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No Name

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,920 Ratings  ·  280 Reviews
A witty, intricately-plotted exploration of a sudden fall from grace, the Penguin Classics edition of Wilkie Collins's No Name is edited with an introduction and notes by Mark Ford.

Magdalen and her sister Norah, beloved daughters of Mr and Mrs Vanstone, find themselves the victims of a catastrophic oversight. Their father has neglected to change his will, and when the girl
Paperback, 656 pages
Published December 1st 1994 by Penguin Classics (first published 1862)
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Rissi Clean? As in morally upright? As in proper vocabulary? As in, are the pages soiled?
Morally upright, yes. No offensive words, yes. I am reading it on…more
Clean? As in morally upright? As in proper vocabulary? As in, are the pages soiled?
Morally upright, yes. No offensive words, yes. I am reading it on Kindle. Pages irrelevant.(less)

Community Reviews

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Paul Bryant
Sep 24, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Now why didn't I already review this page-gobbling Victorian stonker? I know not why. Let me rush to redress this strange omission. I know Wilkie Collins is known as a two fisted novelist - if the right one don't getcha (The Moonstone) then the left one will (Woman in White) but No Name should be just as famous, so it's a bit of a mystery to me why some books get the fame and others languish in the geekish penumbra of Eng Lit.

So - everything in the Vanstone household is just tickety boo until a
Love you Mr Collins! You never cease to amaze me with your writing and uncanny ability to suck me into your books which look to be a million pages, but read as if they are a few hundred. I so enjoy the fact that you have always shown a respect and concern for women and you present them, while often flawed, as people you admire and trust. Oftentimes Victorian authors belittle their female protagonists and have inauspicious fates awaiting those who do not walk the Victorian line. (hear that Mr Dic ...more
Before Wilkie Collins became an enormously successful novelist in the mid-nineteenth century, he studied law with the intent of becoming an attorney. Although he completed his studies he never actually practiced. His knowledge and interest in the field is revealed in the plots of many of his novels. No Name is an example of Collins’ training in estate law and the various intricacies of the rules and loopholes during that period in mid 19th century England.


The opening plot of No Name presents an
Feb 09, 2016 Gitte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

A thrilling classic with a strong female character, a plot full of twists and turns, but too many details. Recommended for classic-lovers.

Two sisters in Victorian England: the sensible and compliant Norah and the somewhat spoilt Magdalen Vanstone come from a good family. At their parents' sudden death, a family secret is revealed and the sisters are disinherited and become 'Nobody's Children'. Norah makes her way by becoming a governess, while Magdalen sets out on a cruise for justice and reven
Matthew Gatheringwater
I liked this novel first as an exploration of what happens to a person who knowingly chooses an action they believe to be immoral. The protagonist of this story has been injured by social mores she considers unjust and therefore she disregards the conventions of the community in which she lives to extract her revenge upon the people she holds responsible for injuring her family. I must admit, however, that 600-odd pages of this moral dilemma would have gotten tiring even for me, an enthusiast fo ...more
Jun 11, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kim, Virginie, Wanda
One of the few novels which treats deeply the stigma of illegitimacy in the Victorian times.

This is the story of the Vanstone family. After their father's death in a local train crash followed by their mother's death in childbirth, the two sisters, Norah and Magdalen, the girls discovered that their parents that their parents have only been married a few months and the wedding invalidated their will.

They are forced then to face life by their own way with the help of their loyal governess Miss Ga
May 06, 2015 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having just read Peter Ackroyd's biography of Wilkie Collins I decided to jump straight into reading No Name. Wow, its a great book full of Victorian melodrama and intrigue. I know many do compare Collins to Dickens however, I have often found his stories to be more Conan Doyle-like as their mysterious plots often involve legalities and quirks of the law which in turn affect the characters in his novels. Collins studied law prior to finding success as a novelist. Both Collins and Dickens seriali ...more
Mar 19, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I turned the last page of "No Name" my first thought was " Why did I take so long to read this book?, so much time wasted!"
My only Collins experience had been some years ago with "The woman in white" and I wasn't disappointed. But I don't know why I kept postponing starting this novel, which had been in my shelves for quite a long time. Maybe its lenght, maybe (in my humble opinion) the too much simplified summary plot, maybe because I thought I knew what kind of book I was going to read...
No Name is the second of the four novels generally thought to be Collins's best, and I quite agree with general opinion. The plot centers on two sisters, Magdalen and Norah Vanstone, who find out that when their parents die that they weren't married at the times of the sisters' births, making them illegitimate; thus, they are disinherited by law and cast out from their childhood home by their estranged uncle. Norah submits to her fate and finds work as a governess, but Magdalen vows revenge and ...more
Aug 02, 2016 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The hard handwriting of trouble had scored [her face] heavily at some past time.”

