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Penguin Classics Vanity Fair Paperback – Jan 28 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 912 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classic; Reissue edition (Jan. 28 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141439831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141439839
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.9 x 4.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 599 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #241,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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First Sentence
While the present century was in its teens, and on one sun-shiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall,1 a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. Read the first page
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Feb. 22 2007
Format: Paperback
Greed, gold-digging and deception sit at the heart of "Vanity Fair." It's no joke that it's subtitled "a novel without a hero" -- William Makepeace Thackeray mercilessly skewered the pretentions and flaws of the upper class all throughout it. The result is a gloriously witty social satire.

It opens with two young women departing from a ladies' academy: dull, sweet Amelia (rich) and fiery sharp-witted Rebecca (poor). Becky Sharp is a relentless social climber, and her first effort to rise "above her station" is by trying to get Amelia's brother to marry her -- an effort thwarted by Amelia's fiancee. So instead she gets married to another family's second son, Rawdon Crawley.

Unfortunately, both young couples quickly get disinherited and George is killed. But Becky is determined to live the good life she has worked and married for -- she obtains jewels and money from admiring gentlemen, disrupting her marriage. But a little thing like a tarnished reputation isn't enough to keep Becky down...

"Vanity Fair" is actually a lot more complex than that, with dozens of little subplots and complicated character relationships. Reading it a few times is necessary to really absorb all of it, since it is not just a look at the two women in the middle of the book, but at the upper (and sometimes lower) social strata of the nineteenth century.

The main flaw of the book is perhaps that it sprawls too much -- there's always a lot of stuff going on, not to mention a huge cast of characters, and Thackeray sometimes drops the ball when it comes to the supporting characters and their little plots. It takes a lot of patience to absorb all of this. However... it's worth it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dean Campbell on March 27 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you like the big, sprawling novels of the 19th Century, full of dozens of characters with a supporting cast numbering in the hundreds, novels like Dickens's Bleak House or David Copperfield, George Eliot's Middlemarch or either of the Tolstoy novels, then Vanity Fair may be for you. I won't duplicate what other reviewers have already described below. Instead I'll mention a couple of points that haven't received enough attention.
First, what sets this novel apart from others of its kind is the active role of the narrator, presumably the author himself, or perhaps an unnamed character. Analogizing to sportscasts, this narrator is not content with doing the play-by-play; instead he(she?) constantly butts in with color commentary on the characters, exhortations to the reader, and rhetorical moralizing on such issues as men's treatment of women (bad), women's treatment of women (possibly worse), the harm that comes from living beyond one's means (which extends well beyond the spendthrift), and the question of what makes a gentleman and what makes a lady (honor and honesty). This is all done with such a sense of irony, satire or sarcasm that it's hard to tell when the narrator is being serious. It is this narrative distance from the characters that sets this novel apart from the sentimentality of Dickens, the earnestness of Eliot, the moral seriousness of Tolstoy. I don't think this is cynicism on Thackeray's part but rather an unwavering commitment to seeing the world as it really is, unblinkered by any ideology, philosophy or religion.
The second point derives from the first. There are no heroes or heroines, and no villains. All of the characters, regardless of gender, age, class are possessed of both good and bad qualities.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael Bernstein on March 18 2004
Format: Paperback
It is impossible to compare this to any other 19th century English novel, or to compare Thackery with Dickens, or anyone else. That being said, it's almost as if there was a Mendelian cross between the astute (and gentle) social observations of Jane Austen, and the savage and bitter analysis of human nature of Jonathan Swift.
Regarding the novel's pace, the author presents a complex, rounded view of the numerous characters, major and minor, and this couldn't have been done at a best-seller type pace. Every character is a mixture of good and evil, of weakness and strength.
This is a work to be savored for its' wisdom - and I believe there is a great deal of wisdom in the novel. Above all, I don't see how it's not possible to not be fascinated by the two female "heroines," nor to want to know what theie eventual fates are. A GREAT, PROFOUND WORK OF IMAGINATION.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 10 2003
Format: Paperback
While interesting, I found this to be a laborious read. The first 135 pages are spent setting the scene and building atmosphere, thereby setting the pace for the whole novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 5 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I was excited to dive into this long British classic, thinking I was possibly in for another Middlemarch, which I loved. The first section is fantastic, when we meet the girls and they leave boarding school and go to Vauxhall. But after that, it just dragged and dragged. We don't get nearly enough of feisty Becky, and instead it's all boring side stories about Bute Crawley and the entire extended family. It took forever to read and -- as I approach the last 20 pages -- I can't say what I really got from it. Sorry.
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