William Makepeace 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 both picaresque and risque. Thackeray 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 observing 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.
Vanity Fair is the very definition of "bon mots" (witty remarks or clever observations). But who am I to praise Thackeray? Let me stand politely to one side for Charlotte Bronte who, as reported by her biographer Elizabeth Claghorn Gaskel, "was thankful for the opportunity of expressing her high admiration of a writer, whom, as she says, she regarded 'as the social regenerator of his day--as the very master of that working corps who would restore to rectitude the warped state of things. . . .His wit is bright, his humour (sic) attractive, but both bear the same relation to his serious genius, that the mere lambent sheet-lightning, playing under the edge of the summer cloud, does to the electric death-spark hid in its womb.'"
I forgot when Vanity Fair was written but if one changes a few details here and there, it is just as fresh as the latest Drudge Report. This is a satisfying work at every level with treachery and betrayal side by side with love eternal and tender. Thackeray leads a body around by the nose. He takes total control, making one see things his way. He is a master, funny, razor sharp and spot on.
This splendid book was masterfully performed by Wanda McCaddon. I am struck with the consistent presentation for the 28-30 hours it took to complete the recording. It must have taken several weeks. My hat is off to the lady. She must have been absolutely exhausted at the end.
For me, audio books are emotionally draining in a way that the printed word has never been. It is the difference between reading Shakespeare and experiencing a performance of Shakespeare. I am constantly learning things I missed when I only read the work. I think the difference with the audio book version is there are three brains involved: the author, narrator and listener.
I love the classics. I've listened to almost 100 books, most of them classics. I know Vanity Fair is considered a classic, and as I've not read anything else by Thackeray, I thought I'd give this a try.
I had to get used to how Thackeray wrote -- it's like he's talking with the reader. His ramblings made the story somewhat longer than it had to be.
This story laughs at the ridiculousness of the upper classes -- their ignorance, their greed, their falseness.
The main characters are Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley. Neither one is very likable. Becky is a user and out to get whatever she can from whomever she meets. Amelia is a nice but simple-minded girl who never stands up for herself.
Becky gets far by using the upper classes to gain popularity though she has no money and constantly performs theft of services. Amelia gets nowhere by being herself and not seeing the true character of the people around her.
Amelia is loved by Dobbin, who waits years for her to return his affections. She is too in love with the memory of her dead husband to see the man her husband truly was, or to see the man she could have in Dobbin.
Overall, the story was often frustrating, perhaps because while it reflects the character of people from the 1850's, it also reflects the people of today. How many financial scandals have there been lately? And aren't people famous today simply as a circumstance, and not for any true value they give to society?
The narrator was excellent, each character had its own voice. The story was good in that you learned a lot about history (Waterloo and that time period), The characters were interesting and frustrating.
It was funny, but way too long. Too much parody, however I did like the characters.
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