Vanity Fair by William Thackeray recommended edition: Norton Critical Edition
Listed as the 14th best novel in Guardian’s 100 Best Novels: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/dec/23/william-thackeray-vanity-fair-100-best-novels (spoiler alert)
From Good Reads reviewer John Purcell :
Make sure that you read William Thackeray’s novel Vanity Fair in public, not in the hope that someone may spot you reading a classic, but so that you may see the characters of this wonderfully perceptive (and prophetic) novel wandering about in the flesh. Vanity Fair is populated not by characters but by real people and thus, will never date.
Thackeray is masterful, he allows his characters the freedom to do as they please; they are autonomous and must make decisions on their own, as must we all. Some choose poorly, and yet succeed. Some choose well and yet are rewarded by misfortune. Some grab and grumble, some laugh and give, some believe they are masters of their own destinies while some are cut down in their prime.
In Vanity Fair Thackeray has captured humanity in the raw – just after getting out of bed and before our first cup of coffee. You will delight in discovering people you know in its pages. You may smile when they reveal themselves as cads, you may cry when those who deserve better are treated cruelly and you may laugh when the frauds get their comeuppance.
But be warned, read Vanity Fair and enjoy the show, but know that somewhere within is pages lurks a soul much like your own, and when you least expect it, maybe when you’re laughing hardest at the foibles of another, you will recognise yourself and be silenced.
For whether you know it or not, we all live in the pages of Vanity Fair.