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Archived Group Reads 2014 > No Name 2014 Scene 1; Feb 1

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message 1: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments For disccussion of this section of the novel.

This is our request about spoilers: Please discuss and revisit this thread as much as you like as our discussion progresses. However, if you have read ahead or know revealing details from the rest of the novel, please do not include them in this section. Please allow everyone the pleasure of discovering the story for themselves.

Each discussion section (thread) will work in this manner.

Within your comment, if you would like, you can include revealing information about the overall story with a coded "Spoiler." Please post a question about that here, if you are unfamiliar with posting these.


message 2: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments I am loving Magdalena thus far. Who would not want to have a sister, friend, cousin, aunt, neighbor like her. She is at once refreshing, smart, loving, sharp, never-missing-a-beat, naive, mature--all these attributes seem to spill out of her all and once in a giddy sort of way...


message 3: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
I agree, Whimsical. She's pretty terrific! This is really her book in so many ways. Although, I'm appreciating Nora's quiet grace, as well, this time around. And, I find Miss Garth delightful. :)


message 4: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca It made me wonder if it was common for governess like Miss Garth to stay on with the family because of the years spent and from the attachments that probably developed with the families they served.


message 5: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments I hear the voice of Miss Garth as the voice of the housekeeper from Downton Abbey. It happened to me the other night accidentally.


message 6: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments Renee wrote: "I agree, Whimsical. She's pretty terrific! This is really her book in so many ways. Although, I'm appreciating Nora's quiet grace, as well, this time around. And, I find Miss Garth delightful. :)"

Yes, yes and yes. It will be interesting to see how the author develops these characters; whether they remain the same or change. If they change what direction will life's experiences take them! PS. Lovely to meet you Renee!


message 7: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
So kind! Lovely to meet you as well, Whimsical. :)


message 8: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments I like the little things like the Cook not meeting the dogs greetings with good grace and the Master's coat being buttoned wrong. The little scene in the kitchen, so short, but so right. You can see the exchange.


message 9: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments Magdalen's name is controversial because it is similar to Mary Magdalene from the Bible. At the time this book is written MM would have been seen as the prostitute who washed Jesus' feet with her hair. She is often depicted in art as The Repentant Sinner. Church teaching mixed several Marys from the past and gave MM a history. There is one Mary who became a hermit, and MM is supposed to have repented and become a hermit. Thus the statement about Magdalen being a name associated with penitence and seclusion. See Wikipedia for more.


message 10: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments Teresa wrote: "Magdalen's name is controversial because it is similar to Mary Magdalene from the Bible. At the time this book is written MM would have been seen as the prostitute who washed Jesus' feet with her ..."The MM of the Bible did repent when she met Jesus at the well, however, I have never seen any reference in the Bible to her being a hermit. In addition, there are many Marys in the Bible but the two most talked about or famous are Mary, the mother of Jesus and MM.


message 11: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
There are some days that I want to be a hermit. Oh, sorry. I typed that out loud.

We may not have the same stories as WC did about the people of the bible. In addition to what's actually IN the bible, different generations come up with their own kind of oral history... As in, totally made up stories. (Kind of like George Washington and the cherry tree.) Sometimes based on an interpretation of one word of translated text, sometimes full on conjecture.

I can totally imagine the patriarchy of WC's time deciding that MM needed to go off and be a hermit. And I don't believe the bible actually says she was a prostitute (and I don't know Ancient Greek) but, traditionally, we still assume she was.

Anyway, my point is that both Whimsical and Teresa are correct.


message 12: by Irene (new)

Irene (zavrou) I have posted a comment about the name Magdalen in the Supplementary info folder.


message 13: by Irene (new)

Irene (zavrou) I think I am going to be boo-ed out of the group as I must confess that I do not like Magdalen..... She is a bit of a spoilt brat and insensitive to the feelings of others. She is also manipulative. I agree that she is a strong character and I love the fact  that she steps outside the box. I am afraid that at this stage she is not someone I would admire. Norah is the strong silent type. She is a conformist and does what is expected of her. She is probably a bit envious of Magdalen who throws caution to the wind and 'runs free' and to a certain extent uninhibited. Not having the boldness of her sister Norah is also probably afraid for Magdalen and the difficulties she might find herself in by being 'different'. 


