Well, it’s been a marathon and after several stop-start attempts last year (and sadly languishing by my bedside for most of the year), I finally dived right into Vanity Fair and I’m on the home stretch. It’s a mammoth of a book so here are some of my impressions:
- It’s epic. I don’t mean the size of the book but the story. We follow the two lead characters, Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, from the moment of their graduation from Miss Pinkerton’s finishing school and their rise and fall through life and society.
- William Thackeray really meant it when he subtitled the novel with “a novel without a hero”. There really isn’t one, no matter how virtuous a character may seem. While this doesn’t mean that every character is a villain, it means that no character merits the label of ‘hero’ (or ‘heroine’, I suppose). Well, not yet. That might change yet at the end of the novel.
- Vanity Fair resides in us all – we blind ourselves with our own pain, troubles, trial and tribulations. That is not a bad thing – it is simply human nature, our means of survival, which are all exaggerated (slightly) in the novel.
- The soldiers featured in the novel actually do have to go and fight! I’ve read some regency novels where soldiers feature (such as Pride and Prejudice), having purchased their places by their rich fathers, but who then simply lie around chasing girls. Imagine my surprise when they are called to arms and commanded to go off to Waterloo for battle.
- I adore Becky Sharp.