Like many novels of himself and his friend Charlies Dickens, Wilkie Collins addresses a grave social injustice with a captivating story. No Namedeals with the issues--familial, legal and emotional--of illegitimacy in the society which hyperventilates about most everything moral or sexual. (In fact, sex as a verb is never even alluded therein.)

“The lasting preservation of a secret is a miracle which this world has n
Oct 08, 2015 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Late in the first half of the nineteenth century, Magdalen and her sister Norah are raised in comfort. At the threshold of adulthood, they are thrust suddenly into a life far different than they expected. The sisters choose different paths, and as Robert Frost noted, that has made all the difference. The story follows Magdalen on her path. She seeks retribution for the people she holds culpable of forcing the changes. Without revealing a whole lot more, some of the things that stand out for me h ...more
M.J. Johnson
Jul 26, 2016 M.J. Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was considered pretty scandalous in its day because it deals with the subject of illegitimacy. It tells the story of Magdalene and Norah Vanstone, who are disinherited because of the sudden deaths of their parents. The family money which was intended to be shared between them goes to a miserly cousin who treats them with utter contempt. The sisters have very different personalities: Norah humbly accepts her lot in life and seeks work as a governess; Magdalene (the name’s a bit of a give-awa ...more
Dana Loo
Jan 27, 2016 Dana Loo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un Collins un po' diverso dai precedenti libri che ho letto. Nn un giallo ma, una storia realistica che tratta un tema abbastanza scottante come quello della condizione dei figli nati fuori dal matrimonio. Un apparato narrativo abbastanza complesso, a tratti un po' stucchevole, personaggi sempre egregiamente delineati, colpi di scena, suspense, e situazioni ad incastro che portano ad un finale con tanto di lieto fine, cosa abbastanza straordinaria per una protagonista, una sorta di fallen woman ...more
This is the first book of Wilkie Collins I have read and it won’t be the last. Don’t you just love it when you can say that about an author? Many people have highly recommended The Woman in White to me since but I decided to read this one first as it has been on my TBR for about 4 years.

I actually remember buying it in Waterstones bookshop because I’d never seen this title before and in fact haven’t seen it in a bookshop since. I had a good feeling about it then even though I put off reading it
Jun 12, 2008 Macktan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I read this book in the late 70s, when I was in graduate school at NYU, taking a course in Victorian Literature. Wilkie Collins is best known for the Woman in White, a thriller that is still produced on the stage today. Collins has been called the father of the mystery story; in English literature, he wrote some of the first modern thrillers. This one, about two daughters who find out the unspeakable--their parents were never married!--set out in the world to reclaim their inheritance, which the
Renee M
Fantastic! A gem of a novel, hidden behind the more well-known titles of The Woman In White and The Moonstone. Collins has created a modern heroine in Magdalen Vanstone, willing to fight against the confines of the laws which have deprived her of inheritance, name, and standing in society. And, a more conventional Victorian heroine, in her sister, Norah Vanstone. The story of their trials, set adrift by harsh circumstances, makes for a thrilling page-turner!!
Aug 30, 2014 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This book took me quite a while to get through, not because it is a bad book but simply because it is a big one. In fact it is a brilliant book and I thought it was better than both of Wilkie Collins' most famous books, The Moonstone and The Woman in White.

It is the story of Magdalen, who is rather happy with her life when we first meet her. Unfortunately tragedy strikes (as tragedy has a habit of doing) and both her parents die within a short while of each other. Because the parents were never
I wouldn't read it again but I enjoyed the time I spent with the characters. I kept rooting for Magdalen, hoping that she would find the resolution of her family's fortune and her soul. It's reminiscent of The Count of Monte Cristo, a female version of the revenge story.

Great lines -

"It is one of the noble instincts of women, that nothing more powerfully rouses them to struggle with their own sorrow than the sight of a man's distress" (97).

"Here, the loud self-assertion of Modern Progress - whi
Absolutely loved this book. The "heroine" is ruthless and driven to obtain her rightful inheritance at any cost, and my sympathies were with her throughout the entire story. Collins is a master at writing women and their inner turmoil and struggle against society's strictures - being a rather unconventional fellow himself. The prose is intricate and Victorian, but not in the manner of the worst excesses of the time. He's a stellar author at his best and timeless.
Pubblicato a puntate sulla rivista All the year round dell'amico Dickens, Senza nome risente dell'essere un romanzo figlio della sua epoca, il Feuilleton è un genere che generalmente apprezzo ma capita che il suo dilungarsi in ripetizione e accadimenti faccia sì che a pagarne le spese sia proprio il romanzo, ed è questo il caso.
La scelta di leggere proprio questo romanzo rispetto ad altri dell'autore è dovuta soprattutto ad una trama che mi ha intrigata da subito, la storia infatti si concentra
Laura Leaney
May 03, 2015 Laura Leaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sal volatile, anyone? You'll need it for this wicked tricky plot, a plot that I refuse to spoil for future readers so I'll simply make a few observations.

