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15 November 2009 @ 09:46 pm
Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray

I last tried reading this book in 2001. I can be that exact because I was using a one pound Book Week token from 2001 as a bookmark. It's fascinating to see how my tastes have changed; I gave up on it originally because the romance wasn't nice enough and I discovered the 'Book without a Hero' tagline, which rent my little teenage soul.

Clearly, my idea of a hero and Thackeray's are vastly different. Dobbin is one hundred percent hero, and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Becky and Amelia, on the other hand, are not heroines. They're just people, and interesting by virtue of their very normalness.

My version cost five pounds - the sticker was still on it. Fancy getting a 700-page book for a fiver these days! However, the concession came in that the references were so crap - maybe because the dude who did them has been dead himself any time these fifty years. I am not up to speed on my eighteenth-century and prior history, so I could seriously do with some pointers.

Aspects I didn't like about the book: that it seemed as if Becky was mainly 'evil' because she didn't fancy being a mother-figure; that a lot of the interesting action, like the meeting between Becky and Steynes, happened offscreen; that the families were so utterly confusing. I'm not sure why that was, except in the case of the Crawleys, who were ALL CALLED PITT. Undoubtedly that happened all the time IRL, but for the sake of literature and the mind of his readers Willy could have changed it up a bit.

And oh, what a mercy it is that these women do not exercise their powers oftener! We can't resist them, if they do. Let them show ever so little inclination, and med go down on their knees at once; old or ugly, it is all the same. And this I set down as a positive truth. A woman with fair opportunities, and without an absolute hump, may marry WHOM SHE LIKES. Only let us be thankful that the darlings are like the beasts of the fields, and don't know their own power. They would overcome us entirely if they did.

I actually agree with this ... mind you, it only tends to work if you're utterly uninterested in the man in question.

Some cynical Frenchman has said that there are two parties to a love transaction: the one who loves, and the other who condescends to be so treated.

I think that's where I gave up in 2001. My sixteen-year-old self was not yet so cynically finished as to appreciate it.

William Dobbin, who was personally of so complying a disposition, that if his parents had pressed him much, it is probable he would have stepped down into the kichen and married the cook, and who to further his own interests, would have found the most insuperable difficulty in walking across the street, found himself as busy and eager in the conduct of George Osborne's affairs, as the most selfish tactician could be in the pursuit of his own.

It was at this point I realised Dobbin was a hero, AWIGHT BITCHES?

... when Rebecca, having caught her friend's eye, performed the little handkissing operation once more, Mrs Major O'D, taking the compliment to herself, returned the salute with a gracious smile, which sent that unfortunate Dobbin shrieking out of the box again.

After Dobbin, Mrs Major O'Dowd is my favourite. Also, please to note that Dobbin is the only one in the book to exhibit a sense of humour. Becky, reputedly so witty, takes a leaf out of Ginny Weasley’s book – we never actually SEE it.

Centuries hence, we French and Englishmen might be boasting and killing each other still, carrying out bravely the Devil's code of honour.

I found this extremely weird in light of the military landscape of the twentieth century.

... and went, ith the landlord's little girl, who was rather a favourite with Amelia, by the name of Major Sugarplums.


"Poor Becky, poor Becky!" said Emmy. "How thankful, how thankful I ought to be'; (though I doubt whether that practice of piety inculcated upon us by our womankind in early youth, namely, to be thankful because we are better off than somebody else, be a very rational religious exercise)

DOINT. I do this all the time - it's not actually very meritorious, now I come to think of it.

You wanted lols? You got 'em.

"[...] What would you feel, if a man were faithless to you?"
"I should perish - I should throw myself out of the window - I should take poison - I should pine and die. I know I should," Miss cried, who had nevertheless gone through one or two affairs of the heart without any idea of suicide.

Whenever Mrs Rawdon wished to be particularly humble and virtuous, this little shirt used to come out of her workbox. It had got to be too small for Rawdon long before it was finished.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope |The Bostonians, Henry James | ♥ For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway | ♥ For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger | The Outsider, Albert Camus | The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot | The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope | Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans | Villette, Charlotte Bronte | The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James | The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler | Cecilia, Fanny Burney | ♥ The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger | The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark | Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut | ♥ Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann | Siddhartha, Herman Hesse | The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga | The Duke and I, Julia Quinn | Brave New World, Aldous Huxley | North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell | Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee | Catch-22, Joseph Heller | ♥ Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey | Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck | The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan | ♥ The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton | jPod, Douglas Coupland | 'Are these my basoomas I see before me?', Louise Rennison | Faro's Daughter, Georgette Heyer | Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman | The Accidental Sorcerer, K.E. Mills | ♥ Ethan of Athos, Lois McMaster Bujold | V., Thomas Pynchon | The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway | ♥ The Dragon Keeper, Robin Hobb | Orlando, Virginia Woolf | The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath | Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk | Crush, Richard Siken | Trust Me, I'm a Junior Doctor, Max Pemberton | The Dice Man, Luke Rhinehart | ♥ Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman | Young Miles, Lois McMaster Bujold | He's Just Not That Into You, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo | The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand | A Classical Education, Caroline Taggart | The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope | Two Cures for Love, Wendy Cope | Unseen Academicals, Terry Prachett | Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand | Diary, Chuck Palahniuk
Current Mood: boredbored
Current Music: graduation song // vitamin c
Blindmouse: Alice readingblindmouse on November 17th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
You make me feel as though I ought to reread this. I liked it in a mild sort of way when I was a teenager, but mostly I think I felt virtuous for finishing it. I know I didn´t like any of the characters especially, although I liked Becky best, and wished she had a better ending.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: b&w kissesscoradh on November 19th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC)
Virtuous for finishing it! lol contradiction in terms. But therein, I think, lies this book's greatest fault - it proports to represent the horrific vanity and deceit that abounded in this era, but it comes off as no worse than any other time, and maybe even better.

Becky was certainly happy with how her life turned out, which is probably the best ending. I'm sure contemporary critics didn't see it that way, though!
Blindmouseblindmouse on November 19th, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
Do you think Becky was happy? She despised Whatshisname, Amelia´s brother, and didn´t she resent him for not marrying her?
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on November 19th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)
She enjoyed her success when she got it, and enjoyed the life of a vagabond when she tired of the other. She got a possibly better marriage out of Rawdon and ended up blackmailing Jos into giving her his fortune in the end. Not bad?