Title: Vanity Fair
Author: William Makepeace Thackeray
Narrator: Wanda McCaddon
Published: 1847-8; Pages: 809
Audio Duration: 28 hours; 46 min
In Short: A satirical account of the vanities that consume one’s life–or as Thackeray says: “A Novel without a Hero.”
Why I Read it: Vanity Fair has been on my shelf for years. Don’t judge, but I probably bought it after the Reese Witherspoon movie came out and once upon a time I did read 75 pages or so. When I put it on my Classics Club list, Melissa of Avid Reader’s Musings suggested we co-host a readalong.
Thoughts in General: There are many things that I enjoyed about Vanity Fair. The narrator, also the author, provides a cunning and often biting look at society in the early 1800s–everything from education, to dress, to class, to money, to the wars, and even love. There were many times when I laughed out loud, mostly because the narrator shocked me in some way or other. And while I can’t say that I liked any of the characters, they did amuse me and I found the overall storyline entertaining.
I feel like I should go into more depth about the book, but unfortunately it didn’t win me over like I expected it might. There were definite gems of moments throughout the novel and I did find myself enjoying the reading more than the listening, but there was also a lot of filler in the novel that I didn’t really care to wade through. You know–the critical thinky analytical view of society and the message that Thackeray was providing. In a way I almost feel that these types of books are best when studied rather than read for pleasure–at least in my current state of mind. So, a long paragraph of babbles to tell you that there is probably a ton of depth in this book but honestly I just wanted an entertaining read. Dear reader, please forgive me for my brain mush.
From the Book: “the truth may surely be borne in mind, that the bustle, and triumph, and laughter, and gaiety which Vanity Fair exhibits in public, do not always pursue the performer into private life, and that the most dreary depressions of spirits and dismal repentance sometimes overcome him” (211).
Bottom Line: Stay away from classics on audio (this is note to self). I had the same problem with this one as I did with Bleak House–30 minutes of zoning out before I truly realized that I hadn’t paid attention at all during my commute. With Bleak House I tried to re-read or re-listen to the parts I missed but I just couldn’t bother to make myself with Vanity Fair. Good news is there are less characters than in Bleak House (except those stinkin’ Crawleys) and the story was easier to follow. But, my reading/listening was very cursory. Thus I have no bottom line recommendation for you. I felt “meh” but it was probably the way I experienced the book.
A Note on the Audio: Ignore everything I said in the paragraph above. I really enjoyed Wanda McCaddon’s narration of Vanity Fair. Her pacing was quick and her tone was playful and witty. She reminded me a lot of Isobel Crawley from Downton Abbey–enough that I actually looked it up to see if they were the same actor. Many of the other narrators available for Vanity Fair are male–as is the actual narrator of the book–but I rather enjoyed McCaddon’s performance and would recommend her reading.
And so. It’s tough to write a review when you only half paid attention to the book. Not my favorite classic but I do look forward to finding a film adaption to watch–I’ve heard there’s a good BBC version. A big thank you for those who participated in the #YoureSoVain readalong. I hope you all had fun!
Have you read Vanity Fair? What did you think?