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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair (1847)

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,483145273 (3.88)1 / 640
  1. 131
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    HollyMS: Both works are about women who would do anything to gain a life of luxury.
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    Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (flissp, Booksloth)
  3. 00
    Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: It's all about what people do for entertainment, status, and sport. Along the way, the entire spectrum of society is satirized.
  4. 11
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Antarehs)
  5. 01
    Bleak House by Charles Dickens (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Obra soberbia de Dickens. Más "luminosa" que otras de sus obras. Historia larga, pero atrapante.
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English (137)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All (145)
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A scathing and bitingly funny indictment of a society corrupted by its lust for wealth and class divisions, the book follows the contrasting lives of Amelia, the typical weak and dull "nice society woman who does not appreciate her own privileges, and Becky, the masterful plotter of privilege-grabbing machinations, along with the useless men whose masculinity in all facets of life, admired otherwise in Victorian novels, hinders the lives of the women around them.

As the master of ceremonies, Thackeray puts on a show of ambivalence towards the fates of his characters, addressing the reader with frequent eye-rolls, dig-in-ribs and these-people-amirite's. I loved the little barbed asides of each characters as well as the characterisation, along with the author's self-imposed no-growth, no-development of his characters although I did find disappointing Becky's sudden turn at the end into the wicked lascivious cackling gambler languishing in a den of iniquity too moralistic, a behaviour unlikely after a constant display her strong focused willpowers and Machiavellian smarts in the rest of the book. I would have rather preferred the downfall of Amelia and the rise of Becky, consequences reflective of their own hard work but I suppose the status quo must be maintained.

Fast-paced with lots of foreshadowing, as is the author's wont, and also an endless store of plot subversion, do not let its length daunt you. Despite its status as a Victorian novel, it is anything but dull and modern in its outlook and humour.

Aside: the cover I have is pretty great although I wonder if the final drawing of the top-right character was approved or if the cover artist just managed to slip it past the censors. ( )
1 vote kitzyl | Apr 28, 2017 |
Once I had printed out a list of characters and had it beside me, the reading was fine.
There's no finer woman in this masterpiece than Mrs. Colonel O'Dowd, (nee Maloney of Ballymaloney) gallant, fearless wife and grande-dame of the -th Regiment.
  ivanfranko | Feb 27, 2017 |
I read this in high school, and I really liked it. When I reread it a year or two ago, I found I didn't like it nearly as well. Not as young as I used to be, I guess. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
I guess it was high time that I read this classic and learnt that ‘Vanity Fair’ was Thackeray’s way of referring to a selfish world obsessed with materialism although that definition leaves out his light-hearted cynicism about it all. In the end I felt he was as much attracted to all the vain and mainly heartless people whose lives he follows as he was critical of them. How else can you account for the 700+ pages dedicated to describing the way they lived off credit and ruined their creditors?

He makes Becky as an especially unpleasant woman, able to deceive at the drop of a hat and, to make her seem worse, apart from betraying her husband, hating her son and only contacting him later when he has the large inheritance. Basically she is incorrigible – yet Thackeray gets a great deal of pleasure from her. he writes ‘If this is a novel without a hero, at least let us lay claim to a heroine. No man in the British army which has marched away, not the great Duke himself, could be more cool or collected in the presence of doubts and difficulties, than the indomitable little aide-de-camp's wife’. You might say, ‘Why not?’ since, after all, the Dobbinses of the world, the honest people, are pretty dull and the only interesting parts involving Dobbins are really to do with the way people try to take advantage of him.

Rawson is the character who appeals to me the most, a man who goes from being a gung-ho spendthrift to a man who admires his wife’s ability to live well off other people’s money to someone who becomes uneasy about the advantage they are taking of others, a man who loves his son and finally someone to stand up to his wife. I wonder if Thackeray chose to have him sent to Coventry Island towards the end as an echo of the idea of ‘being sent to Coventry’ or having no-one speak to you. Unfortunately my text had no notes so I no doubt missed out on a lot of contemporary allusions.

In fact, the book’s obsession with the social milieu that Becky came to inhabit with all the parties and personages I found tedious. I wonder what Thackeray’s contemporaries felt about these parts. The time in which the book was set was not that long before it was published so maybe all those social niceties were still current.

What I liked about the writing was the presence of the author – as was the custom of the day. It makes the whole narrative that much closer when the reader is addressed directly as in ‘Praise everybody, I say to such: never be squeamish, but speak out your compliment both point-blank in a man's face, and behind his back, when you know there is a reasonable chance of his hearing it again’ and ‘Yes, if a man's character is to be abused, say what you will, there's nobody like a relation to do the business’. Of course, Thackeray dresses himself up as someone else, reporting on what happened although he also allows that he could be seen as the omniscient narrator, able to get into his characters’ minds.

In the end this is a book that chronicles mostly the worst of mankind or perhaps the English of whom Thackeray writes ‘there is now hardly a town of France or Italy in which you shall not see some noble countryman of our own, with that happy swagger and insolence of demeanour which we carry everywhere, swindling inn-landlords, passing fictitious cheques upon credulous bankers . . .’ I think I would have enjoyed the novel more I’d read when it first came out in instalments over the eighteen months or so, less swamped as I’d have been by the repetitions of people’s immorality. ( )
  evening | Nov 3, 2016 |
The sad thing about earning a BA in English Literature is that most of the books you have to read and think about won't actually be enjoyable. This is an exception. It's funny. ( )
  Kaethe | Oct 17, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thackeray, William Makepeaceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ball, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castle, JohnReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Macchi, RuthTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marquand, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nierop, A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saintsbury, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trollope, JoannaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuomikoski, AinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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, 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.
But, lo! and just as the coach drove off, Miss Sharp put her pale face out of the window and actually flung the book back into the garden.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439831, Paperback)

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion amelia, however, longs only for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles—military and domestic—are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast and honourable figure in this corrupt world is Dobbin with his devotion to Amelia, bringing pathos and depth to Thackeray's gloriously satirical epic of love and social adventure. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:34 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"Thus asks Thackeray in his gloriously entertaining saga, as a vibrant cast of characters scheme and scramble for life's prizes on the crowded stage of Vanity Fair. And no one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than Becky Sharp, Thackeray's supreme creation. Brilliant, alluring and ruthless, she defies her poverty-stricken background to clamber up the social ladder, while her sentimental companion Amelia longs only for caddish soldier George." "As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of Regency society, battles - military and domestic - are fought; fortunes are made and lost. And amid the fast-paced action stands Dobbin with his unrequited love for Amelia. A true gentleman in a corrupt world, he brings pathos and depth to Thackeray's epic tale of love and social adventure."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

» see all 16 descriptions

Legacy Library: William Makepeace Thackeray

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439831, 0141199644, 0141199547

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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