Night and Day is one of Woolf’s early novels, examining the lives, burdens and choices a set of people in their twenties make under the constraints of their family circumstances and temprements.
There are five major characters, and the text moves between their thoughts as well as external discriptions through changes of scene. This can be disorienting at first, but is very well-written and enables the reader to understand views on both sides of the argument.
The main themes of the book are the hunt for a place in life and passion, as the characters realise who they are and what they want from life. I found it very telling that a pivotal character, Mary, remained single and was forging a successful life as a campainger first for women’s sufferage and then later for an unspecified cause. Her freedom and the flexibility the more conservative figures manage to carve for themselves is a good example of a happy ending not having to be marriage.
I did find Ralph Denham’s behaviour problematic though, it was clearly borderline stalking behaviour, not to mention a bad example of “if he treats you badly its because he likes you” in tandom with the developing of a relationship based on mutual respect and common goals.
Katharine‘s love of mathematics in the face of a literary family also made me smile. Everyone has to rebel, even if they start with a small matter. And of course rebelling to mathematics is inherently a good idea.
She had come out into the winter’s night, which was mild enough, not so much to look with scientific eyes upon the starts, as to shake herself free from certain purely terrestrial discontents. Much as a literary person in like circumstances would begin, absent-mindedly, pulling out volume after volume, so she stepped into the garden in order to have the starts at hand even though she did not look at them.