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Vanity Fair Paperback – Apr 29 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • 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: 621 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #142,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

A marvelous, incisive social satire that gleefully exposes the greed and corruption raging in England during the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars through its tracing of the changing fortunes of two unforgettable women. It is a comic masterpiece that still resonates today.
"Re-reading "Vanity Fair, one realises what a brilliant innovation this was in the English novel," remarked V. S. Pritchett. "Thackeray is like the modern novelists who derive from James and Proust, in his power of dissecting (and of desiccating!) character."
Generally considered to be his masterpiece, "Vanity Fair is Thackeray's resplendent social satire that exposes the greed and corruption raging in England during the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars. Subtitled "A Novel Without a Hero," it traces the changing fortunes of two unforgettable women: the scheming opportunist Becky Sharp--one of literature's most resourceful, engaging, and amoral heroines--and her foil, the faithful, naive Amelia Sedley. Thackeray's subversive, comic attack on the hypocrisy and "dismal roguery" of an avaricious world resonates 150 years later with implications for our own times.
"Thackeray is an urbane nineteenth-century guide and commentator in a portrait gallery that is for all time," observed Louis Auchincloss. "He is the restless inhabitant of a prudish age, nostalgic, discursive, anecdotal, sentimental, worldly-wise, now warning us, now making fun of us, now reproving us .... Thackeray's harshest criticism of humanity is simply the point where ours commences. His perception of self-interest in every act is the ABC of modem psychology."
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Vanity Fair is a story of two heroines--one humber, the other scheming and social climbing--who meet inboarding school and embark on markedly different lives. Amid the swirl of London's posh ballrooms and affairs of love and war, their fortunes rise and fall. Through it all, Thackeray lampoons the shallow values of his society, reserving the most pointed barbs for the upper crust. What results is a prescient look at the dogged pursuit of wealth and status--and the need for humility. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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By A Customer on Nov. 3 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"Vanity Fair" was written by Thackeray for a magazine publication with no intention, at least during it's early stages, of becoming a novel. I think that this explains why it occassionally jumps from one line of thought to another, adding very little to the depth of the tale. It manages to keep the interest, but sometimes I found myself thinking "What is the point of this?"
This criticism aside, I found the characters to be cleverly described. I would form an opinion about the nature of one character, only to have that opinion changed by his or her subsequent actions, or Thackeray's critical observations of those actions. At times, I found this frustrating. But I quickly learned to appreciate it. My knowledge of the characters grew with time, at that was realistic.
Overall, a recommended read. There are greater classics, but this is still one to enjoy. It gives an interesting perspective on life of the wealthy, and former wealthy, English during the Napolean era.
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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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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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