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 89 comments I have to say I don't really like Magdalen either, but the funny thing is - Collins is trying to depict her as a character with all the imaginable flaws of a lady in the Victorian days - but if she were living in our current time - all those flaws would be considered good things, don't you think? because she has an incredible strength of character (which is praised in today's culture as opposed to the Victorian one, it seems). She also has enough charisma which is considered a good trait in a girl of today's world - apparently again, as opposed to the Victorian times. So it makes me think - wow, the world has changed so much, you know?
The character strength is the thing I like about Magdalen the most. but her manipulativeness and whimsical character is something I dislike about her.

so when you people have read about the play and tell me it's okay, I'll post another thought I had about the first scene - it's near the end, so I don't want to spoil anyone's fun.


message 15: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Part of me us making comparisons between Norah and Magdalen Vanstone and Elinor and Marianne Dashwood if Sense and Sensibility.


message 16: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments I wish there was a Like function for me to use on your comments. I really like seeing the new perspective on Norah and Magdalen as Eleanor and Marianne.


message 17: by Nina (last edited Feb 02, 2014 02:20PM) (new)

Nina | 17 comments One of the things I like the most about Collins is that he is able to craft such strong, independent female characters. I would politely disagree with you, Evelina, in that I think Collins is celebrating Magdalen for the very same qualities that we in the 21st century do. Esp. in comparing Collins characterization of Magdalen and Norah (Norah, as some of you have already said, certainly being a more traditional Victorian heroine), you can see that Collins likes Magdalen better; or, at least, that's what it looks like to me:)

It's interesting, Renee, that you would bring up Sense and Sensibility. I think having sisters of differing temperaments is a great literary convention for an author to use, because they serve as foils to each other. Collins also utilizes this in The Woman in White.

I think Irene brings up a good point in that, although we can appreciate Magdalen as a more "modern" woman, that does not necessarily mean that she is a nice woman. Sometimes the quieter characters, aside from any kind of politicized analysis, are just more likeable. That being said, Collins is doing a great job so far of highlighting both the flaws and virtues of both types of women; Norah is quiet and sweet, but also stuffy.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Whimsical wrote: "I am loving Magdalena thus far. Who would not want to have a sister, friend, cousin, aunt, neighbor like her. "

She is indeed hard not to love. But at the same time, a young woman on the hunt for a husband might not want her around because she would attract most of the attention to herself. Not by choice, but just by the nature of young people.

And while she is a delight in the short term, I think she might get a bit wearing in the long term. I think a sober young man might have a happier, more fulfilling marriage with Norah than with her.


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Rebecca wrote: "It made me wonder if it was common for governess like Miss Garth to stay on with the family because of the years spent and from the attachments that probably developed with the families they served."

Certainly happened with Miss Weston in Emma, until she decided she wanted a life/home of her own.


message 20: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Do you think Magdalena is anything like Becky Sharpe in Vanity Fair?


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Teresa wrote: "I like the little things like the Cook not meeting the dogs greetings with good grace and the Master's coat being buttoned wrong. The little scene in the kitchen, so short, but so right. You can ..."

Nice having you point these out. Yes, Collins does have some delightful little scenes which are easy to overlook because one tends -- at least I tend -- to be rushing to find out what is going to happen to these people. (One of the delights of re-reading a book is that one is able to pause and smell the flowers in the hedgerows of literature rather than having to focus so strongly on the road itself and the search for the next finger post.)


message 22: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Irene wrote: "I think I am going to be boo-ed out of the group as I must confess that I do not like Magdalen....."

On the contrary, rather than being boo-ed out, I am delighted to have a contrary voice bringing balance to the discussion. And of course you're right about her, too. (This was somewhat in my thought when I said she would be fun to know, but not so much fun to live with full time.)


message 23: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments SarahC wrote: "For disccussion of this section of the novel. discussion progresses. However, if you have rea..."

It's not clear to me where we are to discuss the "Between the Scenes" sections. With the section preceding them (i.e. that between Scenes 1 and 2 in this thread) or with the section following them (that between Scenes 1 and 2 with the thread for Scene 2).

I don't really care which way it goes, but I need to know so I don't put spoilers in the wrong place.


message 24: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments Nina wrote: "One of the things I like the most about Collins is that he is able to craft such strong, independent female characters. I would politely disagree with you, Evelina, in that I think Collins is celeb..."

I like your analysis Nina and will add that I read in the introduction of the edition of "No Name" which I have that this was a "Sensation Novel" at the time and, as such, Collins created a character in Magdalen who is the antithesis of the Victorian woman of the time, while Norah is somewhat typical. I am excited to see what develops.


message 25: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments Everyman wrote: "Whimsical wrote: "I am loving Magdalena thus far. Who would not want to have a sister, friend, cousin, aunt, neighbor like her. "

She is indeed hard not to love. But at the same time, a young wo..."


