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Magdalen and Norah Vanstone have known only comfort and affluence for their entire lives. Orphaned suddenly following the unexpected deaths of their parents, the illegitimate sisters find themselves flung into the other extreme of living: their father had neglected to amend his will following their parents' recent marriage, leaving them with nothing, and their bitter, estranged uncle, the legal inheritor of the family fortune, mercilessly refuses them support. 

They have no money, no rights and no name. Norah, the elder of the two, looks for work as a governess and accepts her fate. Fiery and headstrong Magdalen, however, does not. She vows revenge and schemes a series of traps to recover the fortune, no matter the cost....

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Public Domain (P)2020 Naxos Audiobooks

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  • Global
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 06/07/2020

Good and Evil and Funny

“Here,” writes Collins in his introduction, “is one more book that depicts the struggle of a human creature, under those opposing influences of Good and Evil.” More particularly, it depicts two different reactions to personal disaster: passive acceptance and active resistance. But don’t let that “one more book” fool you; this is an exceptional work, delving into the big questions while, at the same time, being as downright funny as any book I’ve ever read. The literary slot it fits most neatly is the Victorian “novel of sensation”, an enticing mélange of mystery and scandal. Dickens-like, it’s also something of a piece of “cause” literature. Without spoiling the primary turning point in the story, I’ll only say that, unlike his mentor Dickens, Collins lets the situation speak for itself. Not until the third of the “Scenes” into which the novel is divided does he indulge in a burst of Dickensian social criticism, and then he takes aim at urban poverty in general, not the specific issue that sets the novel in motion. This merciful avoidance of the soapbox makes one wish Collins had never touched laudanum, the drug that inexorably diminished his talents and left us with but four fine novels to enjoy. The cast recording concept works less well here, where narratives are far more intertwined than in The Moonstone or The Lady in White. But where Collins gives a single character enough material to support an extended monologue, it works very well—and nowhere better than in the case of Captain Wragge. This former militia officer and current “moral agriculturist” (i.e.: con man) is a brilliant compound of comic relief and breathtaking audacity, shaky morals and strict bookkeeping. With the exception of Wodehouse’s S. F. Ukridge, I’ve never met a deeper fictional rogue who made me laugh harder, in the process extorting my admiration—if not precisely for him, then certainly for his creator. Again, the comparison between Dickens’ inconceivably good heroes and irretrievably bad villains, and Collins’ more complex characters, is the difference between cardboard and flesh and blood. Take our heroine Magdalen. In truly un-Dickensian fashion, she’s a mixture of the admirable and the shocking: undaunted determination, low cunning, family loyalty and ungovernable emotion. Another remarkable aspect of the book is how Collins can create engaging secondary characters who pass in and out of his story and, before you have a chance to miss them, they're replaced by others, just as interesting. Like his mentor, his invention seems inexhaustible. And the same holds true of Collins’ plot; the path to the inevitable happy ending is just as inventive—and just as elusive of the listener’s expectations.

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  • Global
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Interprétation
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Histoire
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Kindle Customer
  • 05/09/2020


I could not finish after reading half of it. An agonizing listen. Read something else.

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