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Paperback Vanity Fair Book

ISBN: 0143034448

ISBN13: 9780143034445

Vanity Fair

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Like New

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Book Overview

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the social ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia, however, longs for caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour of English society in the early 1800s, battles-military and domestic-are fought, fortunes made and lost. The one steadfast...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Social Climbing

Amelia and Becky are schoolmates together at a fancy young ladies' finishing school in England in the 1800s. When the two leave together, Amelia is sobbed over, remembered fondly, and given a gift by the headmistress. Amelia comes from a good family and is very wealthy. Becky, on the other hand, is a poor orphan who had to earn her stay at the school by teaching French to the younger girls, and her graduation is not mourned by anyone. Once free from the stifling environment of the school, Becky is able to look around and the world and find the best way of getting ahead in it. This book follows the paths of Amelia and Becky as they each make their way through society and, for very different reasons, marry and gain families of their own. Becky and Amelia both struggle to be liked, to be accepted, and to make their way through their socially complex England. The story of these characters is fascinating, and it is especially compelling to watch Becky, who is always on the lookout for the most advantageous opportunities provided to her. Amelia's story is much less turbulent, as she is not at all the conniver Becky is. The book was a bit of a slog; it took a long time for me to read and I sometimes felt like I was missing some of the jokes. The characters and the story were still very interesting, though, despite being written in the style of the time.

A delightful surprise

I first saw the Reese Witherspoon movie a year ago, not having read the book. I was intrigued, so bought a copy, feeling quite virtuous for having bought a classic novel with the intention of reading it. It took me over a year to get around to reading it, during which time it sat on the shelf silently convicting me of my good intentions to read the classic work. I finally picked it up and decided to try it, to "improve my mind". Boy, was I surprised to find myself laughing and utterly engrossed in it. It is written in a different style of English from that of today, of course, but it is not as difficult to get through as, say, Jane Austen (whose books I do enjoy, so stop shrieking at me, all you JA fans). It is written tongue firmly in cheek and with delightful sarcasm and satire and cynicism. I am about halfway through as I write this and the more I read, the more I'm struck by the resemblance between Becky Sharp and Scarlett O'Hara. I wonder if Margaret Mitchell was a fan of this book? I urge you to give this book a try, if you want a very funny and witty experience. I am enjoying it very much.

All's fair in love and "Vanity"

Greed, gold-digging and deception sit at the heart of "Vanity Fair." It's no joke that it's subtitled "a novel without a hero" -- William Makepeace Thackeray mercilessly skewered the pretentions and flaws of the upper class all throughout it. The result is a gloriously witty social satire. It opens with two young women departing from a ladies' academy: dull, sweet Amelia (rich) and fiery sharp-witted Rebecca (poor). Becky Sharp is a relentless social climber, and her first effort to rise "above her station" is by trying to get Amelia's brother to marry her -- an effort thwarted by Amelia's fiancee. So instead she gets married to another family's second son, Rawdon Crawley. Unfortunately, both young couples quickly get disinherited and George is killed. But Becky is determined to live the good life she has worked and married for -- she obtains jewels and money from admiring gentlemen, disrupting her marriage. But a little thing like a tarnished reputation isn't enough to keep Becky down... "Vanity Fair" is actually a lot more complex than that, with dozens of little subplots and complicated character relationships. Reading it a few times is necessary to really absorb all of it, since it is not just a look at the two women in the middle of the book, but at the upper (and sometimes lower) social strata of the nineteenth century. The main flaw of the book is perhaps that it sprawls too much -- there's always a lot of stuff going on, not to mention a huge cast of characters, and Thackeray sometimes drops the ball when it comes to the supporting characters and their little plots. It takes a lot of patience to absorb all of this. However... it's worth it. Like most nineteenth-century writers, Thackeray had a very dense, formal writing style -- but once you get used to it, his writing becomes insanely funny. Witticisms and quips litter the pages, even if you don't pick them all up at once. At first Thackeray seems incredibly cynical (Becky's little schemes almost always pay off), but taken as a social satire, it's easier to understand why he was so cynical about the society of the time. Becky Sharp is the quintessential anti-heroine -- she's very greedy and cold, yet she's also so smart and determined that it's hard not to have a grudging liking for her, no matter what she does. Certainly life hasn't been fair for her. Next to Becky, a goody-goody character like Amelia is pretty boring, and even the unsubtle George can't measure up to Becky. To sum up "Vanity Fair": think a period soap opera with a heavy dose of social commentary. In other words, it doesn't get much better than this, Thackeray's masterpiece.

As relevant today as ever

I picked up Vanity Fair because it was in the bookcase and I had never read it. I quickly became obsessed with this book and was unable to put it down! I am ranking this as one of my all-time favorite books. The subtlety and brilliance Thackeray displays is beyond description. His depiction of 19th century Europe is both shockingly brutal and absolutely hilarious. But the thing that really impresses me is how this society, whose morals are based entirely on money, whose members spare no effort attempting to gain and display status, and where the less fortunate are shown no mercy is such a mirror to our society today. I guess some things never do change! I just saw the preview for the film which they have made and it is obviously not going to follow the story (how could it in a 2-hour movie?). So don't plan to skip the book and just "see the film" - you will miss the point entirely.

The Original "Gone With The Wind"

I read about 2 books per week on average, in English, German or Russian. My favorite book of all time is "Vanity Fair". Why? Because it seems to be the intellectual progenitor of both "War and Peace" as well as "Gone With the Wind," each of which themselves could have been my favorite book. All three epics occur within a major war, all three have main characters involved in massive and famous battles, and all three describe two types of women waiting for their men to survive or perish in battle: the "Scarlett Ohara - Becky Sharpe" prototype and the "Melanie - Amelia" prototype. For me the theme of this novel, and of "Gone With the Wind", is that its the Melanies and Amelias of the world that make life worth living and fighting for (when fighting is truly necessary). In this novel, Becky Sharpe is an anti-heroine in the same way that Scarlett Ohara was. I hope that some author, somewhere, is now writing an epic novel that deals similarly with modern times and the current war.
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