Back in 2007 Vanity Fair was on the reading list for my English Literature degree. I bought the rather sizeable book and put off reading it for as long as I possibly could, somewhat intimidated by its size. However, when I could put off the inevitable no longer, it actually became one of my favourite reads of the entire course, simply because I was so fascinated by the character of Becky Sharp. So, imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this contemporary retelling of Vanity Fair, The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp. Becky was made for the modern world, and Sarra Manning has plucked her from the past and plonked her slap bang into the present where she can truly shine.
Telling the story of Becky Sharp, and her new BFF Amelia Sedley, the novel follows the two very different women as they navigate their lives. Just as in Vanity Fair, Becky is the scene stealer, determined to make her way in the world by whatever means necessary, always in stark contrast to her sensitive, kind friend, Amelia.
I’ve read quite a few heavy, thriller type novels recently as well as having quite a stressful time in my personal life with looming university deadlines and sick children thrown into the mix, and so I really wanted something fun, and I am delighted to report that The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp has delivered fun in abundance! I cannot even tell you how many times I have laughed out loud. Reading it has been a sheer delight.
The author has done a fantastic job of moving a set of characters, retaining their core from the original and setting them against modern day scenarios. For example, instead of meeting at boarding school, Becky and Amelia meet in the Big Brother house. Introducing the characters and seeing them fit so seamlessly into modern day life really made me consider just how timeless the characterisation is, and just how relevant those nineteen century themes still are today, perhaps even more so than they were.
I was initially concerned that Becky would lose something in this retelling, I was especially worried that the author might try and make her something that she never was in the original. She is a character that I know I should hate, but yet actually I rather like her and find myself rooting for her. It’s a very difficult thing to pull off – to make the unlikeable, likeable, but Sarra Manning has done it rather effortlessly.
In a world currently ruled by reboots, I am thrilled that The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, as far as I am concerned, is a complete and utter success! One of my favourite books of this year, which I will be recommending far and wide.
A hilarious contemporary retelling of the classic society novel, VANITY FAIR, featuring the irrepressible Becky Sharp
Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.
Becky Sharp has big dreams and no connections. Determined to swap the gutters of Soho for the glamorous, exclusive world behind the velvet rope, Becky will do anything to achieve fame, riches and status.
Whether it’s seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, or befriending silly debutantes and rich old ladies, Becky Sharp is destined for great things. Because it might be tough at the top but it’s worse at the bottom.
From London to Paris and beyond, Becky Sharp is going places – so get the hell out of her way…
About the Author
Sarra Manning is an author and journalist. Her novels include Unsticky, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me and The House of Secrets.
Sarra has written both adult and YA novels and has contributed to The Guardian, ELLE, Grazia, Stylist, Fabulous, Stella, You Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar and is currently the Literary Editor of Red magazine.
Sarra lives in London.
*Thanks to Netgalley for the e copy of this novel. The choice to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.