I finished Vanity Fair last night at about 1am, getting to the last page in a state of shock. This morning I wrote the following review for Goodreads.
Novels originally developed from morality tracts designed to teach readers right from wrong. In its own beautifully twisted way, Vanity Fair follows in this tradition. The title of the book derives from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, an allegorical Christian journey leading from worldly sin to heavenly virtue. The difference with Vanity Fair is that when readers take its moral journey, they climb aboard a white knuckle roller coaster, with crazy loops showing up where down should be. The story’s virtuous characters find their good intentions leading to bad ends, while the vices of darker characters can ironically work to bring about good outcomes. Make no mistake, this novel is unflinching. People of a sentimental bent may feel that everyone always deserves the kindness of a second or third chance. Well if you think that, read Vanity Fair. The portrayal of Rebecca will put you right, and persuade you that occasionally a person comes along who is constitutionally without empathy, who enjoys manipulation for the sake of it, and is adept at hiding their nature by aping the appearance of respectability. To someone like Rebecca, the quality of seeing the best in everyone is a weakness to be exploited. Reader beware.