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Night and Day, Virginia Woolf's second novel, is both a love story and a social comedy in the tradition of Jane Austen; yet it also questions that tradition, recognizing that the goals of society and the individual may not necessarily coincide. At its centre is Katharine Hilbery, the beautiful grand-daughter of a great Victorian poet. She must choose between becoming engaged to the oddly prosaic poet William Rodney and her attraction to Ralph Denham, with whom she feels a more profound and disturbing affinity. Katharine's hesitation is vividly contrasted with the approach of her friend Mary Datchet, dedicated to the Women's Rights movement. The ensuing complications are underlined and to some extent unravelled by Katharine's mother, Mrs Hilbery, whose struggles to weave together the known documents, events and memories of her father's life into a coherent biography reflect Woolf's own sense of the unique and elusive nature of experience.
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