypocritical lip service-- up to well-deserved ridicule. (And there's not a great deal of difference between that level of high society in 2017 and in 1848.) He takes his title from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, a work almost as familiar to his original readers as the Bible; and what he essentially demonstrates in the novel is that the upper-crust England of his day is the moral image of Bunyan's Vanity Fair. Stylistically, Thackeray, though he wrote in an era when the Romantic school was dominant in literature, was himself a proto-Realist. His observation of society, character and daily life is eminently realistic, and he appeals to the intellect, not primarily the emotions. Satirical humor is one of his chief weapons (perception of humor, of course, is an intellectual function), as it was for classical satirists like Juvenal and for many of the writers of the 1688-1789 Neoclassical period. (It's not coincidental that he felt a profound affinity for the 18th century.) Even as a kid, I could detect a significant difference in the way Thackeray writes compared to the novels I'd read by his more Romantic contemporary, Dickens. (However, the two men were longstanding friends --they quarreled in 1858, but reconciled shortly before Thackeray died, a fact that Dickens was thankful for afterwards.) He's also wildly fond of the technique of authorial intrusion and direct address to the reader; this wasn't uncommon in 19th-century fiction (though deprecated by modern critics), and I usually don't mind it in reasonable doses, but Thackeray, IMO, tends to carry it too far. (Though the first edition of this novel, which was the one I read the first time, has more of these; the second edition deletes some of the most egregious ones. The older Thackeray deemed that an improvement, and I agree.) It could fairly be said that Thackeray, at least here, demonstrates a deeply pessimistic, and even cynical and jaundiced, perception of human life and human personality. (This is particularly noticeable at the end, although I won't discuss that in more detail, to avoid spoilers.) The effect of this can be depressing, though not so much so as in some of the novels of Thomas Hardy, in the next generation. And despite the Bunyan allusion of the title, there's not a lot of spiritual content and perception here. (A slight exception to all this is one of the minor characters, Lady Jane, who's apparently an evangelical, and who's actually treated much more positively, sympathetically and respectfully than the author treats most of his characters; we get the impression that she's the kind of genuinely good person that the rest of us ought to be. But as I said, she's a minor character.) I've never regretted reading this novel; I found it substantial and rewarding enough to earn four stars. But the unappealing personalities of many of the characters and the generally downbeat perspective kept me from giving it the fifth star, and Thackeray never became an author I wanted to read more of, unlike some of his fellow Victorian writers.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I am dumping this. I should never have picked it up. I have listened to about 5 hours of 32 hours and 20 minutes. It rips me up to dump a book before it is done. I feel like a quitter. I feel like I have given up ....and what if I have made a mistake and have judged too hastily?! I am quitting because I dislike the humor. At the beginning I laughed. I thought it was clever. Not any longer. The humor is caustic satire. It is used to deliver a message. In small doses it’s fine, but a behemoth of a I am dumping this. I should never have picked it up. I have listened to about 5 hours of 32 hours and 20 minutes. It rips me up to dump a book before it is done. I feel like a quitter. I feel like I have given up ....and what if I have made a mistake and have judged too hastily?! I am quitting because I dislike the humor. At the beginning I laughed. I thought it was clever. Not any longer. The humor is caustic satire. It is used to deliver a message. In small doses it’s fine, but a behemoth of a book pounding in the same message over and over becomes tedious and just plain boring. The message, hammered in over and over, is the vanity of man and our obsession with money. Money determines who one marries, one's social standing and what one is worth. The prose is easy to follow; it does not feel dated. The author summarizes as one goes along. This is handy for such a long book. I knew before I started that the story would be told by an unreliable narrator. I feel it is important to know this before you start. I DO like long books, but not all of them and not this one. If I dump a book, I give it one star. It means I didn’t like it. The audiobook I listened to is narrated by Georgina Sutton. I have no complaint with how the book is read. The problem lies with the book, not the narration.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    I feel I've reached a milestone, having finally read this. I'd spent years avoiding it – partly its length and negative comments from people unable to finish it. I found it very readable and hugely entertaining. I now feel quite bereft as I had got to know Thackeray's characters pretty well and came to regard some of them as old friends, others as familiar foes. I'd expected to be bored but it is difficult to be bored by Vanity Fair, just over indulged perhaps. It is a satire on Life and Society, I feel I've reached a milestone, having finally read this. I'd spent years avoiding it – partly its length and negative comments from people unable to finish it. I found it very readable and hugely entertaining. I now feel quite bereft as I had got to know Thackeray's characters pretty well and came to regard some of them as old friends, others as familiar foes. I'd expected to be bored but it is difficult to be bored by Vanity Fair, just over indulged perhaps. It is a satire on Life and Society, the names chosen by Thackeray for many of his characters makes this very clear. This was my first Thackeray, so not sure how representative V.F. is of his other work. For me there were shades of Jane Austen, Dickens and Henry Fielding here and of course oblique references to Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress, hence Vanity Fair I guess? Set c.1815 – c. 1837 there is plenty of action on the part of the characters and the world in which they move, including the battle of Waterloo. It is timeless in its appeal, in its depiction of human nature, the fickleness of fashion and morality. It is long and at times taxingly wordy but it is a gem of a book and I can see why it entices readers back to it again and again. One to read at least once before you die!

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