My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The History of Pendennis is the second of Thackeray’s novels that I’ve read, and to my mind not quite as good as Vanity Fair. The central themes are powerful and skillfully woven into the story–namely, that happiness is always flawed and that there is no such thing as perfection–but the characters seem to lack vibrancy and I felt the ending wasn’t as brave as it could have been. Thackeray spends an entire novel building Pen up as a deeply flawed and realistic character, yet in the final chapters his redemption almost seems to happen because Thackeray realised his readers wanted it.
Ultimately this is still a masterpiece of literature, with moments of genuine power and piercing insights into the tragedy of the human condition, but I’ve had to give it 3 stars purely because Vanity Fair is better!