2013 Challenges, Books, Quotes, The Classics Club

Book 236: No Name – Wilkie Collins

Collins, Wilkie - No NameUnlike 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)


33 thoughts on “Book 236: No Name – Wilkie Collins”

  1. Although I’ve enjoyed Dickens to an extent – I do agree whole heartedly! He needs an editor and very few authors nowadays would get away with the sheer amount of rambling he does. And you can’t put it down to him being Victorian – because Collins is his contemporary as was Elizabeth Gaskell (who Dickens published in his magazine and whom he had a bit of a fiery relationship with as Gaskell I believe wasn’t some woman to be cowed!) and both managed to not ramble on forever and both were serialised. Dickens writes beautifully – I admit, his stories are some of the best. But for the love of God – shut up and get on with it!

    No Name is my first (and as yet only) Wilkie Collins I read too – and I loved it. It read so naturally and I found it hard to put it down. Magdalene was a truly real character although I do wish she got to glory in her revenge a bit more. I love reading classics for the feeing that you get to know these Victorian characters as real people, real characters and not just some starched stereotype.


    1. I liked that she didn’t glory, or didn’t have the chance to! I felt that she almost didn’t want to because she’d felt defeat and was now just accepting it. She would’ve been much happier, in my opinion, receiving solely the amount she would’ve received from her father.


      1. That is true. But I felt the only reason she did not glory was because it was not seen as something feminine and that somehow it would cast her into sin and condemnation. I guess that’s the trouble with reading male Victorian novelists.


        1. Although on reflection and reading my review, I suppose this may not have been Wilkie Collins true intention as he obviously I think did not see Magdalene as weak. He himself viewed marriage as a miserably narrow institution. I guess in a way this book was his argument against it – how unfair and immoral it seemed to him.


          1. Yeah – I could see that. For me it was connecting her maturation to needing less of revenge and just needing to survive. After coming so close to death and defeat to win it all (plus some) taught her the necessity of moderation.


  2. I loved The Moonstone when I read if years ago, and somehow I’ve still not picked up another of his books. I was debating whether to go for this or The Woman in White, and I think I’ll put this one first.


    1. I definitely want to read more of his! Most of the blogs I follow have written about The Woman in White and they seem to have loved it. Would you recommend The Moonstone?


      1. The Moonstone is fantastic. Pretty much all detective fiction can be traced back to it. It’s similar in structure to The Hound of the Baskervilles, if you’ve read that. Good fun, and the story really managed to keep my attention the whole time.


  3. Ditch Dickens! Oh, no you didn’t. I will agree with you, that Collins is a great writer. I’ve read The Moonstone and The Woman in White. Both are great novels. I haven’t read this one, but will add it to my list. But back to Dickens–I’m determined to get you to see his brilliance. I won’t give up!


    1. Haahaa – I’m thinking of a challenge next year called Down with Dickens! Where the focus is put on other Victorian authors who had better editors 😀 Nah, I mean his stories are timeless and amazing, it’s just the style and the constant droning on and on that gets to me.


      1. Did Dickens edit Collins’s novels? I so hope he did right now. I do love Victorian writers so I may be up for the challenge. Any chance you can change the name of the challenge–kidding of course.


  4. I have plenty of Dickens on my Classics Club list but have no Collins as he wasn’t really an author I knew anything about until joining the club. From reading many fellow clubbers thoughts I am convinced I need to try him.


  5. Recently reviewed his book, A Woman in White, and now that I’ve read two books by him, I’m thinking he might be just as good as Dickens, maybe even …


  6. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from Collins so far — The Moonstone, The Woman in White, and The Frozen Deep (a novella) — and definitely want to read more. As for Dickens…it’s been far too long since I’ve read him to make a comparison, but as a high school student I remember thinking that he wasn’t half bad. 😉

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