Night and Day by Virginia Woolf

Night and Day
Virginia Woolf
Published 1919
Woolfalong Reading Challenge, Reading EnglandThe Classics Club II

This novel was unnecessarily long for whatever point Woolf was trying to make.  It was not as enjoyable, and that is why it took six long weeks for me to finish it.  The only happy remark I can add is that Woolf displayed a sarcastic, humorous side that I am not accustomed, and there were some remnants of Jane Austen's style of writing, which in both cases I liked.

Some other pleasant aspects about the novel include the mood of the setting (which is London) and the numerous references to the sea and voyages, which in many regards feels like the uncertainty of love and relationships.


There are four main characters, plus one later character, whom I focused on. Katharine Hilbery is a young woman living at home, under her parent's care, as she struggles for her own identity and liberty.  And there is Mary Datchett who works, doing what she considers important work for the suffragette movement; but is she really self-sufficient when she, too, struggles for independence from her own parents? What choices do these women have to obtain their autonomy?

Enter William Rodney and Ralph Denham.  Mary likes Ralph, but Ralph thinks Katharine is the perfect example of a woman, who is not all that she seems to be.  I think Ralph is attracted to her unconventional mind and heart.  However, William proposes to Katharine instead, and she accepts because for a brief moment she thought that was what she was supposed to do.  Her parents are certainly content about the match.  That leaves Ralph out, and he does what he thinks he is supposed to do: propose to Mary.  But Mary knows Ralph's heart is not genuine, and she rejects his proposal. Smart girl.  

Katharine knows her engagement to William is not right either, just in time for the fifth important character to enter - Cassandra Otway, Katharine's cousin.  William and Cassandra make a great pair because she is very traditional, and so is he.  Perfect.  Katharine and William re-evaluate their feelings and end their engagement so that William may pursue Cassandra; and Ralph is free to pursue Katherine.  


Katharine is now able to freely decide if she is using marriage as a way out or if it is really something she is choosing for a good reason, like for love or happiness.  She has many questions about marriage and love and happiness, and it is through these philosophical discussions with the other young people and her mother that she hopes to work them out.

Speaking of Mother Hilbery - she was a little overwhelming.  She is a romantic and totally into Shakespeare (not that that has anything to do with it; or maybe it does).  When Katharine is searching for advice on how to handle her feelings for Ralph and is concerned about her doubts of inventing love where there is none, Mother Hilbery makes the argument that "love is our faith," and that "we have to have faith in our vision."  What?  I did not understand.  Was she suggesting that our faith in love is enough for a union?    

That made me recall a part in "Moonstruck" when Loretta's mother gave Loretta a different opinion about her whirlwind proposal by Ronney:

"Do you love him, Loretta?"  
"Ma, I love him awful."
"Oh, God, that's too bad."

Again, as my grandmother told me: "Make sure he loves you more than you love him."

Is love necessary for marriage?  Are there different types of love?  If so, which is best for marriage?   Do we marry for happiness?  Can marriage even make us happy?  These were important questions Katharine had.  And these are important questions we should still consider today when thinking about marriage. 


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, and I felt like they were never answered in this book. Maybe I missed something.

  2. Sounds interesting. My daughter enjoys Virginia Woolf, but I've never read anything by her :(

    1. If you ever do, I would start with The Voyage Out. It's her most traditional novel.

  3. This used to be one of my favourite books until I read it for a second time! I like it, but it's not her finest and I agree for what it was it was too long.

    Must say I was rather disappointed at the second read...

    1. That's difficult b/c usually you expect to appreciate it a second time.