This is a cheeky contemporary retelling of William Thackeray’s 1847 novel Vanity Fair. It’s a lot of fun and you don’t need to be familiar with the original to enjoy this rags-to-riches tale of frenemies and ruthless ambition.
The story begins with naive posh girl Amelia Sedley and the scheming social climber Becky Sharp being best friends on the Big Brother TV show. Becky is from humble origins and has little education but she’s determined to be successful by any means possible. She deceives and preys upon other people to claw her way into the upper crust, but the higher she climbs, the more precarious her position. Becky is likeable because although she’s not a nice person at all, she’s sharp (matching her name), smart at scheming and basically unstoppable.
Don’t be fooled by the book’s ‘chick lit’ packaging – the story is an incisive exploration of fame, the struggles of women to gain power in society and the measures of success in our celebrity-obsessed, Instagram-sponsored, sidebar-of-shame era. It’s also very funny. The humour was shocking at times. The only element I wasn’t keen on was the frequent name-dropping of brands and celebrities. It got a little tiresome.
I confess to not being a great fan of Vanity Fair, but with the story condensed and the most interesting bits brought into focus, it becomes a hilarious and irresistible read.
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp was first published in 2018.