Sunday, August 7, 2011

Frankly, Rebecca

As I mentioned in the last post, once I realized how similar Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray was to Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, I liked it much better.  After I blogged, I googled a little and found that other people had also seen the similarities.  My favorite was a poster who said that Vanity Fair "must have been Margaret Mitchell's very favorite book."  I think that's a great way to phrase it.  Mitchell clearly didn't steal the story from Thackeray, but some of the characters share traits, and the story has a similar tone.  I laughed out loud in chapter 37 when Rebecca said "fiddlededee!", reminding me of Scarlett.

One difference in the writing of Vanity Fair and Gone with the Wind is that Thackeray relies heavily on a narrator who carries the story along.  This narrator is so interwoven in the story, that at first I was comparing him to Burl Ives in "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer".  Once I stopped thinking of the narrator as a kindly but intrusive old man, and started thinking of him as my sassy gay friend, I felt more comfortable with him.  Specifically, I imagined Cam from "Modern Family" as the narrator, and then spent a great deal of time debating whether Gloria or Claire should be Rebecca.  Ultimately, I decided Claire.

Vanity Fair is the story of the Sedley Family, the Crawley Family, William Dobbins and Rebecca Sharp, and their trials and tribulations from roughly 1814 through 1840.  It details Rebecca's social climbing, and the decline of old families, as their patriarchs make questionable decisions and the money passes through generations.  It is a story of loving the memory of a person, even when the person in life was not all that lovable, with an overarching theme of the preservation of honor and family ties. 

Vanity Fair is a great story.  I think that what I liked best about it is that it ended as it should have, with no shocking surprises.  It was just a nice, satisfying ending.  Amelia showed a touch of strength when it was really needed, and likewise, Rebecca showed a touch of kindness, even if it was self serving.  Thackeray declares Vanity Fair to be "A Novel Without a Hero" in its subtitle.  I have to disagree with him here.  Although the acts of heroism were not action packed,  a couple of the characters showed themselves to be heros in the end.

All told, if you loved Gone with the Wind, Vanity Fair just might become your new very favorite book.

Next up:  The Fig Eater by Jody Shields

Next up on CD:  The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb

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