Staring at a possible hiatus of three weeks in our normal work-life, I am happy to have started rereading a novel I have loved, although not admired in quite the same way as Anna Karenina or Middlemarch – William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.

A brilliant satire on 19th-century British Society, it is also the vehicle for one of the most compelling heroines of Victorian fiction, Rebecca (Becky) Sharp. A socially disadvantaged orphan who schemes, seduces and marries her way into respectable society, Becky stands out as an unabashed iconoclast among the somewhat insipid gallery of 19th century heroines. While breaking every moral rule by which those young women live, Becky Sharp points out, with biting wit, the hollow vanity of their conventions and lifestyles.

Vanity Fair is also a satisfyingly fat book of 655 pages marked by leisurely digressions for which we have loads of patience in these unhurried times.

As a standby, in case I finish Vanity Fair before we are allowed out onto the streets again, I have ordered a paperback copy of a book I have been keen on reading ever since I stumbled on a review of it a couple of years ago – Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. It promises to be a balm for hurt ears, living as we do in the midst of the most irrational and unstoppable verbal output that has ever inflicted itself upon us before.

Shanta Gokhale. Courtesy Renuka Shahane/Twitter.

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