Friday, March 1, 2013

Vanity Fair: Midpoint Check-In

 

It's March first (already!) and time for our Vanity Fair midpoint check-in. With Trish and Melissa leading the conversation on twitter (#YoureSoVain), the first two weeks of the read-along passed in a flash.

This started out as a read/listen combination for me, but the beginning proved to be slow-going and I switched to the audio format, hoping to pick up the 'rhythm' of narrative. Even that was not without challenges. Chapter 9 brought the introduction of more Crawleys than an entire season of Downton Abbey...and they just kept coming. Eventually the names fell into place, I figured out how they were all related, and began to enjoy the novel.

Vanity Fair seems to be very much a product of its time. Complete with humorous character names (Lady Jane Sheepshanks?!), direct addresses to the reader, and slightly heavy-handed lessons, it feels very Victorian.
"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." chapter 2
Thackery inserts his thoughts on the shallowness of society,
"..a title and a coach and four are toys more precious than happiness in Vanity Fair..." p. 93
and made me laugh out loud with multiple references to male facial hair.
"And his whiskers had begun to do their work, and to curl themselves round the affections of Miss Swartz." p. 235
And how about this gem:
"Be cautious, then, young ladies: be wary how you engage. Be shy of loving frankly; never tell all you feel, or (a better way still), feel very little. See the consequences of being prematurely honest and confiding, and mistrust yourself and everybody. Get yourselves married as they do in France, where the lawyers are the bridesmaids and confidantes. At any rate, never have any feelings which may make you uncomfortable, or make any promises which you cannot at any required moment command and withdraw. That is the way to get on, and be respected, and have a virtuous character in Vanity Fair." p. 201
As for the characters, I'm not particularly fond of any of them, but they certainly are entertaining. My opinion of Becky has flip-flopped several times, but the author frequently justifies her actions.
"Who can but admire this quality of gratitude in an unprotected orphan; and, if there entered some degree of selfishness into her calculations, who can but say that her prudence was perfectly justifiable?" p.100
[SPOILER ALERT]
Amelia is nothing but a doormat. Dobin may be honest, but seems slightly pathetic in his slavish devotion to Amelia. Jos Sedley provides plenty of comic relief, and George Osborne, while there was a moment or two when I almost liked him, is vain and self-centered (good riddance). And then there is Rawdon Crawley...

I know I'm missing quite a few cultural/historic/mythological references, but it doesn't seem to be hampering my understanding. Still, I can't help but wonder how much cleverer Thackery would seem if I understood them.

Overall,  midway through Vanity Fair, I am mostly surprised - not only because I'm keeping up with the reading schedule, but also by how much I'm enjoying it. The big question for the next two weeks... can I maintain this pace?




14 comments:

  1. Yep, there is a great lot of Crawleys in that book :)) I completely agree on both Amelia and Dobbin. Dobbin is definitely the most likable out of the bunch, but more like in I-pity-you kind of way rather than I-admire-you kind of way.

    I'm glad you like Vanity Fair, I had problems finishing it (mainly lack of dedication to stick to the novel), but the more I look back, the more I like the whole novel and its concept/message/writing/humour/etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Riv - This is actually my second attempt at Vanity Fair. I started reading it with a Yahoo group years ago, fell behind, and got discouraged. I'm really enjoying it this time though. Thanks for visiting - it's nice to meet you :-)

      Delete
  2. Ugh, Amelia IS a doormat. I think that's why I kind of hate her and like Becky a lot more.

    And I really liked that quote from Ch. 2 :-) I meant to put some of my favorite quotes in my post, but I forgot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sarah - I love that quote from chapter 2, too. Jeanne made a comment on Melissa's post:
      "The delightful thing about Becky is that she's always only doing what she's learned from watching Amelia and the other members of the "upper" class. She is a mirror for them, but can they see that?"
      I think that says it perfectly!

      Delete
  3. I think it will only continue to pick up from here! Especially since most of the characters are set up and playing their charades together. I've had some troubles with paying attention to the details on the audio but when I pick up the book I find all sorts of passages to check and star. I'm loving the author's sidenotes. And I agree about Dobbin--he's quite sweet and gentlemanly but I think with these players he's going to have to step up a bit if he wants any type of true happiness. So glad you're enjoying it JoAnn! I was afraid of the quick timetable as well but so far so good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trish - I have VERY high hopes for the second half of the book - what a great story! Guess it takes a read-along to get me to tackle these long books :-)

      Delete
  4. Crawleys, Crawleys everywhere! I love the quotes you have highlighted and almost feel an urge to reread everything sooner rather than later because I feel like I'm missing some of the cleverness and beauty by listening to the audio. Oh well, books are meant to be studied time and time again! Looking forward to your thoughts once the book is complete.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brooke - I'm primarily listening too, but have an old paperback copy that I try to look at after every few chapters. Think I'd be struggling with print alone...

      Delete
  5. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it. I struggled a bit with the early chapters, but then found myself truly hooked - at least by the time Becky went as governess to the Crawleys.

    I found two Thackeray novels last night at a used-book store. I don't know anything about them, but I so rarely see any of his besides Vanity Fair that I bought them straight off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa May - I struggled for the first several chapters (8 or 9?), but then seemed to start enjoying it. Now I look forward to picking it up, or listening, every day. Don't think I've even heard of any other Thackery novels - will be curious to hear about your finds!

      Delete
  6. I'm so glad that you're enjoying this one. I have it but honestly, I am intimidated by it. I don't think I have the attention to devote to this story but one day I hope too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Staci - The beginning was a slog.. might want to save it for a time when you feel up to the challenge ;-)

      Delete
  7. Loved reading the quotes--it is surprising how funny Thackeray can be. Who knew, looking at his picture, that he could be so wry. If you're frustrated with Amelia and Dobbin now, just wait!

    Crawley is a hero, in my estimation. Such a sweet man, and so abused.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Rawdon is by far my favorite of this lot...can't imagine what Thackery could have in store that would make me more frustrated with Amelia and Dobbin. Heading to NYC this weekend, so will have plenty of audio time in the car!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails