Vanity Fair, set in the second decade of the 19th century, deals mainly with the tangled fortunes of two contrasting women: Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp. The latter, a devious adventuress, beautiful and clever, is one of the wickedest and most appealing women in all of literature; perhaps the most memorable character Thackeray ever created, with the exception of Barry Lyndon.
Subtitled “A Novel Without a Hero,” the novel is deliberately antiheroic, a wonderfully satirical panorama of upper-middle-class life and manners in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Thackeray confessed that his object was to “indicate that we are for the most part foolish and selfish people all eager after vanities.”
Vanity Fair is Thackeray's masterpiece, full of scandal, fraud, deceit, extramarital complications, and murder, and to this day is considered a treasured work of English literature; a luxurious soap opera, a Sex in the City for the 1800s. It captured a worldwide reading public, and propelled Thackeray to lasting fame.
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY (1811-1863) was an 19th century English novelist famous for his brilliant satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a sardonic portrait of English society, and Barry Lyndon, a novel about a rascal’s rise and fall. Today he is esteemed by many as second only to the immortal Charles Dickens in his mastery of the modern novel.