Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Classics Spin: No Name - Wilkie Collins

I was pretty damned excited last month when the Classics Club Spin came up with #1, because it meant I got to read more Wilkie Collins. And Wilkie is one of my absolute favourite Victorian authors. (Course, I was also excited because it means I can continue to procrastinate over reading Heart of Darkness. Which just means that the spin result was a double win)

The edition above, I should mention, isn't the edition that I read. No, I - poor, underemployed person that I am - read the free Kindle version. Lord knows what little pearls of wisdom I missed out on by not having endnotes! SIGH.


No Name tells the story of the Vanstone sisters, who find themselves disinherited when they discover under tragic circumstances that they're illegitimate. Unlike many of Collins' other works, including The Moonstone and The Woman in White, the big reveal happens quite early on. The rest of the book is dedicated to how the two sisters handle the loss of their substantial inheritance, though we focus primarily on the younger sister, Magdalene.

The story, though sensationalist at the time, has far less of the supernatural style elements that his other work tends towards. So in The Moonstone, we have mysterious hypnosis and death by quicksand. In The Woman in White, we have mysterious lookalikes and deep dark secrets that must be taken to the grave. Here, however, we just have a very determined young lady assisted by some quasi-relatives with dubious morals.

And holy mackerel, is Magdalene determined. Homegirl is in dire need of a sassy gay friend to talk through things with, because WOW.
As is always the case with Wilkie Collins novels, the characters were absolutely phenomenal. While there were numerous occasions when I wanted to sit Magdalene down with a cocktail and a "Girl, no" conversation, you still have to admire the strength with which she stands by her convictions. Mrs. Lecount is the height of sneaky creeptastic-ness. Captain Wragge lives firmly in the grey zones between right and wrong. There are moments throughout when you can see that underneath all his schemes, he knows when to do the right thing. But he also knows when to take advantage of people and how to twist them around his little finger.

Mrs. Wragge is just in desperate need of a hug. Miss Garth is supportive no matter what. Frank Clare is a jerky mcjerkface and I really wish it was possible to punch fictional characters in the face, because that's what he deserves. And Noel Vanstone, weak and easily manipulated, deserves much the same.

I loved the way the story unfolds through specific scenes at very different locations, which are interspersed with letters written between the characters. The writing was great, and the whole thing gave a fantastic sense of how dependent Victorian women were on their male relatives. While it definitely wasn't my favourite Wilkie Collins novel - it's a LITTLE longer than was absolutely necessary, probably because it was serialised and Magdalen, as I said, got a little bit much to deal with at times - it's definitely well worth the read.

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

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