Monday, November 24, 2008

No Name by Wilkie Collins

I finished it last night. I found it engaging but not engrossing. There were items when it downright dragged. I can't help but think that it is a pity Magdalen and Lydia Gwilt were not combined to make one character.

Magdalen's motivation and Lydia's drive would have made for fantastic reading, and there are far more direct looks at Lydia's thoughts and struggles than their are into Magdalen's. The latter's struggles tend to be confined to vague statements like "That night, the struggle between Good and Evil was fought once more within her," a sad contrast to Lydia's diary entries and need to use laudanum for sleep. On the other hand, Lydia's motivation was far less convincing than Magdalen's is.

The plot is less engineered than that of Armadale--until right at the end where there is an obvious wrench in order for the "right" ending to happen. A satisfying end, mostly, but definitely one where the puppeteer is apparent. It is a good book, but not as good as Moonstone or Woman in White, both of which are books I think everyone should read. This one, I think, is only for fans of the Victorian novel.


  1. I just finished No Name myself, tonight, December 4th. Despite some weak "puppeteer" moments at the end (Fate bringing Kirke to right street when he did seemed downright like a religious moment) I found this novel harrowing and riveting from start to finish, even better than The Moonstone. I was in awe of Magdalen and it was worth the read just to witness her fearlessness in the face of so much loneliness. I haven't read Armadale but I will now. I remember The Woman In White had an incredible ending, but I don't remember it well, so I will also re-read that.
    Just wanted to put my two cents in, I was very sorry to let Magdalen and Mrs. Wragge and Mr. Wragge go when this novel finally ended. Mrs. Wragge absolutely broke my heart. Incredible characters, and the struggle with Mrs. Lecount, while serpentine and maddening was an incredible feat of writing, in my opinion. Whatever the book's flaws, it is an original piece of storytelling.

  2. Hi Anon, Thanks for stopping by! Always good to hear from another book lover, especially another Wilkie Collins fan.

    Yes, the Wragges were amazing. My favorite scene is the one where Wragge tells Magdalen he's cheated her and she says "I know. I hired you because you were a scoundrel."

    You should definitely reread Woman in White! I think it's Collins' best, myself.