Saturday, March 16, 2013

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery



"Ah! Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? - Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out."

With this line, William Makepeace Thackery concludes Vanity Fair and our #YoureSoVain read-along draws to a close. I actually finished the book with a day to spare, but the drama of one last Big East Tournament (for Syracuse University, anyway) made writing an on-time wrap-up post impossible. So here I am, a day late...

What did I think? The second half definitely had it ups and downs. A couple of chapters were dull to the point of being almost unreadable, but I really  enjoyed this novel.

Thackery's characters, although not especially likable, are wonderful. Becky is a horrid, conniving creature and I disliked her more and more as the novel progressed. I believe she even resorted to murder by the end of this 'history'. Amelia was an insufferable martyr, while her brother Jos played the part of the fool perfectly. All those Crawleys were very entertaining, and Rawdon eventually won my sympathy. As for honest Dobbin... I actually cheered when he finally told off Amelia. Vanity Fair  is truly a novel without a hero.

The narrator is delightful, and may be my favorite part of the novel. I enjoyed his frequent asides - often humorous, sometimes making an example of a character in order to teach a lesson or back a theory, and sometimes posing a question to the reader.
"Oh, be humble, my brother, in your prosperity! Be gentle with those who are less lucky, if not more deserving. Think, what right have you to be scornful, whose virtue is a deficiency of temptation, whose success may be a chance, whose rank may be an ancestor's accident, whose prosperity is very likely a satire." p. 668 
"Which, I wonder, brother reader, is the better lot, to die prosperous and famous, or poor and disappointed? To have, and to be forced to yield; or to sink out of life, having played and lost the game?" p. 710
A note on the audio production:
For the audio portion of this read/listen combo, I chose the Tantor Audio production narrated by Wanda McCaddon. It was outstanding. McCaddon, whose readings of The Seamstress and Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey   recently earned her multiple Audie Award nominations, has an impressive range of voices and accents. I would not hesitate to choose other titles listed among her credits.


My rating:
This is a tough one. Immediately after finishing, I rated Vanity Fair  4/5 stars. After thinking about it for a few days, I'm inclined raise it to 4.5 stars.

Previous posts:
Beginning Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair: Midpoint Check-in

Thank you Trish and Melissa for co-hosting this read-along!


“The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice.” 


20 comments:

  1. Nice review. BTW, it's funny that you have to read The Picture of Dorian Gray for the Classics Spin game now. It's also about vanity... :-D

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    1. Eszter - What a strange coincidence! I hadn't thought about it until now. I know Dorian Gray is your spin book, too - have you started yet?

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  2. I love the idea of a audio/print readalong! I just finished Middlemarch, and I'm thinking now that my first re-reading of it, which I'm already looking forward to, might be the audio version that's in my Audible library. (I haven't let myself listen to it yet.) :)

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    1. Audrey - The print/audio combination is my favorite for long classics. I want to read Middlemarch before too long (it's on my Classics Club list), and am sure I'll turn to the combination approach when the time comes.

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  3. Great review! This is a book that I have wanted to read in a while and I may give this a go next, just to make my mind up about it.

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    1. Spangle - Thanks. Be forewarned, Vanity Fair starts out very slowly... not sure I could have gotten into it without the extra help from the audio!

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  4. Congratulations! I'm still somewhere in the middle of Vanity Fair and I'd love to find an audio version to help me along.

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    1. Fleurfisher - I'm not sure I could have made it through without the help of the audio. Hope you can find a copy.

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  5. Congratulations on finishing! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this in the end. I was cheering Dobbin on as well - that is such a devastating speech. But I find him a little more heroic than you do :)

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    1. Lisa May - Thanks! Dobbin's speech was definitely the high point of the novel. I know he was supposed to seem the most heroic, but his slavish devotion to Amelia just drove me crazy, lol!

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  6. I may have to mix it up like you did so that I can someday get through this novel!!!

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    1. Staci - The read/listen combo is definitely the way to go with Vanity Fair.

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  7. Yes for Dobbin telling Amelia off!! I wanted to cheer too. I listened to the Wanda McCaddon audio as well and thought it was good. Becky is one of the more unique literary characters I've run into. Usually authors feel obligated to make them redeem themselves in the end or they get what they deserve. I was kind of glad that Thackerary didn't do that. I'm glad you joined in the readalong! It was definitely more fun to read with a group.

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    1. Melissa - I don't think I would have read this without the extra push from the group. Thanks so much for co-hosting the read along!

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  8. Glad you enjoyed this one. You make the perfect point also: there is no hero of this novel, just horrid characters.

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    1. Jenny Girl - But those horrid characters are certainly memorable!

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  9. Like so many authors of the time, there were big parts of this book I really, really didn't like. But I must say that I actually loved that Becky never was "redeemed."

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    1. Lisa - Yes, I'm glad Thackery kept her conniving and manipulating until the bitter end!

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  10. Wow!! I think you might have liked this more than Melissa and I put together (and she liked it a lot more than I did). ;) I'm glad that you did. I really enjoyed McCaddon's narration but I had a tough time focusing on the audiobook. However, I'm currently listening to Beautiful Ruins and am really loving the narration. I think classics just don't work for me.

    I really liked the narrator of the actual book as well. I found quite a bit of humor in his asides. Thanks for joining us JoAnn!

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    1. Trish - I really liked Vanity Fair much more than I expected and am sure the audio production is partly responsible. Sometimes I have an easier time reading classics if I listen to the first couple of chapters and get the 'rhythm' down, then I can go back and forth with print/audio. Maybe I'm more of an auditory learner?

      Have heard nothing but raves for Beautiful Ruins, especially the audio. Glad you're loving it!

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