True, but not wanting to jump ahead too much I wanted to stick with what I read in the first two chapters and thus far she was "all that." I am sure my opinion will "evolve" as the story develops. The characters are certain to as well.


message 26: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments See the first Preparation for Reading thread, where I first posted the reading schedule. I have included the breakdown there for the Scenes and the "Betweens."


message 27: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments When beginning a read, these days I find myself ignoring the likeability of the larger characters -- because that is so variable - and looking at various other things that set up the story. I seem to look more at the lesser characters, the setting, the description of the family's history - of course that seems to be very relevant here in the NN story.


message 29: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments I know someone with eyes just likeCaptain Wragge. One eye was green, and one brown. She said the color started to change from one side and moved to the other. When I tried to explain about this book and this character she looked at me like I was a madwoman.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 89 comments hm, it doesn't seem to me that Collins is celebrating Magdalen's character.. every character criticizes her and so does the narrator. to me it seems they're just pointing out her character flaws that way.


message 31: by Nina (new)

Nina | 17 comments Evelina wrote: "hm, it doesn't seem to me that Collins is celebrating Magdalen's character.. every character criticizes her and so does the narrator. to me it seems they're just pointing out her character flaws th..."

Oh, undeniably she gets criticized, but not to the exclusion of her virtues. What I mean is, if Collins was trying to portray her as unsexed because of her more aggressive and manipulative characteristics, I think we would see that specific characterization being more overt, just as the narrator's disgust for Frank's weakness is apparent. Collins criticizes her for her flaws, but he also criticizes Norah for her flaws, and Norah is the more conventional heroine. This leads me to believe that, instead of having some patriarchal lens in which the more assertive woman is stigmatized, Collins is presenting both types of women as realistically as possible, both with flaws and virtues that make them likeable and unlikable at turns. I think it would be totally unrealistic to have a character as intense as Magdalen without her having some serious flaws, and it would be remiss of a Victorian narrator not to point them out, just in case we readers didn't get it ;)

I personally like Magdalen's character more, but I also appreciate the quietness of Norah's strength; I think Norah is unbearably stuffy and that Magdalen is a horrible brat. So, I think Collins has done his job.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 89 comments yeah, Collins definitely doesn't make one-sided characters, that's why I like him - you have to respect that in a Victorian writer - cause Dickens sort of had that problem, all his characters are either good or bad.. although with that said, I believe this book is the most Dickens-like book of Collins's that I've read - the pace, the descriptions and many other things. Although I got that idea from a later chapter than we're discussing in this thread. But since that's no spoiler, maybe it's not such a big deal that I mentioned it here, maybe.


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments SarahC wrote: "See the first Preparation for Reading thread, where I first posted the reading schedule. I have included the breakdown there for the Scenes and the "Betweens.""

Sorry. I was just looking at the thread titles. My bad.


message 34: by Whimsical (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments I feel "left-out" when references / comparisons are made to other books that I have not read. This is not a bad thing. I am keeping notes and all these referenced books have moved to the top of my BTR list, to be read sooner rather than later. Thanks all.


message 35: by Irene (new)

Irene (zavrou) Something I would like to know and maybe someone who has been into the Victorian era for longer can answer. For those who don't want their reading spoiled my question concerns events at the end of the Scene. (view spoiler)


message 36: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
“My rich cousin is a booby who thrives on landed property; he has done something for another booby who thrives on Politics, who knows a third booby who thrives on Commerce, who can do something for a fourth booby, thriving at present on nothing, whose name is Frank. So the mill goes. So the cream of all human rewards is sipped in endless succession by the Fools.”

So so Funny.


message 37: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Chapter 10- spoiler

The train accident was foreshadowed but still it affected me deeply. I'm already so fond of these characters.


message 38: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Irene wrote: "Something I would like to know and maybe someone who has been into the Victorian era for longer can answer. For those who don't want their reading spoiled my question concerns events at the end of ..."

I'm waiting to see who the "No Name" applies to, and whether it is voluntarily adopted of forced on somebody.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 89 comments as if anyone would even think of adopting it voluntarily even today, much less in Victorian times? :D


message 40: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1933 comments Mod
Someone might take it up as a nome de plume. Or alias. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel. It's not that kind of book, but it might have been. Magdalen has lots of potential with her gift for mimicry.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 89 comments yes, but it's somehow obvious even before you read the book that being a 'no name' is a tragedy, a bad thing.. so i don't see how anyone would adopt it willingly. i mean, not in this case.


message 42: by Irene (last edited Feb 05, 2014 07:27AM) (new)

Irene (zavrou) I have just been googling 'illegitimacy in Victoria times' and this is what I have found........
'Anyone who was not legitimate was not entitled to a name or to inherit. Sons of royalty may be granted titles, but they were not entitled to inherit the title from their father. ............................
While a mistress of a wealthy man might live quite well and be accepted in a certain segment of society, her situation was still precarious. Even if everyone knew who was the father of her children, she had no legal claim on the man. She was entitled to no inheritance from him. She was provided for only if he did so before his death.' I have the link if anyone else is interested.
All of this is actually covered in the book but I still don't know to what name one would be entitled. Also one would assume that being from a prominent family one would have been baptised or christened. I have no idea why I am so locked into this ....... Probably because I find it so harsh!


