A deliciously satirical attack on a money-mad society, Vanity Fair, which first appeared in 1847, is an immensely moral novel, and an immensely witty one. Called in its subtitle A Novel Without a Hero, Vanity Fair has instead two heroines: the faithful, loyal Amelia Sedley and the beautiful and scheming social climber Becky Sharp. It also engages a huge cast of wonderful supporting characters as the novel spins from Miss Pinkerton’s academy for young ladies to affairs of love and war on the Continent to liaisons in the dazzling ballrooms of London. Thackeray’s forte is the bon mot and it is amply exercised in a novel filled with memorably wicked lines. Lengthy and leisurely in pace, the novel follows the adventures of Becky and Amelia as their fortunes rise and fall, creating a tale of both picaresque and risqué. Thackery mercilessly skewers his society, especially the upper class, poking fun at their shallow values and pointedly jabbing at their hypocritical morals. His weapons, however, are not fire and brimstone but an unerring eye for the absurd and a genius for observation of the foibles of his age. An enduring classic, this great novel is a brilliant study in duplicity and hypocrisy… and a mirror with which to view our own times.
The more I read Thackeray’s works the more certain I am that he stands alone — alone in his sagacity, alone in his truth, alone in his feeling… Thackeray is a Titan. —Charlotte Brontë
Re-reading “Vanity Fair”, one realises what a brilliant innovation this was in the English novel. —V. S. Pritchett
Thackeray’s harshest criticism of humanity is simply the point where ours commences. His perception of self-interest in every act is the ABC of modern psychology. —Louis Auchincloss
Becky Sharp is one of the best bad women in literature... She is deliciously bad in an era when women were not meant to be. —Donna Leon
I am not conscious of being in any way a disciple of his, unless it constitute discipleship to think him, as I suppose the majority of people with any intellect do, on the whole, the most powerful of living novelists. —George Eliot
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