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4.0 out of 5 stars Readable
good read but one sees why Dickens has lasted better. Nice insight into the age, though. Not in the league of Vanity Fair
Published 20 months ago by lyas38

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter and sentimental like its hero, but still a good read
I can see why "Pendennis" is under-reviewed here: it's not Thackeray's greatest work. But it is intriguing. I've read this book a couple of times now, and, as I always find with classic literature, you get something different out of it depending on your age when you read it. This time round I felt like I was sitting very near Thackeray, somewhere in the shadows of a pub,...
Published on 14 Oct 2011 by Louise the book worm


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bitter and sentimental like its hero, but still a good read, 14 Oct 2011
I can see why "Pendennis" is under-reviewed here: it's not Thackeray's greatest work. But it is intriguing. I've read this book a couple of times now, and, as I always find with classic literature, you get something different out of it depending on your age when you read it. This time round I felt like I was sitting very near Thackeray, somewhere in the shadows of a pub, a little closer to him in age than to his hero and heroine, as he tosses off chapter after chapter, writing sometimes about himself, with great humour and modest self-deprecation, and sometimes about others, with widely varying degrees of success. My expressions as I hear his thoughts are surprise, shock, laughter, dismay, sometimes even contempt.

The story is, I believe, a thinly veiled story of his own life as an arrogant and foolish young tearaway, his entry into the literary world, his wasting of other people's money and care. It's penitent and proud, cruel and sentimental, clever and foolish all at the same time.

I always loved that Thackeray's heroines were considerably more flawed, likeable creations than Dickens' ludicrously wilting small-footed, cherry-mouthed crybabies. So, was Thackeray writing to please a Dickens-trained audience when he makes near-saints out of Helen, Arthur's clinging mother, and Laura, his "sister"? Or was it something a little more Freudian?

Parts of the book really can be quite hard to read with a modern eye. The very helpful introduction sets the story in context and, in particular, provides suggested reasons for Thackeray's particularly ill-natured savagery on the subject of the Irish. His Irish characters are almost uniformly either drunken or stupid. I understand that some of these characters are taken from real life people who, I'm sure, were delighted to be flayed in this very public way.

I feel Thackeray's snobbery is only superficially "satirical". Despite his calling Arthur arrogant and foolish, still in believing that poor Smirke's attachment to his mother is out of the question; that his marriage to his first love, "The Fotheringay", would have made him ridiculous; that being (literally!) patronised by the toffs was desirable - you just can't escape the feeling that the author in fact agrees. The cap is being doffed: he may be smiling wryly, but it's being doffed all the same. In the context of the times in which he wrote, I suppose the tone is not altogether surprising - but not altogether likeable. Dickens got into hot water with his Jewish friends over his depiction of Fagin in "Oliver Twist"; and people of African origin were practically beneath contemplation to such literary men (which is why their inclusion in modern historical dramas causes comfy provincial white people such annoyance! Hooray!). Of course, when authors wanted to sound all clever and bitter they would use ugly words like "Hottentot".

Past all this, the more contemplative me still finds plenty to like in this book. The writer's brilliance is in creating a whole world: his rapid brush strokes and often cruel insight allow him to create a huge cast of characters and an intense sense of place and time without apparent effort. But when it comes to the great romance of the novel, Arthur's not it. I'm with Lady Rockminster: I, too, should have preferred Bluebeard, perhaps without his prejudices.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars unexceptional, but readable, 9 Feb 2011
By 
Graham R. Hill (Ilkley) - See all my reviews
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This novel follows what might almost be the standard pattern for a mid 19th century novel. It never rises to the heights of Dickens or Trollope at his best. Nor, indeed, is it as good as Thackeray's own best work Vanity Fair. But it is - for all its faults - eminently readable and contains a couple of interesting characters.

The eponymous hero is however not among these being essentially a parasitical drip who the author fails to convince us is worth the affection and sacrifice lavished on him throughout, not least by his mother and 'sister'. He is a bland English Raskalnikov with not the smallest amount of existentialist angst about him. Far more interesting is his uncle, a man who whilst introduced by Thackeray as a Pall Mall dandy and society hanger-on, actually demonstrates shrewd judgement and political skills which he diligently applies in the service of the advancement of his unworthy nephew. The scene in which he routs a blackmailing servant is especially well done.

The female characters are all so hopeless (except for Fanny and Blanche, who in combination rather resemble Becky Sharp) that one wonders whether Thackeray had ever met any women prior to writing it. If he did then they must have been a severe disappointment to him compared to these ridiculously idealised ciphers. Even the actress that is Pendennis's youthful folie d'amour is as pure as the driven snow.

The author takes a self-indulgent digression into writing about writers, but after a quite nice description of simultaneous parties being given by rival publishers gets bored with that and the hero goes back to doing what he does best: nothing much. Ironically, given that I am reviewing this somewhat critically, one of the best passages of prose in the book is given over to a still very relevant description of the real value of literary critics. He also creates I would suggest, in the person of Mr Bludyer, the archetype for the members of Amazon's own Vine Voice review programme.

So, overall it's a pretty bog-standard Victorian novel about the struggles (I use the term loosely) of one of the privileged classes with some nice writing, a bloodless hero, but sufficient other areas of interest to make it worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Readable, 11 April 2013
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This review is from: The History of Pendennis (Kindle Edition)
good read but one sees why Dickens has lasted better. Nice insight into the age, though. Not in the league of Vanity Fair
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3.0 out of 5 stars great book, 28 Nov 2012
By 
Jane Parish "ChiChi" (London) - See all my reviews
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but actual publication was in a bit of a too poor condition so as i read it the pages were falling ot
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining read, 2 Sep 2003
By 
Ganime B. Akin (Istanbul, Turkey) - See all my reviews
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I read this book about 7-8 years ago after I read Vanity Fair. I found it to be a very entertaining book about a foolish young man. This foolish young man goes through several adventures as can be deduced from the title, he neglects his true friends and family because thinks himself of an upper class than them. But in the end he learns the value of true friendship. Yes his greatest enemy is himself!!!
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The History of Pendennis by William Makepeace Thackeray
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