Thackeray's Universe offers an engaging look into the life, world, and works of one of the greatest Victorian novelists. As Catherine Peters notes, Thackeray insisted on the idea of art as a by-product of life; the twentieth-century critical theories proposing a complete schism between writer and work would have been inconceivable to him. Arguing that both views can lead to serious distortions, Peters seeks to strike a balance between the two. Thus she examines how Thackeray constantly mined his own life (which was marked by repeated tragedies and setbacks) for the raw materials of his novels, while at the same time she shows that "the finished work is a work of art, and not a covert autobiography." She offers a compelling portrait of Thackeray's early childhood and schooling, his friendships and his marriage, and his work for Fraser's Monthly and Punch. She devotes entire chapters to his masterworks Vanity Fair, Pendennis, and Esmond and also draws illuminating comparisons between Thackeray's approach to writing fiction and that of his great contemporary, Dickens. The book is profusely illustrated with many of Thackeray's own drawings, which are interspersed throughout the text and add greatly to its charm and appeal.