Monday, July 30, 2012

Once again, I find myself going head to head with this monster of a novel - the last time being in college, when the novel won the battle.  Our book group chose to watch the movie version for our August meeting. I liked the movie and assumed that I would like the book even more, knowing that the original surely would fill in some details that swept by too quickly in the film version.

What I do remember from my college confrontation is that the title references John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress published in the 1600's.  It was common for writers to tell stories about pilgrims taking an allegorical spiritual journey called a "progress."  Chaucer did it, followed by many others.  In Bunyan's work, the pilgrims stop at a continuous fair in a a town named Vanity where they are supposed to witness the dangers of desiring material possessions.  That's about as far as I got with my study of VF last time...although I think it was some sort of assignment that I may have ended up faking.  Oh well.

Thackeray's style is different than expected.  No stuffiness.  It is readable, and even fluffy at times.  He certainly gives us plenty of opportunity to read between the lines, as each of the flawed characters step up to the plate and proclaim their desires...all driven by vanity.

Many plot lines weave in and out, making it tough for me to keep track of relationships.  And, a father and son have the same name which got me even more confused.  But, the story really belongs to Becky Sharp, the ever conniving social climber who men find alluring.  Most women click their tongues in that old lady judgemental way, but I'm guessing they all regret not being more like her in their youth.  Becky is never anything but honest and transparent in her dealings with men, which makes many of the male character seem a tad silly. 

I'm not far into the book, and to be honest, once again, the book may win the battle.  This beast, including copious footnotes, consumes nearly 1000 pages.  That seems like a life sentence to me.

I'm also trying to make my way through Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.  Trying it for the third time.  The book doesn't grab me in the early pages, and so I set it aside; then a customer comes in and raves about it, and I start again.  This time I might make it through. 

 More next week if I succeed.