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Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero Paperback – February 24, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"I do not say there is no character as well drawn in Shakespeare [as D'Artagnan]. I do say there is none that I love so wholly."
--Robert Louis Stevenson

"The lasting and universal popularity of The Three Musketeers shows that Dumas, by artlessly expressing his own nature in the persons of his heroes, was responding to that craving for action, strength and generosity which is a fact in all periods and all places."
--Andreé Maurois --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

Set amid English society during the Napoleonic Wars, the story centers around the engaging and amoral Becky Sharp. Relying upon her wits, with the dark secrets of her youth to spur her on, she sets out to acquire the best in life through trickery and the occasional dalliance, before having to submit to respectability. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 796 pages
  • Publisher: Nabu Press (February 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1145802192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1145802193
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.6 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,283,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

180 of 183 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on February 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Many consider William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) a minor novelist who wrote in a time when George Eliot, Charles Dickens, and Anthony Trollope ruled the roost of British literature. Out of all of his works, "Vanity Fair" is the most recognizable in literary circles, although Stanley Kubrick immortalized Thackeray's "Barry Lyndon" in a film of the same name. "Vanity Fair" appeared in serial form in 1847-48, a process of publishing used to great success by Charles Dickens. The introduction to this Everyman's Library edition, written by Catherine Peters, says that the title of the book came from John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress," an immensely popular work in circulation at the time.
"Vanity Fair" centers on the exploits of two British women, Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley, beginning roughly at the time of the Battle of Waterloo and ending at some time in the 1830's. The two women are polar opposites: Becky is a conniving, domineering, sometimes insensate woman who constantly attempts to secure a position in high society. Amelia is a rather plain, simple girl who trusts people too often and ends up getting her heart stomped on repeatedly. The two women are ostensibly friends, spending their youth together at a finishing school and occasionally running into each other throughout their lives. Thackeray often likes to place the two in opposition to one another: when Amelia falls into a crisis, Becky is moving in the highest circles of society. When Amelia comes into luck, Becky's fortunes plummet. This see-sawing action helps move the novel through a series of intricately detailed scenes showing off Thackeray's sense of humor, his caustic critiques of English society, and his insightful commentary into the human condition.
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100 of 101 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is not for everyone (as the next two reviews clearly demonstrate). I first read Vanity Fair in junior high, and at the time I probably would have agreed with the comments of the next two reviews: Vanity Fair seemed slow and plodding, confusing and contradictory. When I recently reread Vanity Fair, I could scarcely believe that this brilliant, ironic, hilarious, and incisive romp was the same book as the dull tome I had remembered. In retrospect I realized why my perspective had changed: in junior high I had read the book superficially and found the plot and characters lacking enough excitement to hold my interest; now I realized that the most captivating action was taking place outside the plot in the interaction between the reader and the most important person in the novel: the narrator. I, like many readers, completely missed this deeper level of meaning the first time around. Thus, to recommend this novel to the unsophiscated, inexperienced reader (such as I had been) would be futile. It takes a keen sense of irony and certain degree of insight into the workings of life and literature to recognize the narrator's vital role and to appreciate this novel in its fullest sense. This book is not an easy read: it forces the reader to confront many difficult moral questions and provides no easy answers. But for those who can handle ambiguity and can detect subtle, yet "laugh out loud" funny humor Vanity Fair is not only a necessary read, but an enjoyable one.
(Note: Buy this edition of Vanity Fair. The illustrations which Thackery drew for this novel greatly enhance the text, and the Norton edition reproduces all of them. In addition, the criticisms which are included make for a thought-provoking read and may help clarify your opinion of the novel).
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149 of 160 people found the following review helpful By marzipan on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
I first read this novel twenty-five years ago, and while I found it funny and excellent entertainment at that time, I didn't realize that it is also a very great book. Now I do.

Readers who've found the novel too long are, I suspect, not regular readers of Victorian novels, which were traditionally published in newspapers, bit by bit. They're always long--that's their distinction from modern novels. More than most however, Vanity Fair opens with a bang, and from the first page on through more than 800, I found it hard to put down.

Through the cast of characters we see for ourselves the pervasive greed and hypocrisy of the 19th century British Empire. Jos Sedley, the Ex-collecter of Bogley Walla, the unfortunate Rawdon Crawley, George Osborne and the immoral, resourceful Becky Sharpe are some of the most vivid characters in English writing. The narrator's voice is perfect--though hardly appealing. It's not sentimental. The "objectivity" of a journalist's timidly expressed irony feeds into the reader's need to feel smug -- so that when shocking moments come (and they sure do) we are stunned. The narrator's voice here is much more inventive than one realizes immediately. In this and many other ways Thackeray's story-telling isn't typical of Victorian novelists--Eliot or Dickens for example. In the works of those authors we always know just what moral position the narrator has. (I should mention that I also finished re-reading Middlemarch before re-reading Vanity Fair.) Comparing the grand stateliness of George Eliot with Thackeray's voice made me see just what a tricky work of art Vanity Fair is. But Thackeray, too, makes his story come to life. The description of the Battle of Waterloo is one of the most brilliant things I've ever read.
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