01 June 2011
Book Review: No Name by Wilkie Collins
Like other of Collins' sensation novels No Name takes place on the fringes of propiety. Those ruffled edges of polite society where perfectly moral people teeter on the edge of social oblivion due to some technicality that turns them into pariahs overnight. This is my third Wilkie Collins novel and my fourth sensation novel (Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret) and they all rely heavily on the fact that women had so few independent rights at the time. How awful to be in a position to not be able to earn your living because a man is going to take care of it and then something happens to the man and you left with nothing and no way to do anything about it.
In No Name Magdalen (18) and her sister Norah (22, I think) find out after losing their parents that they are technically illegitimate children and are now destitute thanks to an evil uncle and cousin. So for six hundred pages the plots thicken and thin and then thicken again, the letters fly, and in the end it all comes up roses. Most, of Collins' novels were written as serials so verbal economy is not the order of the day. For anyone who has ever liked a costume drama but wants to read something a little more racy than Jane Austen or Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins is your man.
When looking for an image to include with this post, at the bottom of the tenth page of a Google image search using the terms "no name wilkie collins" one stumbles across a picture of Rachel from Book Snob. That photo led me to Rachel's much more complete (and well written) review.
I have an extra copy of No Name to give away. Just let me know in the comments if you are interested. (US only please, the older Dover edition I have to give away is kind of heavy.)