- by Wilkie Collins
A virtually unknown masterpiece, and a new favourite from a picky reader
After the untimely death of their parents, the Vanstone sisters, Norah and Magdalen, face the stark reality of social stigma in Victorian England. Orphaned and penniless, they learn the devastating truth - they are illegitimate (children with "no name", hence the title of the book). And due to an anomaly in their father's will, the entirety of his wealth and estate is legally entailed away to their heartless uncle, who has no regard for their futures.
Vastly different in temperament, the elder sister, Norah calmly accepts her change in circumstance, resigned to accept work as a governess, while independent and scheming Magdalen refuses to accept the fate that their uncle has bestowed upon them and sets out on her own, vowing revenge.
To carry out her complex strategy of retribution, Magdalen enlists the assistance of the wily Captain Wragge, a distant relation and a self-confessed defrauder, who proves to be a comic relief with a tender humane heart at the core. Readers will be delighted to discover Wragge is just as memorable as many of Dickens' likable miscreants (not unlike Little Dorrit's Mr. Pancks).
Wragge and Magdalen face an uphill battle of wits, trying to outsmart the ruthlessly sharp Mrs. Lecount, the controlling and manipulative housekeeper of the will's beneficiary, Noel Vanstone. While Norah dutifully carries on with her life without incident, the intrepid Magdalen continues on with her quest for justice - at any expense - culminating in a surprise ending.
Perfectly plotted, though admittedly a tad bit slow at the outset, No Name is a treat for any classics lover and is well worth the time invested in its 700+ pages. Highly recommended!