Jessica's Reviews > Night and Day

Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
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's review
Apr 24, 2009

liked it

okay so first of all, i kindle-read this book, & while i don't normally feel that's worth mentioning i think it had impact this time - who knew this book's like 500 pages long? not i! (until i added on goodreads; the edition i added actually comes out to six hundred something.)

anyway i feel that, had i known it was so long, i'd be saying right now, "man, this book is way too long!" because for what it offers --- basically, a really awesome & vaguely autobiographical jane austen novel stuffed w/ meditations on gender roles & convention, the pain of desire, protest in actuality, the (un)reality of perception & appeareance, terror faced w/ the other, etc etc; great, but still way more conventional & less challenging than her other novels (did i mention jane austen?) --- it doesn't seem the length's all that necessary... that said, i don't actually feel much conviction voicing the argument? cuz it's a fast paced novel, super-involving, HILARIOUS, touching, insightful, all that stuff, & w/out knowledge of volume thickness i never felt weighed down.

did feel a little of the same oh-god-i'm-a-girl-reading-a-romance-novel guilt i felt faced w/ pride & prejudice (sense & sensibility, lady susan, etc) but even w/ all the similarities that could be made (mrs. hilbery & every austen mom! denham & every mysterious but disagreeable austen dude! rodney & every stuck up but ridiculous austen dude! occasional plot laziness!) woolf did use the intervening, what, hundred years?, to increase the depth of these archetypes fantastically: noone's simply caricature, the depths are plumbed, the personalities are fully-fleshed, philosophy sneaks its way in, opportunities are taken (if not always created to the extent i expect from her).

this is all a giant disclaimer, basically - three stars, but three stars for virginia woolf's second novel; that's probably a good 4.5 stars coming from anyone else. the part where katherine walks through the streets whispering lines from dostoevsky? mmf. won't even quote.


Ralph strode with extreme swiftness along the Embankment. Every muscle was taut and braced as if to resist some sudden attack from outside. For the moment it seemed as if the attack were about to be directed against his body, and his brain was thus on the alert, but without understanding. Finding himself, after a few minutes, no longer under observation, and no attack delivered, he slackened his pace, the pain spread all through him, took possession of every governing seat, and met with scarcely any resistance from powers exhausted by their first effort at defence. He took his way languidly along the river embankment, away from home rather than towards it. The world had him at its mercy. He made no pattern out of the sights he saw. He felt himself now, as he had often fancied other people, adrift on the stream, and far removed from control of it, a man with no grasp upon circumstances any longer. Old battered men loafing at the doors of public-houses now seemed to be his fellows, and he felt, as he supposed them to feel, a mingling of envy and hatred towards those who passed quickly and certainly to a goal of their own. They, too, saw things very thin and shadowy, and were wafted about by the lightest breath of wind. For the substantial world, with its prospect of avenues leading on and on to the invisible distance, had slipped from him, since Katherine was engaged. Now all his life was visible, and the straight, meager path had its ending soon enough.


...the presence of industry which she preserved so long as Mrs. Seal was in the room served to set her brain in motion, so that she dispatched her morning's work much as usual. At one o'clock she was surprised to find how efficiently she had dealt with the morning. As she put her hat on she determined to lunch at a shop in the Strand, so as to set that other piece of mechanism, her body, into action. With a brain working and a body working one could keep step with the crowd and never be found out for the hollow machine, lacking the essential thing, that one was conscious of being.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by AB (new) - added it

AB I really really love reading your reviews, Jskah. The fact that you've been reading so much Woolf lately is just a bonus for me I guess! Haha.

message 2: by J. (new)

J. added to kindle

message 3: by Jessica (last edited Apr 25, 2009 08:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jessica A --- dude i have been all about her lately, this is my third in a row w/ out reading anything else & i just started orlando! crazy!

i read to the lighthouse in '05 & was very, uhh, underwhelmed; drudged through, appreciating objectively but not subjectively - i bet this is a great book if yr not in pain! - & then actually liked a room of one's own a little better in jan '06, still a little whatev about her, tried to start a few others, no luck, & then may of '08 - dalloway! exclamations! & even then read it piece by piece online; for some reason i have issues w/ woolf in print? dunno, i've never had an author i actually prefer to read in digital form til now.

so far have hit night & day, flush, jacob's room, mrs. dalloway, to the lighthouse, between the acts, room of one's own... i guess i have four of her major novels left, but will probably need to try rereading lighthouse before i get through all of those.

J --- you should probably hit one of the others first? unless you need something lighter, in which case rock on. i included that last quote for you, though! hit me hard. ++yr last post was lovely, effective, full. i'm hearing you, okay kitten?

message 4: by AB (new) - added it

AB I am so very very far behind you in the reading department, as usual -- I bought the voyage out a little while ago though, so I'll probably start that next, now that I don't need to worry about classes for awhile (!!).

If you're so inclined, someday I'd love to hear what you think about the Hermione Lee biography that I've been waxing poetic about forever and ever.

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