Monday, June 29, 2015

Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

Totally not the edition I read. Mine doesn't even
have an ISBN because it's from like 1965.
I've loved Vanity Fair for a long time now. My introduction to it came in the form of the BBC's 1998 mini-series, which I immediately fell in love with. Natasha Little was perfect as Becky Sharp, and everything about it was basically brilliant.

At some point, I studied it?? I'm not sure if it was for Literature in year 11 or 12, or if it was first year university. Honestly, the only reason I remember that I studied it is because my copy (which is technically my mum's copy) still has some of my incredibly helpful notes in it:

I've read the book three or four times now, and I love it a little bit more every time I read it. Becky is a fabulous anti-heroine. Despite being incredibly manipulative and conniving and out to get whatever she can for herself, she somehow manages to be almost likeable and you find yourself appreciating the somewhat insane lengths that she'll go to. That said, the way she treats her son is fairly horrific, and it's understandable that a lot of people find that unforgivable.

The story that would traditionally be the centre of any classic novel - that of Emmy and Dobbin - is, in Thackeray's hands, somewhat foolish. Dobbin spends fifteen years pining away over his dead best friend's widow, rushing from India to England when a letter from his sister says that Emmy might marry someone else. And yet, it still takes another three years for anything to happen.

Emmy, similarly, is portrayed as simpering and ridiculous, seeing George as an angel, a martyr in Heaven. She prays before his picture every night, when in reality George was a philandering, gambling scumbag who only thought of himself and only married Emmy because Dobbin pushed him into it.

Thackeray is incredibly cynical and sarcastic throughout, with the authorial voice cutting into the story time and time again. And it's BRILLIANT. He mocks society throughout the whole eight hundred odd pages, He mocks the elite and how easily they fall from grace. He mocks polite society for refusing to see what's right in front of its face. He mocks poor Jos Sedley from start to finish. He mocks practically every character he created, and I loved every single second of it.

It's definitely one of my favourite classic novels, and I'm incredibly glad I took the time to reread it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to rewatch the mini-series.

Have you read it? What did you think??

K xx

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