Monday, 25 June 2012

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (2/5)

The back says: Thackeray's upper-class Regency world is a noisy and jostling commercial fairground, predominantly driven by acquisitive greed and soulless materialism, in which the narrator himself plays a brilliantly versatile role as a serio-comic observer.

Although subtitled A Novel without a Hero, Vanity Fair follows the fortunes of two contrasting but inter-linked lives: through the retiring Amelia Sedley and the brilliant Becky Sharp, Thackeray examines the position of women in an intensely exploitative male world.

I say: Goodness gracious what a tedious read this was, and mostly due to that damn overly familiar narrator with his random yammering about who knows what that had no relevance to the plot whatsoever.


This book made me violent.

I mean this:

But the writer of these pages, who has pursued in former days, and in the same bright weather, the same remarkable journey, cannot but think of it with a sweet and tender regret. Where is the road now, and its merry incidents of life? Is there no Chelsea or Greenwich for the old honest pimple-nosed coachmen? I wonder where are they, those good fellows? Is old Weller [here my footnotes tell me that tony Weller was the father of Sam, Mr Pickwick’s servant, in Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers (1837) Old Weller was himself a coachman – p 667] alive or dead? and the waiters, yea, and the inns at which they waited, and the cold rounds of beef inside, and the stunted ostler, with his blue nose and clinking pail, where is he, and where is his generation? To those great geniuses now in petticoats, who shall write novels for the beloved reader’s children, these men and things will be as much legend and history as Nineveh, or Coeur de Lion, or Jack Sheppard [and then my footnotes tell me who these people are]. – p 63


If I were to remove all of these inane monologues directed to the reader I think about 1/3 of the book would disappear. And considering that this tome is 657 pages, that’s a lot of excess reading for no purpose at all – and then I haven’t even mentioned the ridiculous amount of times that he wrote Vanity Fair.

"Well, that’s Vanity Fair for you… If it weren’t for Vanity Fair... When you go to Vanity Fair..."

We get it.

*takes a deep breath*

Now that I have gotten that out of my system (barely) I shall speak about the story, which wasn’t so bad once you remove the annoyance with how it was written. I liked Becky and I loathed Amelia, even though the narrator was trying his utter best to make me feel the opposite with his stupid asides. Both of them go through the motions, and the only interesting parts were the ones concerning Becky and her artful ways of getting men to give her what she wanted. There were good guys and bad guys, promises and lies, regret and pride, and if it’s not clear by now, I would not recommend this book to anyone. 

And this is without me even mentioning the misogyny that saturated the entire text.

The only reason I am not giving this 1/5, apart from Becky, is that every now and then Thackeray painted a vivid and interesting picture of London society. And that is pretty much the only positive thing I have to say about Vanity Fair.

*This is my third entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional  incentive for me to work on my 100 Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).


  1. Ugh, sorry this one wasn't for you. I've had it on my TBR for awhile and might try it still...

    1. By all means, do read it - you might enjoy it. It was the writing that annoyed me more than anything; it took away any pleasure I may have gotten from the story itself.

  2. I loved this book! When I read it, I had also recently read Gone With the Wind and I kept making mental notes of the similarities between Scarlett and Becky. Becky is such an interesting and well written character. Sorry this one wasn't for you.

    1. I haven't read Gone With the Wind and don't think I ever will - it's not my type of story. But I agree that Becky was well-written, probably the only one.

  3. I have to agree with your review entirely. I've been calling it the #1 book I love to hate. :D