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Review: "Night and Day" by Virginia Woolf

Night and Day may be downloaded for free from our ebook catalog.

Originally published in 1919, Night and Day contrasts the daily lives of four major characters while examining the relationships between love, marriage, happiness, and success. Like Virginia Woolf's first novel The Voyage Out, Night and Day is a more traditional narrative than her later novels. Unlike her first novel, however, Night and Day relies much more on its characters' internal struggles to push the its plot forward. What results is a character study of a very quiet group of people who are actually in the throes of deep anxiety and indecision.

It is difficult to immediately come to a conclusion about this novel. The Voyage Out ends with a forceful impact upon your emotions that leaves you reeling. Night and Day, by contrast, ends quite simply and lets you put down the book and go about your day. Upon reflection, however, it has many precious, seemingly innocuous moments that imprint on your memory. Many of these moments involve solitary musings of one of the characters. Upon further reflection, I became irritated with the two of the major characters (Ralph Denham and Katharine Hilbery) and felt a severe lack of exposition into two more interesting characters (Mary Datchet and Mrs. Hilbery).

Perhaps the title--a contrast in itself--could explain the duality of both the novel and one's reaction to it. Reading reviews of other readers hardly gives insight into what one's own reaction will be. I mentioned before that Amazon is a good source of reviews. However, Goodreads is becoming an excellent resource, outrunning Amazon many times in number and quality of reviews. For Night and Day in particular, one reviewer will extol the many virtues of the book, proclaiming it her favorite Woolf novel, and the next will denounce it, saying that if Woolf had stopped here, no one would know who she is today. Perhaps you must figure this one for yourself.

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