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No Name

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  4,818 ratings  ·  231 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 gir ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published July 1st 1995 by Penguin Classics (first published 1862)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

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!!
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.
Laura Leaney
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
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
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'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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2009 Ollie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Wilkie Collins has been neglected too long. Overshadowed by other more prominent Victorians such as his good friend Charles Dickens and underrated by too many high school and university curriculums for too long, it is only in the past few decades that such works as The Moonstone and The Woman in White have taken their rightful place in the ranks of the best of Victorian novels. I, too, confess that he has been a writer I planned to get around to, but there was always a Bronte, an Eliot, a Gaskel ...more
I enjoyed this in many ways more than Moonstone, and perhaps than A Woman in White, though it was not as tightly coiled as the latter. Captain Wragge is a most delectable and unlikely hero - a con artist who helps our heroine in her attempt to exact revenge on the relation who has, by a trick of law, gotten her and her sister's inheritance and cruelly provided them with virtually nothing. The characters of Mrs. Lecount and poor Mrs. Wragge, polar opposites, are equally colorful.

The sympathetic
Jess Haberman
This book is quite a tome, and yet I didn't want it to end! It does meander quite a bit and there were moments, especially during dialogue featuring Captain Wragge or Mrs. LeCount, where I wanted to say, "Spit it out, already!" But since the book was originally presented serially, it makes sense that Collins would build up the suspense and linger on some conversations more than you'd think necessary. There were times when I wasn't sure who to side with--when every character seemed like a villain ...more
Grace Harwood
I LOVE a good Victorian novel - so rich, so many strands to the story, brilliant characterisation - and this has got all of this and more. I've only read The Moonstone and The Woman in White before, but this is much the best Wilkie Collins I have read (although I've got lots more to go at yet!) This book was one which Collins wrote whilst staying at the Royal Hotel in Whitby (which is why I was reading it, being as I've been studying Whitby's literary scene). However, there's not much of Whitby ...more
I heartily recommend this book to fans of Wilkie Collins! I really enjoyed it even though it wasn't quite as good as The Woman in White or The Moonstone. I think the dénouement could have been more dramatic, but I see why Collins ended the book the way he did. 4 1/2 stars.
Have I misjudged Mr. Collins or what?!! It was too long ago that I read “The Woman in White” and “The Moonstone” or I might be able to remember why they didn’t thrill me ( I looked it up – I was 17 when I read those). Or is it that other people have misjudged “No Name”?

It’s simply awesome. ( I’m definitely going to be reading more Collins, but at this stage, I’d bet it’s his best.) There was so much I liked about it, I don’t know where to begin. I like a strong female character, and Madeline is
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
I only discovered this book this month, having known and read The Moonstone and The Woman in White many years ago. I'm not sure why this book isn't as famous, though it isn't a detective mystery. it is excellent late Victorian melodrama ( there are lots of passionate speeches and thoughts, a catatonic episode and several close calls to nervous break downs) that illustrates the way in which inheritance laws and practices were slanted to ignore illegitimate children. it is not too long but covers ...more
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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  
Victorians!: No Name 2012 Scene Four 20 52 May 25, 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.” 63 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.” 5 likes
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