Book blog

1000 before 30 #16: Night and day – by Virginia Woolf

Night and Day does exactly what is says on the tin. Of course, being Woolf you expect some degree of romance, but this Edwardian novel centres on the differences, rather than the similarities, between its two protagonists.

He was a boy, and she was a girl. Can I make it any more obvious? Katharine Hilbery is the granddaughter of a famous writer (poet) in the heart of Chelsea, while Ralph Denham lives in a pokey attic room of his family’s Highgate house (pre-conversion, I’m sure the family would be considered very well off nowadays!).

Although Ralph is a would-be lawyer, he sometimes writes for the journal produced by Trevor Hilbery, Katharine’s father. An awkward conversation in her dead grandfather’s shrine-like writing room later, and they strike up a weird acquaintance. Of course, they are not without their troubles, as Katharine is set to marry old pal William Rodney (who at the time fervently believes he is in love with her). Ralph on the other hand is the object of affection for his friend Mary, who is (unfortunately for me) the more intelligent, pragmatic and forward-thinking of the women in this book.

As you may imagine, despite Ralph proposing to her at some point (she rejected him like a badass), Mary ends up alone. Her story is the best one of the lot. Although she truly loved him, Ralph turned out to be a bit of a moaner. And let’s face it, suffragette Mary had too much going on to be able to deal with someone who showed up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason but anguish unrequited love throughout the book.

Anyway as with the best stories, all is well that ends well. Katharine marries Ralph and William marries Katharine’s cousin Cassandra, whom he fell in love with during a secret correspondence during his courtship with Katharine. Tasteless, I know.

I couldn’t help feeling as I reached the last page that, had it not been for their stupidity, we could have reached the same conclusion in the space of a few short chapters. Having said that, I have absolutely no patience when it comes to these kinds of situations in real life and in fantasy, yet this book was so well written that I didn’t feel like it was a chore to reach the inevitable end. A bit more about Mary after realising that she is an independent woman that doesn’t need a man wouldn’t have hindered either.

This novel marks the (thankful) end to the romantic/classic reading for now, although it is nowhere near catching up to my current reading place. I’m now hitting the 500 mark on estimated books read, and my pace is speeding up.

This review is part of the 1000 books before 30 challenge. Find out more about it here.

Featured image: Creative commons photo by Dennis Wilkinson

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