message 43: by SarahC (last edited Feb 05, 2014 09:02AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, I feel that the harshness of the situation, due to the theme of illegitimacy, related in this scene of the book has overwhelmed me. This brings to mind so many points that relate to what is discussed in current society: the meaning of marriage, what defines a family, how society imposes definitions upon us, how law imposes definitions upon us. These would be best discussed after finishing the complete Scene.


message 44: by SarahC (last edited Feb 05, 2014 09:04AM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Which leads me to say, this first scene I think it tricky to comment upon in parts because it reveals so incredibly much of the story of this novel. THE "spoiler" is obviously and intentionally right here in Scene One, courtesy of Wilkie. I know many more events will follow, but we have found out the family secret to which everyone will react from here on out.

How do you feel about the structure of this novel? Likely, you have read some of this in supporting material and introductions. Collins set out a different take on what he had written previously by creating No Name with this type of setup.

My first reaction, honestly, was that this family's story had already overwhelmed me by end of Scene One; which is not a good thing. I am having to digest it seriously before casting any further judgement! To be honest, I admire Collins novels, but I don't flow well with them. Some of his plotting in novels I have read seems unnatural. So I put my critical hat on right away.

Anyone want to discuss novel structure at this point?


message 45: by Teresa (new)

Teresa (tnorbraten) | 107 comments Notice how mean Mr. Vanstone continues to call the girls "Women" instead of "Ladies". They've even gone down a notch in vocabulary.


message 46: by Whimsical (last edited Feb 05, 2014 03:41PM) (new)

Whimsical (goodreadscomb_flowers) | 187 comments Irene wrote: "I have just been googling 'illegitimacy in Victoria times' and this is what I have found........
'Anyone who was not legitimate was not entitled to a name or to inherit. Sons of royalty may be gran..."


Just to give a little context if I may: The Victorian Era followed on the heels of the Regency period when morals were indeed quite loose. Then men openly had mistresses, cavorted with courtesan, had numereous children out of wedlock. The women did the same to a certain extent -- Remember, the Regency Prince, Perdita, Mrs Fitzhebert (sp), Duchesss of Devonshire, just to name a few who are noted for there wild living. The Duke of Devonshire openly lived with his wife and his girlfriend, so it is not a stretch to think that the Victorians lived life at the other end of the spectrum. Therefore,I think as a result, persons of lose morals were indeed treated harshly during this period as society tried to reign in behavior they felt was in opposition to the moral code of the time. Collins tried to draw attention to this fact although--I am yet to see that in my reading.


message 47: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Isn't it interesting that the choice of Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Vanstone never set out with the intention of living a wild life -- on the contrary, their getting together helped to make a settled man of Andrew. They lived with all intents a calm, married life. Not a case of lose morals at all.

Yes, it seems that Michael Vanstone certainly sits in judgement on this issue and the position of Andrew's daughters.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments Evelina wrote: "yes, but it's somehow obvious even before you read the book that being a 'no name' is a tragedy, a bad thing.. so i don't see how anyone would adopt it willingly. i mean, not in this case."

I can see how, in the incredibly emotional moments of losing not only your father and mother but your very identity as a person, you could surrender to total despair (what we today would consider clinical depression) and believe that you had lost everything and were nothing but a no name person, and accept that this was all that you deserved in life.

Given how emotionally driven Magdalen is, it wouldn't be surprising to me if she said this was all she deserved and adopted No Name almost as a deserved badge of dishonor.


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2507 comments SarahC wrote: "Isn't it interesting that the choice of Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Vanstone never set out with the intention of living a wild life -- on the contrary, their getting together helped to make a settled man of ..."

These days, living with another woman even while married isn't all that big a deal. But in Collins's day, it would have been huge, I think.

Besides, I don't think Michael's anger at Andrew stems from the marriage so much as from the belief that Andrew conspired to cheat Michael out of his inheritance.


message 50: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1418 comments Yes, I understand your comment, Everyman. It is interesting though to look at our judgements of people across the eras though -- both societal and legal rules that govern people's lives. Very large issues.

And yes, what Michael is really thinking inside may be in contrast to his words on the outside. But certainly still he has no sympathy or compassion for two children who had no part of any of this other than being born. Very cold move. Still his blood relations. And interesting example of humans trying so hard to push away other humans -- their own families-- when there are people in this word who would give almost anything to have family to share with.


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