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Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero (Everyman's Library Classics) Hardcover – 26 Sep 1991

4.3 out of 5 stars 198 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 878 pages
  • Publisher: Everyman; New Ed edition (26 Sept. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1857150120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1857150124
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 13.5 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (198 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 137,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"I do not say there is no character as well drawn in Shakespeare [as D'Artagnan]. I do say there is none that I love so wholly."
--Robert Louis Stevenson
"The lasting and universal popularity of The Three Musketeers shows that Dumas, by artlessly expressing his own nature in the persons of his heroes, was responding to that craving for action, strength and generosity which is a fact in all periods and all places."
--Andree Maurois" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'I think I could be a good woman if I had five thousand a year' Vanity Fair --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
Greed, gold-digging and deception sit at the heart of "Vanity Fair." It's no joke that it's subtitled "a novel without a hero" -- William Makepeace Thackeray mercilessly skewered the pretentions and flaws of the upper class all throughout it. The result is a gloriously witty social satire.

It opens with two young women departing from a ladies' academy: dull, sweet Amelia (rich) and fiery sharp-witted Rebecca (poor). Becky Sharp is a relentless social climber, and her first effort to rise "above her station" is by trying to get Amelia's brother to marry her -- an effort thwarted by Amelia's fiancee. So instead she gets married to another family's second son, Rawdon Crawley.

Unfortunately, both young couples quickly get disinherited and George is killed. But Becky is determined to live the good life she has worked and married for -- she obtains jewels and money from admiring gentlemen, disrupting her marriage. But a little thing like a tarnished reputation isn't enough to keep Becky down...

"Vanity Fair" is actually a lot more complex than that, with dozens of little subplots and complicated character relationships. Reading it a few times is necessary to really absorb all of it, since it is not just a look at the two women in the middle of the book, but at the upper (and sometimes lower) social strata of the nineteenth century.

The main flaw of the book is perhaps that it sprawls too much -- there's always a lot of stuff going on, not to mention a huge cast of characters, and Thackeray sometimes drops the ball when it comes to the supporting characters and their little plots. It takes a lot of patience to absorb all of this. However... it's worth it.
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Format: Paperback
It really is that good. How much you like this book will depend to a large extent on how much you like the Victorian novel. If you like Dickens, the Brontes, Elliot and the like, then you are in for a real treat, because Thackeray is the best of the lot. Less verbose and rambling than Dickens, less sentimental than Elliot, more ironic than the Brontes, Thackeray is a supreme writer of English - ironic, cheerful and pessimistic by turns, sometimes tender and affectionate then cruel and caustic, he maintains a narrative control that invites the reader to share his moral vision of the hypocrisies and absurdities of Victorian England, and the world we all inhabit.

Vanity Fair has that universal quality of the best fiction - it enables you to see the world in a new way. An hour reading this novel is time spent with a true comedian, someone who sees the grotesque, humorous, admirable, cruel, stubborn, heroic, gentle etc reality of the human condition and can tell it in chapters of the best English since Shakespeare.
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Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
You may have read all the other reviews and still be wondering if you should tackle this 800 page Victorian novel. After all, it will involve a lot of reading hours. So let me stress one thing above all else: it is a very funny book. Repeat: it is a very funny book. Not laugh-out-loud gags but page after page of delicious irony as Thackeray dissects the follies of his characters. I chuckled away for weeks and it was a real loss when I finished the final page.
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Format: Paperback
I have just had another go at this classic novel, using the dog-eared Penguin edition that I read 36 years ago. I remember finding it tough going then and this time around I gave up on it. I tried to keep going - twice I gave up but returned to it, but three-fifths of the way through I'd had enough.
Reading the reviews posted here it's clear that VF is very dear to many people and to some extent I can see why - the authorial voice is so intelligent, perceptive and ironic. But the book is very long, rambling and episodic. And while Thackeray starts by being critical of all his characters, a splendid antidote to Victorian sentimentality, he seems to become captivated by the truly awful Amelia, showing increasing sympathy to her as he goes on. There are some chapters that are worthy of Dickens in their slushy embrace of her charms. And I don't really see why readers find Becky so wonderful - she is monumentally selfish!
Well, each to her/his own. I do wonder though how many people will continue to read this novel except as a set text. It creaks so much.
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