Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world?
I enjoyed this book, but it had to grow on me after 200 + pages. At first, the language seems archaic, stilted, and difficult to follow. The style of writing is totally vain and self-serving, the sort of celebrity of times past. The story takes place in London from 1809 until about 1830, but really in Europe. The story itself revolves around two families: Amelia Sedley, and Rebecca Sharp. Childhood friends from finishing schools with much different backgrounds. Amelia's from a respectable family, with a secure future. Rebecca has no pedigree, which is all-important. She survives by her wits, perpetually climbing the society ladder. At one time, she is the toast of London, and invited to Court. Rebecca is one of the most resourceful and interesting characters in English literature. At a time when respectable women could not work, Rebecca sets about making a name for herself and marrying into a wealthier respectable family, the Crawleys.
One truth of Vanity Fair: a place and a state of mind is this: fortunes change. The book follows the ups and downs of Amelia and Rebecca. Amelia and Rebecca's husbands, George Osborne and Rawdon Crawley serve in the British military at Waterloo. George Osborne never returns, and years later it is found out that he never loved his wife Amelia, but wanted Rebecca to run away with him. Eventually Rebecca has a son, whom she does not care for, and is left to the care of her in-laws. At last, she is shunned by society and ends up alone.
Although the wordy, descriptive style can be overbearing, the story is worth reading. It is thought that Thackeray himself is based on the character of Major Dobbins, who loves Amelia for years from afar. The story constantly holds up a mirror to society, the highs, the lows, debt and bankruptcy, love and marriage.
Good story that barely resebles the movie. It is alot like Gone with the Wind in the fact that you dislike the main character
Set during the Napoleonic Wars and the early 19th century, this is a book with glimpses of English society. This is not a text book story, but a wonderful story of the times, with all the characters one would expect to find: Bullies, lovers, drinkers, dancers and Becky Sharp and her foil Amelia Sedley.
I simply have not been able to get through this book. It's quite a clever send up of the social behaviors of the day, which also reflects upon our own. But i tired of the ongoing character sketches even when I enjoyed them a great deal at the beginning. It just never seems to end.
I set it aside. I think I am curious enough to find out what happens with Becky Sharp. Will she get her comeuppence? Maybe this summer I'll find out.
At first I liked it. Even Ms. Sharp. But I started to....I wanted smash her face in! And Poor Ms. Sedley?!? Get over it girl! And George. Well, when I ended it, I was glad he got what he did. I normally stick in there and hold through to the end. Hey, I finished Moby Dick and I was bored to tears with that one. I just have chosen that there are other books I'd rather read then spend time with this book! It just was not for me.
Thackeray's first major novel and is considered to be his masterpiece. Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars, the story mixed ambition, greed, duplicity, coarseness, wealth and poverty in a literary tour de force.
People are so often intimidated by fiction which has been "canonized" over time that they can forget that there are reasons why a book is considered a classic. Vanity Fair is a delightful example of this reasoning.
The book, although set in the 18th century, is one of the most entertaining and insightful books a person could ever read. It might take a little patience for a modern reader to get into the swing of the way language was used during the Napoleonic/Wellington era, but the effort is well worth the trouble.
It is rare for a male author to be able to write a book centered around a woman and be able to portray her from a realistic feminine viewpoint, but Thackeray gives English literature one of the most delightfully tricky anti-heroines in Rebecca Sharp. Her foil, Amanda Sedley, is a sweet, sheltered submissive female.
The Eighteenth Century, unlike the Victorian Era of the following hundred years, fostered and enjoyed quite a number of highly intelligent, well-educated women who not only spoke their own minds and dabbled in politics but also took initiative when it came to their sex lives. There was a bit of a duality in English culture at that time - wonderfully wicked women were admired even if they themselves preferred more conventional, submissive daughters-in-law.
Thackaray illustrates this dichotomy in his masterful portraits of Rebecca, Amanda and the men in their lives. Both women illustrate their "type" so perfectly that the reader easily spots their glaring faults - if not at the beginning of the book, certainly by the end.
Their relationship, which I would define as the central theme of the book, is used to probe and analyze not only the societal but also the political mores of the time. Thackaray is able to distance himself from his own culture so as to lovingly satirize the choices available to people inhabiting the blurred social border between the wealthy bourgoisie and the lower upper classes.
Don't let the fact that Vanity Fair is taught in High School and University British Literature classes frighten you off. I assure you that you will most likely never regret having read this book - unless you love it so much that you forget your real life responsibilities while engrossed in the antics of Becky Sharp!
This was a book group selection that I just never could bring myself to read. Some people just loved it though....
First published in 1848, this edition somewhat later.
Read for class. Only made it through about 400 pages, which, okay, isn't the entire book. It was funny in the beginning, but wore thin.