Shaman’s Cannonball Read #CBR5 review #16: No name by Wilkie Collins

This book was given to me as a gift by a friend. It is not the kind of book I would normally give a second look at a bookstore, let alone buy: I prefer modern literature, because I’ve always believed that finding common ground with the characters in books that are over a hundred years old would be hard for me. I was wrong.

Set in the 1860s, No name is the story of Magdalen, the youngest of two sisters, who become very poor indeed when their parents die without having taken the necessary steps to make sure the two young women inherit their fortune. The women deal with the loss of their parents, their name and this fortune in very different ways, and Magdalen’s way is that of revenge against those she perceives as responsible for the injustice.

My fear that I would have trouble identifying with the characters was unfounded. Apart from the occasional fainting spell suffered by one woman or another, which seems so overly dramatic in this day and age, I could easily understand the emotions, motives and actions of the protagonists, despite the 150-year old gap between their experience and mine.

Although the language was more formal than I am used to, I didn’t feel it was a problem while I was reading the book. Still, it took me two months to get through it, so I suppose that it does take longer to read if you’re not used to this kind of language. It was a complex novel in a way, with many major (and minor) characters, and several parts to the story. Yet, it kept me interested throughout. I can’t say I found Magdalen likeable – her actions make her seem like a derailed train, a catastrophe waiting to happen; but her struggle to do what she thought was right while simultaneously doing things that are so obviously wrong made for compelling reading.

2 thoughts on “Shaman’s Cannonball Read #CBR5 review #16: No name by Wilkie Collins

  1. Magdalen never seemed repentant which is why she is hard to like. The detestable Captain Wragge became more human and somewhat likeable as he began to disagree with the scheme as it played out over time.

    • Really good point! Although she did struggle with her decision, she seemed to be struggling for the wrong reason.

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