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Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth
Andrew Smith

No Name (Oxford World's Classics)

No Name - Wilkie Collins, Virginia Blain ** Spoilers **No Name deals with the Victorian complexities of illegitimate children, and how unfairly the law at the time could deal with them. A typical nuclear family - father, mother, two teenage daughters - is blown apart by the quick death of the father and then the mother. Only then do the two daughters realise that their father has only been married to their mother for three weeks before he died, and they are therefore illegimate and have no claim to his inheritance. Instead it falls to an evil uncle, who promptly kicks them out of their family home and leaves them destitute.Norah, one of the sisters goes into the only job available for her - governess, a private teacher, and is off screen for most of the book.Magdalen, the other sister, plans increasingly elaborate and desperate schemes to cheat the money out of the evil uncle, and then the evil uncles son. Most of the book is focused on Magdalen, and the whole middle of the book concentrates on an elabrorate scheme where she and a confidence artist named Captain Wragge plan and counterplan against the sons housekeeper, escalating their campaigns more and more, spinning the book into comedy.Still, this all comes eventually down to nothing when the housekeeper finally discovers Magdalens identity, the shock of which kills the evil uncles son. The inheritance Magdalen craves disappears again, but now Magdalen concentrates on the next link in the chain, taking on another identity as a maid in the evil uncles son best friends house, following him around until she discovers a hidden letter.In the end, while Magdalen plots and schemes, Norah has done nothing but fall in love with the next man to inherit the money, and does it without any effort at all!The book shifts moods from section to section, moving from tragedy at the start to escalating comedy through the middle section, finishing on gothic as Magdalen chases down a sleepwalker across a cold and dark country house.The Victorian stigma of illegitimacy has faded, and much of the motivation for the characters actions has faded as well, leaving it feeing a little dated. Magdalen, for instance, becomes an actress at one point, at the time a profession regarded as not much better than prostitute.The best section of the book is the middle, the elaborate schemes that Captain Wragge and Magdelan plan to entrap a feeble man into a fake marriage. However the start dragged a little and the ending felt rushed, with everything wrapped up suddenly in half a page.