Publisher's Note:  

With an Introduction and Notes by Owen Knowles, University of Hull 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.

Vanity Fair

by William Makepeace Thackeray

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Overall Review:  

Vanity Fair, Thackeray’s classic Victorian novel, follows the lives of two young graduates from Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies in Chiswick, London. Amelia Sedley is the darling of the school and any society she joins, until her father loses his fortune and she is shunned by polite society. Becky Sharp has no such fortunate background, the daughter of a painter she must make her own way in the world, and make it she does in her own scheming ways. Two friends so very unlike, whose lives move apart and then back together throughout the story. One girl is kind and considerate, the other selfish and sly, which will thrive in the ‘Vanity Fair’ that is their society?


The novel is subtitled A Novel without a Hero and this is very apt; all the characters have weaknesses which make them all the more compelling. Thackeray’s omniscient prose is masterful and his satirical views on society make this a worthwhile read as much now as it was in 1847 when it was first published.

Vanity Fair is no quick read, at over 800 pages this is a weighty epic, but the tales of Amelia and Becky will provide an entertaining companion to long autumn or winter evenings.

Content Analysis:  

Profanity/Language:  24 religious exclamations, 9 mild obscenities

Violence/Gore:  A character dies in battle; references to fighting in Napoleonic wars; death of a family member.

Sex/Nudity:  Extra marital affairs are suggested.

Mature Subject Matter:  

War, Marital Infidelity, Socio-economic Conflict, Bankruptancy, Debt

Alcohol / Drug Use:  

There are many dinner parties where wine is served, characters drink beer in a bar.

Reviewed By Ailsa
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