There is something deeply fascinating about 19th century literature, and like the plots of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, the wicked ways of of a woman without emotional restraint is scandalously center stage. Fortunately for us, she has an older sister who is (in my mind) milquetoast. Magdelene and Norah Vanstone. I'll leave you to guess which name b
Aug 05, 2015 Simon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Re read 35 years later! My taste has obviously changed. Starts well.....
Jul 22, 2014 Rrshively rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full of intrigue that gets more and more convoluted as the book goes on, this novel is full of suspense and insight into mid 19th Century morals. It includes a swindler, a miser, a jealous housekeeper, an upright governess, a sleepwalker, a seaman, and central to all a young woman bent on revenge. Will the search for revenge be against the best interests of the seeker? Read and find out. It is easy to see why The Moonstone by the same author is considered the first modern mystery/detective novel ...more
Herman Gigglethorpe
I don't know why Wilkie Collins is so obscure. He's a much more interesting writer than Charles Dickens, he was popular in his time, and he wrote the first English detective novel!

No Name is a bit like a Victorian telenovela, except with less slapping and more convoluted estate law. Expect the full range of 19th century melodrama here. Fainting! Brain fever! Scoundrels with mismatched eyes! This probably comes from Wilkie Collins's novels being serialized like Dickens, Trollope, or the penny dre
Mar 09, 2016 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, victorian
I've been torn between giving this book three stars or four stars. I finally decided on four because the plot was so amazing. I wish that I had begun this book when I had time to devote to it; it was a pretty dense read, not only in terms of page count, but also plot twists and the emotional effort that I had to put forth. I have had a hectic schedule this semester, but I found myself being drawn into the story despite having little to no time to actually read. Collins is really a master of plot ...more
Oct 21, 2013 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike Dickens, I could read Wilkie Collins ALL DAY. There are those of you out there that will find this shocking, but it’s the truth. This is the first novel I’ve read by Collins and I am VERY glad I added it to my Classics Club list! In addition it counted as a bonus book for my Tea & Books reading challenge coming in at just over 750 pages (according to Goodreads).

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you are aware, and often horrified, of my intense dislike of Dickens’ works (or at l
Dec 03, 2013 Marija rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Wilkie Collins’ talents is playing with the psyches of his readers. In No Name, this manifests through the question of who is the real villain in this story. Victorian readers would most likely have pointed the finger at Magdalen, yet ironically she’s our protagonist. From my readings of Victorian fiction, an author portraying the main character as a villain was a rare occurrence. Wilkie himself tries his best at pointing the finger at Mrs. Lecount. But while she does seem villainous in t ...more
Tony Talbot
** Spoilers **

No Name deals with the Victorian complexities of illegitimate children, and how unfairly the law at the time could deal with them.

A typical nuclear family - father, mother, two teenage daughters - is blown apart by the quick death of the father and then the mother. Only then do the two daughters realise that their father has only been married to their mother for three weeks before he died, and they are therefore illegimate and have no claim to his inheritance. Instead it falls to
Jan 23, 2010 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2009 Ollie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy Victorian novels and thrillers
Recommended to Ollie by: my bookclub
I can't remember the last time I read a novel as enjoyable as this one, a page-turner ground on strong characters and a thought-provoking theme. No Name tells the story of two sisters, Norah and Magdalen, who fall into poverty after they discover they have no claim on their parents' inheritance, thanks to a technicality in the will. The girls' entire estate is left to a distant, and greedy, uncle who decides to only give them 100 pounds from the estate. Norah, the eldest, accepts her fate and fi ...more
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Goodreads leads nowhere 3 20 Dec 22, 2015 06:38AM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 Scene Five 13 14 Jul 07, 2012 09:02PM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 (The third) Between the Scenes 7 47 Jun 29, 2012 02:56AM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 Scene Three 12 49 Jun 27, 2012 04:35AM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 (The Second) Between the Scenes 10 13 Jun 26, 2012 04:31PM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 Scene Seven 9 15 May 30, 2012 10:50AM  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 (The fifth) Between the Scenes 11 12 May 26, 2012 07:36PM  
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A close friend of Charles Dickens' from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for fifty years. Most of ...more
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“Nothing in this world is hidden forever. The gold which has lain for centuries unsuspected in the ground, reveals itself one day on the surface. Sand turns traitor, and betrays the footstep that has passed over it; water gives back to the tell-tale surface the body that has been drowned. Fire itself leaves the confession, in ashes, of the substance consumed in it. Hate breaks its prison-secrecy in the thoughts, through the doorway of the eyes; and Love finds the Judas who betrays it by a kiss. Look where we will, the inevitable law of revelation is one of the laws of nature: the lasting preservation of a secret is a miracle which the world has never yet seen.” 68 likes
“Men, being accustomed to act on reflection themselves, are a great deal too apt to believe that women act on reflection, too. Women do nothing of the sort. They act on impulse; and, in nine cases out of ten, they are heartily sorry for it afterward.” 7 likes
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