This book is not for everyone (as the next two reviews clearly demonstrate). I first read Vanity Fair in junior high, and at the time I probably would have agreed with the comments of the next two reviews: Vanity Fair seemed slow and plodding, confusing and contradictory. When I recently reread Vanity Fair, I could scarcely believe that this brilliant, ironic, hilarious, and incisive romp was the same book as the dull tome I had remembered. In retrospect I realized why my perspective had changed: in junior high I had read the book superficially and found the plot and characters lacking enough excitement to hold my interest; now I realized that the most captivating action was taking place outside the plot in the interaction between the reader and the most important person in the novel: the narrator. I, like many readers, completely missed this deeper level of meaning the first time around. Thus, to recommend this novel to the unsophiscated, inexperienced reader (such as I had been) would be futile. It takes a keen sense of irony and certain degree of insight into the workings of life and literature to recognize the narrator's vital role and to appreciate this novel in its fullest sense. This book is not an easy read: it forces the reader to confront many difficult moral questions and provides no easy answers. But for those who can handle ambiguity and can detect subtle, yet "laugh out loud" funny humor Vanity Fair is not only a necessary read, but an enjoyable one.
(Note: Buy this edition of Vanity Fair. The illustrations which Thackery drew for this novel greatly enhance the text, and the Norton edition reproduces all of them. In addition, the criticisms which are included make for a thought-provoking read and may help clarify your opinion of the novel).