Wednesday, December 2, 2009
No Name by Wilkie Collins
How far would you go to regain something that had been taken from you and your family? Mr Vanstone was married at a young age but it wasn't an ideal situation so the couple parted ways...still bound in legal matrimony. When he falls in love with another woman later on, he confesses that he is married but she chooses to live with him, against social mores. Something which would have been rather shocking in the Victorian era. They present themselves as a married couple and raise two daughters, Norah and Magdalen, in style, luxury and society. With the sudden death of Mr Vanstone followed closely by that of Mrs Vanstone, it's revealed that the young ladies are now considered illegitimate in the eyes of the law. The family fortune is lost to them in favour of an estranged and miserly Uncle who has no conscience about selling the house and turning the girls out. Norah Vanstone, while upset at their situation, accepts that life will be different and finds work as a governess to provide her with essentials. Her younger sister, Magdalen, will find no peace until the fortune that is theirs but for the absurdity of law, is returned to them. The characters in No Name are absolutely fantastic, in particular Captain Wragge and his wife. The Captain's brain is always on fast-forward when it comes to scheming which in turn means that the plot travels at such a pace, you never feel as though this book is over 700 pages! I wouldn't dream of saying anything more about this story as I hope anyone reading this is tempted to pick up a copy and find out the rest for themselves. In reading a bit about Collins life I was excited to learn that he studied law at Lincoln's Inn, a place which I visited on my trip to London last May. Having a visual of the setting and picturing him walking from building to building along the paths has added an extra layer to my memories. It saddened me though that because he suffered from 'rheumatic gout' he became an opium addict, taking it in the form of laudanum. At a later point in his writing the storylines were confusing and disjointed. Collins had no problem writing about his vices as this drug is written about in this book and others. There is some other reading on my horizon but I'm really looking forward, in fact I'm excited, to get back into another book by Wilkie Collins. My only question is why did it take me so long to discover him?