Set against the background of the Napoleonic wars, Vanity Fair
follows the contrasting fortunes of two young women, Amelia Sedley and Becky Sharp, who go out into the world together, but whose lives take very different courses. The sensitive Amelia begins with every social advantage and the prospect of a good marriage, but war and sudden drastic decline in her family's circumstances dash all her hopes; while Becky, a drawing master's daughter with only her wits to rely on, embarks on a campaign to launch herself into society, marries Rawdon Crawley, an aristocratic rake, on an impulse, and begins a giddy social whirl on "nothing a year" and an ocean of debt. Thackeray's "novel without a hero" is a lively satirical journey through English society, exposing greed, snobbery, and pretension.
© William Thackeray; (P)1994 HarperCollins UK