Book Review: Becky


Becky Sharp is determined. Determined to get away from the dead-end town where she grew up, determined to make a place for herself in high society and determined to reach the top of the career ladder. And she doesn’t care how many lives she ruins in the process.

Set in 90s tabloid era London, Becky charts the rise and fall of a very modern heroine as she inveigles her way into the highest society, where tabloid millionaires mingle and trade favours and fortunes with royalty and aristocracy, pushes her way up through the ranks at the Mercury newspaper with manipulative scoop after scoop, and eventually orchestrates her own dramatic downfall. These are some of the biggest news stories and scandals of the last few decades, and Becky seems to have something to do with every one of them…


I love an anti-hero and Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair has always been one of my favourites. In Becky, Sarah May brings Thackeray’s character into the 20th century, placing her amongst the 90s tabloids where scandal and society fill the pages.

Retellings can be hit and miss, but journalism is the perfect place for Becky to be. Her feisty and ambitious nature thrives, and her penchant for gossip is applauded, rather than frowned upon. May writes well, immersing readers into the 1990s and reminding them of all of the shocking events that took place. Journalism is a career I considered at one point, but after reading this I don’t think I’m ruthless enough! Becky is a strong, independent woman for sure, but she’s also tenacious, selfish and – at times – heartless. She manipulates everyone; any friendships she makes are purely there to advance her to the next step of the career ladder, so once they have served their purpose… she drops them without a second thought.

Yet this made me warm to her, because underneath there’s a slight vulnerability. Her childhood was hard and it is that experience that fuels her determination to succeed. Her career takes precedent over everything, even when she becomes a mother herself. This is admirable in some ways, yet sad; many of us can relate to the struggles of balancing work and family, but in the 1990s, women were (for the most part) still expected to stay at home and look after the house and the children. Although we like to think things have changed, we are a still a long way off true inclusivity, especially in certain, more ‘cutthroat’ industries.

The book’s pace is fast, moving ahead in time rapidly, but maintaining a sense of flow. It’s also gripping, with real-life scandals entwined amongst the fiction; these work well, particularly the lives of socialites and the demons they try to hide, only to have them brutally exposed in print for the world to see.

Darkly funny, Becky is a gripping, fascinating insight into the cruel world of journalism, and although it is an excellent take on Vanity Fair, it stands up in its own right.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks to Picador and Book Break for my proof and finished copy. Opinions my own.

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