Barry Lyndon, first serialized in 1844, is a swashbuckling romp through the aristocratic Europe of the 18th century. The central character, a roguish Irishman, narrates most of the story in the first person, relating his adventures as a soldier in both the British and Prussian armies; as a gambler and confidence man under the guidance of his uncle, a practiced fraud; and as a fortune hunting gigolo in search of wealthy widows and heiresses. Although Barry is a most unsavory character, he is not without his charms.
Barry Lyndon represented a new kind of fiction: the novel without a hero. (Thackeray would later expand these ideas in his most popular novel, Vanity Fair.) The story contains Thackeray's best plot development and contains some of the best prose he ever wrote. Many listeners will hear an echo of Henry Fielding in this magnificent story, though Thackeray's belief that chance was the most overriding factor in most men's fortunes was definitely at odds with the philosophy of his predecessor. Barry Lyndon is a stirring narrative delivered in a rip-roaring whirlwind of a novel.