- Paperback: 912 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141439831
- ISBN-13: 978-0141439839
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.2 x 19.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 599 g
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #531,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Vanity Fair Paperback – Apr 29 2003
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"I do not say there is no character as well drawn in Shakespeare [as D'Artagnan]. I do say there is none that I love so wholly."
--Robert Louis Stevenson
"The lasting and universal popularity of The Three Musketeers shows that Dumas, by artlessly expressing his own nature in the persons of his heroes, was responding to that craving for action, strength and generosity which is a fact in all periods and all places."
About the Author
William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) was born and educated to be a gentleman but gambled away much of his fortune while at Cambridge. He trained as a lawyer before turning to journalism. He was a regular contributor to periodicals and magazines and Vanity Fair was serialised in Punch in 1847-8. John Carey is Professor of English at Oxford University. He has written on Dickens and Thackeray.See all Product description
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Sad to see OUP associate their name, and reputation, with such a poor piece of work.
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.
Like most nineteenth-century writers, Thackeray had a very dense, formal writing style -- but once you get used to it, his writing becomes insanely funny. Witticisms and quips litter the pages, even if you don't pick them all up at once. At first Thackeray seems incredibly cynical (Becky's little schemes almost always pay off), but taken as a social satire, it's easier to understand why he was so cynical about the society of the time.
Becky Sharp is the quintessential anti-heroine -- she's very greedy and cold, yet she's also so smart and determined that it's hard not to have a grudging liking for her, no matter what she does. Certainly life hasn't been fair for her. Next to Becky, a goody-goody character like Amelia is pretty boring, and even the unsubtle George can't measure up to Becky.
To sum up "Vanity Fair": think a period soap opera with a heavy dose of social commentary. In other words, it doesn't get much better than this, Thackeray's masterpiece.
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The whole time I was reading this I was thinking "Make it stop! Make it die!"