Night and Day is a novel by Virginia Woolf, first published in 1919. It’s her second novel. Mrs Dalloway, her first novel generally lauded as ‘great’, came 6 years later in 1925, To The Lighthouse (a masterpiece) came in 1927, Orlando – less championed but, in my mind (and the minds of many), wonderful in 1928 and The Waves (another masterpiece) in 1931.
The novel is the most conventional of all the Woolf novels I’ve read. It’s classically Edwardian, a typical structure with fairly simple characters. It’s, ironically, the longest Woolf novel. As a fan of her writing it was quite fascinating to read, perhaps slightly surprising that it was as early as 1919 – it feels as if it’s just on the cusp of turning into a more complex piece of work – a prelude to a prelude of Mrs Dalloway. I am yet to read Jacob’s Room (1922) but I am excited to do it, to see the transition of how Woolf reaches her heightened level of craft.
In Night and Day you can feel Woolf experimenting with her characters and ideas – there are glimmers of brilliance and there’s beauty throughout the novel. Wonderful phrases, descriptions and classic Woolf-esque observations and ideas. The novel has it’s faults, mostly that it’s too long and meandering, but it’s certainly not without its merits. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone who knows they already love Virginia Woolf; but I’d warn Woolf naysayers to steer clear, as the biggest benefit to reading the novel is to understand the writer herself better and observe her development towards her masterpieces.