22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A Mammoth But Brilliant Read,
This review is from: Vanity Fair (Penguin Popular Classics) (Paperback)
As some of the other reviewers have already stated, the text in this edition of Vanity Fair is very small, so for those who may struggle with such small text I would advise you to buy a different edition. However, if this is not a problem for you then this £2 Penguin classics edition is a bargain for such a mammoth novel. I have been thinking of reading Vanity Fair for some time but have been put off in the past by the sheer length(this edition being approx 650 pages of very small text!), but having some time off work sick I thought I would take the plunge and finally read it. I am so glad I did.
Thackeray's most successful novel is truly an epic saga of the intertwining lives of two schoolgirls and their acquaintances. I wont summerise the story here as others have already done so, and I wouldnt want to spoil it for the reader. Suffice it to say that the story is compelling and gripping from the start. The story is of course complex, given the length of the book, but Thackeray succeeds in drawing together all the strands very successfully although there are one or two characters I would have loved to see more of. The story is easy to follow but not predictable in the way literature can sometimes be, making this a real page turner.
Being a Regency period novel, the language can take a little bit of getting used to, especially if you are new to 19th century literature. However, it is worth persisting with it as once you get used to it the prose is beautifully composed and the story fascinating. My only criticism of the novel would be that sometimes Thackeray seems to go off on a tangent which is not necessary for the story and prolongs the novel by perhaps 30-40 pages too many. However, this is far outweighed by the quality of the story and the characters within. Thackeray is willing to tackle subjects other writers of this period rather gloss over, such as infidelity and murder, which means the novel is still suitable for more modern tastes.
The characterisation is probably, however, the strongest element of the book. Becky Sharpe in particular is a masterpiece of characterisation in all literature - a truly memorable character, and not just a soft, flighty or love obsessed creature like many of the female characters in literature of this period. The subtitle of the book - A Novel Without A Hero - is very apt as none of the characters are wholly likeable and without flaw, but nonetheless Thackeray still succeeds in making you care, and even like, these less than perfect individuals. The characters, even those more peripheral to the story, leap off the page and I had no problem imagining them and joining their world.
If you are thinking of reading Vanity Fair I would strongly recommend you do so - it is a memorable novel which will stay with me throughout life as one of my all time favourites.