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Vanity Fair

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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  117,039 ratings  ·  3,472 reviews
A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 867 pages
Published January 30th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1848)
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Antonia Nothing. I wish people would quit applying modern political morality to previous centuries where life was quite different. It is so annoyingly "PC". E…moreNothing. I wish people would quit applying modern political morality to previous centuries where life was quite different. It is so annoyingly "PC". Enough already.(less)
Eric Not for a 19th C novel by a man. Becky Sharpe is one of the strongest female characters you will ever find. Amelia Sedgely is a bit mealy mouthed, lik…moreNot for a 19th C novel by a man. Becky Sharpe is one of the strongest female characters you will ever find. Amelia Sedgely is a bit mealy mouthed, like Melanie Hamilton, but not unlike many women of her time.

As for the racist charge, I think that's unfounded. One character refuses to marry a mixed race woman, but his father is pressuring him to marry her for her money. Just because a character makes a racist statement doesn't make a novel racist, especially when other characters refute him.(less)

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Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Here I am, 54 years old, and for the very first time reading William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair. "Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero." I disagree with Thackeray. The 'Hero' of Vanity Fair is the steadfast and stalwart William Dobbin; of that there is no doubt. This novel is not the coming of age, or bildungsroman, of Becky Sharp. No, Miss Rebecca Sharp sprang from the womb enlivened with her desire to claw her way to the top. She can't help it, and nor should she; is she really any diffe ...more
Bionic Jean
Written in 1848, Vanity Fair is an excellent satire of English society in the early 19th Century. Thackeray states several times that it is a novel "without a hero", and at a couple of points tries to claim that Amelia, a good person but who inevitably comes across as rather wishy-washy, is the heroine. But we all know that a "bad" girl or boy is infinitely more interesting than a "good" girl or boy, so I suspect Thackeray of dissembling even here. Becky Sharp is out and out the anti-hero(ine) ...more
Kelly
"But as we are to see a great deal of Amelia, there is no harm in saying, at the outset of our acquaintance, that she was a dear little creature. And a great mercy it is, both in life and in novels, which (and the latter especially) abound in villains of the most sombre sort that we are to have for a companion so guileless and good natured a person. As she is not a heroine, there is no need to describe her person; indeed I am afraid that her nose was rather too short than otherwise and her cheek ...more
Paul Bryant
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels

1. I liked the company of Thackeray who is breezy, ebullient and cynical about everyone’s motives. And he’s very confident too. He thinks he knows everything, although there’s not a word about how the poor live here, that’s not his subject. So he’s like the mid-19th century version of Tom Wolfe or Jonathan Franzen, two authors (among many others) who also think they know everything. I don’t mind them thinking that. It’s a good quality in a writer who’s trying to depict all of society.

2. An examp
...more
Luffy
Jan 25, 2018 rated it liked it
The author makes his presence known towards the end of the book. It was both eerie and uncanny. He kept breaking the fourth wall, then he conjured that apparition of his in one of the last chapters.

Vanity Fair contains no real heroes. That was a fact that Thackeray himself stated, and who am I to dispute that. This book of his is quite droll in its stitching together. There is a threat of a continuum, then everything is put back into question.

Classics are a strange beast. With them, I feel attac
...more
Emily
May 16, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I realize that I'm not making friends here by only giving what is considered a masterful piece of literature what amounts to a "meh" review but that's really how I felt about this book.

On a small scale, I thought the writing was too long-winded. This is not a fancy story and it could have been told more concisely. I was mostly bored reading it.

On a bigger scale, I had serious issues with the heroine. Rebecca is the type of woman who has always made my stomach churn in anger and to ask me to sym
...more
Jan-Maat
I finish the book and wonder how to best convert the muddy puddle of my impressions into some-kind of a coherent rich picture of a review.

Well what is is, imagine an exhibition of of George Cruikshank's drawings or of those of Gilray perhaps, there is wit and fun, but after a while , maybe they are a little wearisome. In this it reminds me of when I was a student and sometimes, not knowing any better I'd read The Economist, eventually I noticed whatever country or problem was discussed the analy
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero, William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair is an English novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, which follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Emmy Sedley amid their friends and families during and after the Napoleonic Wars. A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian
...more
Apatt
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Vanity Fair is a big surprise for me. I was expecting a story about the trial and tribulations of a couple of plucky lady friends what I discovered was a witty, satirical novel that made me laugh several times, engaged my attention always and even moving at times.

