Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Virginia Woolf's Night and Day (1919)

I just finished Virginia Woolf's Night and Day (1919) when I went out for a walk and relaxing afternoon in the park yesterday. It was a good read. I always like Woolf, though I sometimes take a while to make myself get started on one of her novels. I don't know exactly why this is the case, because I always like her work, but it somehow just works on me that way.

Night and Day is not as widely read as a lot of Woolf's other works (Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, etc.). I don't think that is likely to change, but I can say that Night and Day is a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. It is, in many ways, more accessible than some of Woolf's other work, but has a lot of the same poetic beauty one can always expect in one of her novels.

The characters in Night and Day are quite engaging. They will infuriate you sometimes, and make you laugh at others, but they will never bore you. Catherine is a lovely protagonist to follow, and watching her mature through the course of the book is fun. William is pompous and fun to laugh at. Ralph is a bit of a mess, always stumbling here and there, seeming to get lost even inside his own thoughts. Mary is a tough, competent woman. And Cassandra is a stereotypical airhead (who turns out to have a little more to her than that, of course).

I had a great time reading Night and Day, and am glad I put it on my Fill in the Gaps list. It motivated me to pick the book up and get started on it. But it didn't take much pushing to get me to finish it. It was too enjoyable a read to need any external pushing.


Emily Cross said...

Virginia Woolfe is definitely on my TBR list, isn't it awful i've never read any of her stuff!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Haven't read any of Woolf's works but i am working around it.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

I think I read one of her essays at on point..for a women's race and class course in college. I believe it was A Room of One's Own.

So what about the feminist elements within this work?

hifidel said...

I would say Woolf is someone you sure want to get to, even if it takes you a while to do so. I love her essays and her fiction both.

As for the feminist elements in this novel, there is Mary, who works in the suffrage movement. She and her work often come up in conversation amongst various characters, and she offers one of the very interesting points of view in the story. I think she is worth a long exploration for anyone interested in the feminist aspects of this novel, and would probably need attention if one were to cover the topic of feminism in Woolf's work generally. She is an interesting "problem character," I think, in regards to the feminism question. ***SPOILER FOLLOWING*** The eventual outcome of her story is something very worthy of comment, in that she ends up not getting the man she has been waiting for. It is interesting to consider the role her feminism plays in this, and what it says about the perceptions of "the independent woman" at the time the book was written. ***END OF SPOILER***

Catherine, the protagonist, offers a very good study when considering feminist questions in the text too. She is a strong character, and is obviously sorting through questions about the validity of the traditional family, religious, and social structures she has inherited. Feminism is at the heart of these questions, and watching her work through them is a lot of fun.

There are also several male characters who give a slightly different take on the issue of feminism. I think, over all, the book has a whole lot to offer when looked at from this perspective.