Book Review – The Confessions of Becky Sharp by David James

April 25, 2013

Becky Sharp is possibly the first most rounded woman character in literary fiction. Originally created by William Makepeace Thackeray in Vanity Fair she is a woman of low station forced to survive in a world of status and snobbery dominated by the whims of wealthy men. Thackeray describes her warts and all with a tinge of sympathy but she is one of several such characters paraded in his famous novel. David James takes her character a stage further as he explores how she became the woman she is.

When the book opens she is old and reflecting on her life as she writes her memoirs and counts herself among the literary contemporaries of her time, Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell. She is motivated more by money than by any ambition to be a great novelist as she hints that for the right financial rewards she can leave out some of the more scandalous exploits of her much richer acquaintances and endeavours to put right the injustices done to her by Thackeray in his novel. It is a fascinating device used by a skilful storyteller and the book is well worth the read.

Becky Sharp Cover

The Confessions of Becky Sharp by David James is published by Vanguard Press.

Keith Jahans,
Editor, Peatmore Press

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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 http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/599