On the surface Vanity Fair is a story of the two main characters Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, two childhood friends from the opposite ends of the moral and intellectual spectrum. Becky is ambitious, conniving and smart, Amelia is humb
...more
Grace Tjan
Spoilers!



Miss Rebecca Sharp's Guide to the Regency Society


1. If a young lady is not born into either rank or fortune, she will be looked down upon by good society and forced to exist in a humiliating dependency on others for life, unless the said young lady is willing, nay, not merely willing, but most strenuously strive to improve her situation.

2. If the said young lady, despite being a poor orphan, happens to have the good fortune of being admitted into an exclusive academy for young ladies a
...more
Robert
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
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 ...more
Helga
Aug 31, 2013 rated it liked it
“Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?”

Vanity fair! A novel without a hero! A puppet show! The puppets are the flawed and unlikeable characters and the acts are hypocrisy, callousness, betrayal and artfulness.
Narrated by Thackeray himself who is unreliable and voluble, the story is about two opposites. The manipulative, cunning, scheming and pleasure-seeking Becky Sharp and the weak, naive and kindhearted (in my opinion stupid and annoying)
...more
Michelle
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
"Vanity Fair" is set in England, in the years around Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. However, William Makepeace Thackeray's portrait of human nature isn't limited to any time or place. The novel is made up of nothing but super-rigidly-defined cliques; complicated rules about who is allowed to talk to whom, when, where, and for how long; small levels of popularity subdivided into types; and a bunch of people who are constantly trying to reach the top of the heap and avoid becoming social pariahs. ...more
Loretta
This book really wasn't for me. Don't get me wrong, some parts were very enjoyable and humorous, while others, not so much. The Rebecca, Becky character, I just couldn't stand! She was such a snob and just so full of herself! She just wanted to be one of the rich and famous! Three stars.
Matt
Ok, ok...I'm reading this as a break between books for classes in Grad School. Is that the dorkiest thing you could ever imagine? Yes. It is. It just is.

But the first two pages, the author's introduction....greatest two pages of introductory prose I've ever seen. Better than Kafka, better than Nabokov, better than whatever. Fucking brilliant- vivid, funny, rambunctious, wise, sarcastic, immortally satirical. I was hooked each time I picked up the book and read through it. Sometimes there's that
...more
El
There was a girl I knew in school that made my formative years (for this purpose I'm considering the "formative years" to be 11-14) a bloody hell. She was a nasty, manipulative, cruel girl who, unfortunately for me, also had the luck of being beautiful and popular. She was wretched to the little people, and I was a little person. She was mean to me but I so wanted her to be my friend because I thought if I was her friend and a part of her circle, then everything would be okay. Life would be perf ...more
Safaa (Ṣafā)
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, favorites
Maybe I've matured as a reader now but I think I haven't enjoyed any classic as much as I did this one. It was thicker and longer than many a novel, but I enjoyed it the better for it. By the end, I understood why it was so long, the ending justified it. I was so daunted by its iconic title to read it before, but it was easier to read than most classics. The experience was complete, there wasn't anything missing, it had everything and so so much more.

Published in 1847-1848, Vanity Fair is a Vict
...more
Perry
Oct 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably First Realistic Femme Fatale of Modern Lit
The Prototype for Most Who Followed

"Now I ain't sayin' you a gold digger, you got needs.
*** Get down girl, go 'head, get down."

"Gold Digger," Kanye West, Ray Charles, Renald Richard, 2005

Becky Sharp is perhaps modern lit's first exemplar of today's femme fatale. Clever, charming, attractive, as well as artful, duplicitous, hyper-ambitious, a superself-centered woman who uses sex as one of her tools to manipulate men but only to serve her needs.
...more
Edward
Vanity Fair may be brilliant, but it is extremely bloated and uneven. For each page that features interesting characters and compelling dialogue, one must trudge through a greater measure of dull, relentless and misplaced description, aside and detail. Thackeray just goes on and on, spilling onto the page everything he can possibly think of, without any consideration for what is interesting and what is not. The story seems not to be driving anywhere in particular, but it drives on regardless, an ...more
Jessica
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: these girls at a party
First things first: Don't get this edition! I recently attended my college reunion. Whilst ambling idly around the green lawns of that hallowed institution, I had chance to encounter my most distinguished and beloved professor of English. Exalted that I happened to be dandling Thackeray's baby on my knee (instead of the glossy monthly version of Vanity Fair, as is more common with me), with sparkling eyes and an enchanting smile I thrust my copy before his erudite and discerning nose. "My favori ...more
Russell
Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thackeray's opus is a wonder. Long, yes, but so very good in so many ways.

