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Vanity Fair (1847)

by William Makepeace Thackeray

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
12,726173349 (3.88)1 / 757
Set during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, this classic gives a satirical picture of a worldly society. The novel revolves around the exploits of the impoverished but beautiful and devious Becky Sharp.
  1. 131
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (HollyMS)
    HollyMS: Both works are about women who would do anything to gain a life of luxury.
  2. 20
    Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (flissp, Booksloth)
  3. 10
    The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (morryb)
  4. 11
    Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Antarehs)
  5. 01
    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.
  6. 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.
1840s (1)

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» See also 757 mentions

English (163)  Italian (4)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)
A very readable tale that had me up late in the night to arrive at the very satisfactory ending. The novel is tightly structured, with some fabulous 'set pieces' and sparking dialogue. Thackeray himself is very present; he introduces himself at the very beginning of the book as 'the Manager of the Performance' and certainly doesn't leave the reader in any doubt as to his thoughts on his characters. They are by no means simply as good or bad as they first seem and his star creation, Becky Sharpe, is quite clearly intelligent, vital, entertaining and is cheerful in any and every circumstance in which she finds herself. Some of the worst slurs on her character actually don't ring true and she clearly comes to despise High Society just as she achieves her greatest triumphs in it. He finds her as fascinating as does almost every other character in the novel and though he never refers to it directly (no doubt due to the sensibilities of the time) we imagine she gets nearly as low as a lady possibly can. His asides on Becky's seemingly angelic friend Amelia, also show he loses patience with her martyrdom on many occasions.
We can see Vanity Fair as an allegory or moral fable that reveals certain universal truths about the human condition. Many of the minor characters actually have names that denote their personal circumstances or moral attributes. For instance, Tom Eaves, a gossip, is a combination of 'peeping Tom' and 'eavesdropper'. The Crawleys are prepared to do just that to gain admittance to the rank of society above the small gentry where they find themselves. Meanwhile, some of the names of the families over in the European phase of the novel are just plain hilarious in their pomposity.
But it is Becky Sharpe that is the star of the show. She is one of the great female characters in English literature. She may be wicked but it is difficult not to forgive her, to see that sparkle in her eyes and be dazzled by her vitality. 'She runs away with the author's intention (and) steals the show'. (Gilbert Phelps, from the introduction of my very ancient Pan edition of Vanity Fair)

( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
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. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
This is another of those books that can be read for pleasure the first time, and is worth taking time to ponder and reread from time to time. ( )
  bread2u | Jul 1, 2020 |
Seg men ok. ( )
  victor.k.jacobsson | May 23, 2020 |
A contemporary of Dickens; similarities yes, but Thackeray's depiction of characters was more of an omniscient view - depicting good and bad.
A pleasure to make Thackeray's acquaintance (!) ( )
  MccMichaelR | May 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 163 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (84 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thackeray, William MakepeaceAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ball, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beach, Joseph WarrenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carey, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Castle, JohnReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cheshire, GerardContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Macchi, RuthTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marquand, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Melosi, LauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nierop, A. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pym, RolandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ricci Miglietta, MauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ridley, M. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saintsbury, GeorgeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stewart, J. I. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutton, GeorginaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trollope, JoannaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tuomikoski, AinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weldon, FayIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winterich, John T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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this story is affectionately dedicated
To B. W. Procter This Story is affectionately dedicated
First words
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.
While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny 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 hour 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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Set during the time of the Napoleonic Wars, this classic gives a satirical picture of a worldly society. The novel revolves around the exploits of the impoverished but beautiful and devious Becky Sharp.

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Average: (3.88)
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1 31
1.5 5
2 105
2.5 20
3 373
3.5 102
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4.5 84
5 509

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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