Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - Book Review #129

Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Vanity Fair
by William Makepeace Thackeray
Vanity Fair is a story of two heroines—one humble, the other a scheming social climber—who meet in boarding school and embark on markedly different lives. Amid the swirl of London's posh ballrooms and affairs of love and war, their fortunes rise and fall. Through it all, Thackeray lampoons the shallow values of his society, reserving the most pointed barbs for the upper crust. What results is a prescient look at the dogged pursuit of wealth and status—and the need for humility.

Long before television, long before TV sets, even long before electrification there was love and demand for soap operas; and so they existed. They existed in the form of serialized novels that were published in parts every month. Authors were paid by the word and in many cases didn’t know how or when they will finish a story. Vanity Fair, in my opinion, is a good example of such Victorian soap opera. At least the feeling of soap opera didn’t leave me for a moment while I was reading it.

It took me two weeks to read the first half of Vanity Fair and after that, three months to convince myself to finish it. Like a classic soap operas it had a lot of repetitions, not direct, but in a form of variations. Also, like soap operas it had too much of air time (words, pages) for not too much story. Vanity Fair is too wordy and not for its own good. In my opinion, the plot of the book can be easily fit into tree hundred pages and Thackeray wrote nine hundred.

However, there were some things that I liked about Vanity Fair. Becky Sharp was one of these. She was certainly a refreshing and unusual heroine (or should I say anti-heroine) for a Victorian novel. She distantly reminded me of Scarlett O’Hara. Same as Scarlett, Becky was ready for anything to get what she wanted. Such determination combined with smartness, never leaves me insensitive. There were some really funny moments in Vanity Fair, which was another thing I liked about it. One of the funny moments is when old Sir Pitt Crawley proposes to Becky, however she has to decline, because she is already secretly married to his younger son - Rawdon Crawley and how Becky regrets it, because if she would marry Sir Pitt Crawley she would have became a wife of baronet. It was also very funny how at the end Becky uses her son, that she never cared about to get to Amelia Sedley. And there were some other funny moments… However, I will stop at this, because it is not my intention to retell the whole Vanity Fair in here.

Unfortunately, despite the things that I liked about Vanity Fair, there was one thought that I kept coming back to while reading: “What a drag and when is it going to end?” I am usually not bored by novels written a century, two or more ago. I do not require action to be entertained. However, the lack of action and bunch of unnecessary information are two different things and Vanity Fair was full of the latest. I guess I’m one of the people that do not like neither televisionalized not novelized soap operas.


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