The 100th Anniversary Edition of Virginia Woolf’s timely, overlooked second novel–a remarkable story of two women navigating the possibilities opened up by the struggle for women’s suffrage–introduced for Restless Classics by bestselling author of Fates and Furies Lauren Groff and illustrated by graphic artist Kristen Radtke.
Since its publication in 1919, Virginia Woolf’s second novel has been largely dismissed as “traditional”–but reading the book more closely today shows us just how prescient and unconventional it was. On its surface, Night and Day plays with the tropes of Shakespearean comedy: We follow the romantic endeavors of two friends, Katharine Hilbery and Mary Datchet, as love is confessed and rebuffed, partners switched, weddings planned and cancelled, until we finally arrive at two engagements. But these dramas play out against the first steps of the women’s suffrage movement, as women’s roles in society fitfully started to shift away from charm, subservience, and self-sacrifice toward equal partnership. Ultimately, Woolf’s novel is a subversive challenge to the male-writer establishment of the Edwardian age–Henry James, E.M. Forster, their forebears and successors–that undercuts the unequal gender dialectic on which their plots depend.
The Virginia Woolf of Night and Day is every bit as brilliant, funny, sharp, and imbued with a deep love of language as in her celebrated later works Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. What makes Night and Day so remarkable is its devotion to “real life.” As bestselling author of Fates and Furies Lauren Groff writes in her introduction, “Virginia Woolf, in pushing outward in this book toward an articulation of a new and better kind of marriage, doesn’t stop for a moment to try to seduce the reader into loving her characters–she is too fixated on breaking new ground and exploring her ideas.”
This edition, beautifully illustrated by Kristen Radtke, celebrates the 100th anniversary of this key work not only of the Woolf canon, but also of the vital history of feminist literature.