Book Review– Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

November 5, 2012

This is a got to be read classic.  Thackeray creates a dog eat dog world peopled by characters whose main ambition in life is to reach the top of the social pile and stay there.  All the characters are flawed but the author shows some sympathy for them even for the most despicable.

In Becky Sharp he creates a strong minded woman determined to succeed in this class ridden sexist society.  She hails from lowly origins and schemes her way through this world to acceptance by the elite.  The means she uses are devious and often amoral yet her actions are totally understandable given the environment in which she exists.  Her eventual fall from grace means that she receives her just deserts but she accepts it with humility.

We follow her fortunes and those of the other main characters, Amelia Sedley, her cad of a husband George Osborn, William Dobbin who is deeply in love with Amelia but is too timid to show it, and their families through this nineteenth century epic set just before, during and after the battle of Waterloo.  The battle is scarcely described so it is events which surround it which take up the bulk of the story.  The text is cumbersome compared to that of the modern novel but if readers persevere they are in for a treat.

Vanity Fair is out of copyright so the text can be downloaded free of charge from

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