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 least the few I read). It’s not even that I don’t like his stories, characters or style, it’s that I don’t like the lengths of his ‘novels.’ As Dickens works were serialized I think he dragged out too many things and didn’t make them as action packed or as concise as they could’ve been. Whereas Dickens really could have used an editor, Collins took advantage of the serialization (IN DICKENS’ MAGAZINE!) and created an amazing work of fiction.
The reason I say Collins created an amazing work of fiction is because I couldn’t really tell where the each episode of the serialization began and ended. I’m pretty sure they broke along either the chapter, book or act lines, but you can never be 100% sure. And this worked great because the story constantly moved forward and the twists and turns were creative and changed/modified the story in a way to keep it interesting, whereas Dickens seemed only to add description and history to his stories.
In addition to the story Collins wrote an amazing(ly flawed?) character, Magdalen Vanstone, AND Collins let you know that he uses foreshadowing and uses it heavily with the exception of one event in the first book! How can you not appreciate an honest author who creates an amazing character? Magdalen Vanstone is a character I can easily see being a divisive character. Is she a product of what happens to her? Is she innately evil or good? Why does she do what she does? Does she deserve the ending that happens? I can’t answer these, but I can say that she is one of the best characters I have read this year. Her long-term plotting was well crafted by Collins and it only added to the major changes she underwent in the first half of the book.
Recommendation: Ditch Dickens and covet Collins! See what I did there? I think this is definitely an author who more people should read. I hope I take time to look into his other works in the future.
Opening Line: “The hand on the hall-clock pointed to six in the morning.”
Closing Line: “He stooped and kissed her.” (Whited out.)
Additional Quotes from No Name
“Miss Marrable was the hardest of all born tyrants–an only child.” (loc.758)
“When it is one of a man’s regular habits to live upon his fellow-creatures, that man is always more or less fond of haunting large railway stations.” (loc.3191)
“Giants of both sexes are, by a wise dispensation of Providence, created, for the most part, gentle.” (loc. 3471)