Vanity Fair is the one book I’ve never quite got round to finishing. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for over 9 years gathering dust. Everytime a shorter, more exciting book was recommended to me. Vanity fair went to the back of the queue.
On and on this went for years until January 2017, when I was speaking to my house mate one evening about a pretty hefty book he was reading. “I always start the year with a bigger book…” he said. Hmm… That makes perfect sense. Getting the monster book out of the way before tucking into smaller average sized books. So that’s exactly what I did, with an audio book break in between. I really needed a break, you can check it out here.
It’s taken me 4 months of starting and stopping, but all 733 pages are completely finished! Woo!
So what’s Vanity Fair about?
Vanity fair follows Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley as they live their lives during and after the Napoleonic wars. Rebecca is a strong willed young woman who is determined to climb the social ladder by any means necessary. She is above all a selfish woman who basically does everything only as it serves her goals of joining societies elite.
By contrast Amelia is born into a family of wealth prosperity. She is kind, affectionate and a little bit boring, everything Becky is not.
We ultimately see play out the lives of these two women. Becky rises in the social ranks whilst Amelia falls and is left widowed and penniless. Thackeray does change back to an extent the fortunes of the women, but it is clear that Becky is set up to be the hero(antihero) of the novel.
About the Author & Context
William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist who enjoyed discussing 19th century English society through satire. Click here for more information.
Did you enjoy it?
Well the guardian said it was the 14th best novel to read ever, so you know… Does that make me a bit silly to say that I didn’t love it? It was ok, but not amazing. Just a little bit to slow for me. When there was action, it was funny and exciting. But as soon those sections ended, I was left with pages and pages of description I didn’t really care to know.
After doing some research I did learn that vanity fair wasn’t meant to be read as a novel. So I was just reading it in the wrong way. It was originally a serialisation, think soap opera in the 19th century. Every week in a magazine a new chapter was released. It does make sense that a little bit more description is needed to bring people back into the novel if they missed a week or two. Unfortunately, it’s just too long for me so I think I’ll leave this one on the shelf for someone more interested.