I just started reading Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero, after watching it drop further and further down on my ‘must read’ list from years of avoiding it. Now I am annoyed I didn’t read it sooner, especially when I was a morose high school student. This novel wields a surprising spell on readers, or at least on me. Despite Thackeray’s bleak depictions of his rather vile characters, the book is uplifting. Perhaps because it’s really funny. I am rooting for Becky Sharp, one of the two main female characters, despite her questionable qualities. She definitely isn’t a hero. (Some have described her as a sociopath, but as Thackeray points out, she is an orphan without a mother plotting on her behalf, so she needs to rely on her wits to get by.) The novel covers the story of Becky and her endless schemes to climb the social ladder. It is big, brilliant and engrossing. The H-L library copy I have is filled with little sketches by Thackeray of emotional scenes, such as pinched-faced characters spying through keyholes and observing shocking scenes of inappropriate marriage proposals. Another drawing shows a disagreeable father scowling in disapproval at the not-quite-upper-class girl his son wants to marry. Looking at these prints makes me feel as if I have another window into the author’s vision for the story.