For that seems to be how it is in Night and Day. In this London society where cupid’s arrows seem to have flown haphazardly. For Mary loves Ralph who loves Katherine who doesn’t love William who might love Cassandra and not Katherine (his fiancée).
Things sort themselves out eventually and all seems fine and dandy except that there is an odd number in this equation. And that is poor Mary, who devotes her life to causes and who sort of becomes the reluctant counselor to all these lovelorn folks. Of course she herself is caught up in this love-line (so not a triangle or even a square or a circle because no one seems to love her back….awwww!) so she is the maker of tea and her flat the convenient drop-in place for the lovelorn and the confused. It is hard not to like her (especially her family and their amusing initial shyness with Ralph) and I just wish she were treated better.
As for Katherine, I was quite determined to boo and hiss at her, since I’m on Mary’s side and all that. But Woolf sneaks in these bits about how K has this secret love. An unspeakable atrocity as she is the granddaughter of some famous (now deceased) poet (who has a kind of cult status that has visitors calling at the house to see his writing desk and manuscripts).
When she was rid of the pretense of paper and pen, phrase-making and biography, she turned her attention in a more legitimate direction, though, strangely enough, she would rather have confessed her wildest dreams of hurricane and prairie than the fact that, upstairs, alone in her room, she rose early in the morning or sat up late at night to…work at mathematics.
Yes, a secret love for mathematics. That makes me want to forgive all her faults – and she has many. But it is hard because of Mary and her fondness for Ralph, who’s in love with Katherine. And Katherine is one who believes that love should be:
“Splendid as the waters that drop with resounding thunder from high ledges of rock, and plunge downwards into the blue depths of night, was the presence of love she dream, drawing into it every drop of the force of life, and dashing them all asunder in the superb catastrophe in which everything was surrendered, and nothing might be reclaimed. The man too, was some magnanimous hero, riding a great horse by the shore of the sea. They rode through forests together, they galloped the rim of the sea.
As for the male characters, I didn’t think much of them. William is written as too silly and pompous a character. And Ralph too angsty.
At one moment he exulted in the thought that Mary loved him; at the next, it seemed that he was without feeling for her; her love was repulsive to him. Now he felt urged to marry her at once; now to disappear and never see her again.
Night and Day might not be one of Woolf’s more lauded books but it was quite a treat to read.
This is my Classics read for the Mixing it Up challenge.