A landmark republication of a timely, overlooked social novel from Virginia Woolf set amidst the struggle for women’s suffrage, re-introduced for Restless Classics by bestselling author of Fates and Furies Lauren Groff and illustrated by graphic artist Kristen Radtke.
When she published her second novel, Night and Day, in 1919, Virginia Woolf was excoriated for writing a seemingly traditional novel, one that ignored Britain's entrance into modernity and the horrors of World War I. What about it provoked such a reaction, to the point where it goes unrecognized even today?
On its surface, Night and Day reads like a Shakespearean comedy: We follow the romantic endeavors of two friends, Katharine Hilbery and Mary Datchet, as love is confessed and rebuffed, weddings planned and cancelled, until we finally arrive at two engagements. But these dramas play out against the women’s movement for voting rights and equal wages, and just as Woolf makes use of the tropes of romantic comedy, she pushes back against them with an undercurrent of doubt about the institution of marriage and the civic imbalance between the sexes.
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 works Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. What makes Night and Day so remarkable is its devotion to “real life.” In Woolf's vision, there are no happy endings, nor sad ones—only a “dark tide of waters, endlessly moving.”
Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is the author of acclaimed works of fiction like Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To the Lighthouse (1927) as well as the feminist call to arms, A Room of One’s Own (1929). Born to a wealthy family in South Kensington, London, Woolf was the seventh child of eight. Her mother died in 1895 and Woolf experienced her first mental breakdown; two years later, Woolf’s stepsister and surrogate mother, Stella Duckworth, also died. After attending the Ladies’ Department of King’s College London, Woolf started to write seriously with the encouragement of her father. Woolf’s father died in 1905 and Woolf experienced a second mental breakdown. She married Leonard Woolf in 1912 and in 1917 they founded Hogarth Press. At the age of 37, Woolf published her second novel, Night and Day. She continued to have a successful literary career and is remembered as one of the most important modernist writers of the twentieth century. Woolf also had an affair with peer and author Vita Sackville-West, who is the inspiration for the main character in Orlando (1928). At the age of 59, Woolf drowned herself in a river; she struggled with bouts of depression and bipolar disorder throughout her life.
Kristen Radtke is the author of the graphic nonfiction book Imagine Wanting Only This (Pantheon, 2017). She is the art director and deputy publisher of The Believer magazine. She is at work on a graphic essay collection, Seek You: Essays on American Loneliness, and Terrible Men, a graphic novel, both forthcoming from Pantheon. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Marie Claire, The Atlantic, GQ, The New Yorker’s “Page Turner,” Oxford American, and many other places. Find her on Twitter @kristenradtke.