He's part Oscar Wilde, part Jonathan Swift, with a dash of Dickens, but all his own voice.

Since the story is so long and sprawling, I only jotted down a few notes on my impressions.

* He breaks the 4th wall, some times with savage glee, yanking it down making you look at yourself and the characters in a new light. Other times he does it with delicacy, sliding back the wall and making you feel like it's just him and you in t
...more
Sara
This book might be unique in that it not only claims to have no hero, but in fact has no hero. What it does have is a cast of duplicitous, weak or inane characters, none of whom stir much in the way of either pity, empathy, or affinity. It also has the bad girl to end all bad girls, Miss Rebecca Sharp. I doubt anyone would argue that Becky is not the most interesting character in the book, and while some might admire the good little Amelia, few could actually like her.

Vanity Fair is quite a bit
...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Quite unstimulating
I obviously missed something. I chose audio book format because the book is so long, but I felt like it was just one long ramble, the narrator droning on and on about nothing. I also own the paperback, so maybe down the road I'll give it another try.

4/11/18 Catching up with the Classics reread going to give the paper version a try and I’m taking tiny bites. This is a classic for a reason. I’m finding it.
So i dont know why I had such a hard time finishing this book in the past.
...more
John Purcell
Jun 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: The Naïve
Make sure that you read William Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair in public, not in the hope that someone may spot you reading a classic, but so that you may see the characters of this wonderfully perceptive (and prophetic) novel wandering about in the flesh. Vanity Fair is populated not by characters but by real people and thus, will never date.

Thackeray is masterful, he allows his characters the freedom to do as they please; they are autonomous and must make decisions on their own, as must we all.
...more
John Anthony
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I feel I've reached a milestone, having finally read this. I'd spent years avoiding it – partly its length and negative comments from people unable to finish it. I found it very readable and hugely entertaining. I now feel quite bereft as I had got to know Thackeray's characters pretty well and came to regard some of them as old friends, others as familiar foes. I'd expected to be bored but it is difficult to be bored by Vanity Fair, just over indulged perhaps.

It is a satire on Life and Society,
...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
‘Vanity Fair’ is a witty satire, full of nasty but true social commentary in a not entirely fictional world of early 19th-Century English society. I was delighted by the book and laughed out loud several times. I think it is a terrifically fun and interesting novel, but there are a couple of negatives for modern readers. The one BIG negative of the book is it is about 1,000 pages long, depending on the print edition. A small negative, to me, is the archaic florid overwriting style, but after all ...more
Werner
Feb 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of 19th-century classics
Recommended to Werner by: Charlotte Bronte (in the preface to Jane Eyre, 2nd ed.)
Shelves: classics, books-i-own
This is one of the Victorian classics I read as a kid, probably at the age of 13 or 14 (certainly no older); the 1999 date refers to a second reading, when I was home schooling my daughters in British Literature, and felt that I needed a refresher on this one. Though this is Thackeray's best-known novel, it's not his only one; but it's the only one I've read (although I have read his excellent short story "Dennis Haggerty's Wife," which is included in the anthology Great English Short Stories).

A
...more
Petra
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: floor-joists
A look at the foibles of people and their motives. Thackeray's characters display all the aspects of "vanity". By definition, vanity is either "excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements" or "the quality of being worthless or futile". Vanity can also be "a dressing table" but I suspect that Thackeray didn't have this definition in mind (:D).
Thackeray manages to give each of his characters an aspect of vanity that conflicts and contrasts with their circumstances, li
...more
Ryan
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Good:
Probably the greatest cast of human beings ever written. Glorious, miserable and frustrating, these people were the British Empire’s middle management. It’s worth noting that this was set around the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and published a generation later, like a contemporary novel taking the piss out of the 80s. It is caustic in its parody of absolutely everyone and everything, and often very funny. I thought it ended well too.

The Bad:
The second half of the novel is too long
...more
Mariel
Mar 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: getaway car
Recommended to Mariel by: six in the morning the walls close in
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A GIRL WHO WAS ALIVE AT THE WRONG TIME.
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Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company.

William had been sent
...more

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