6 Unique Novels That Take Place Over the Course of a Day
With each round around the sun, tremendous change can and does occur, but we often overlook the fact that events worthy of deep consideration can occur in as little as 24 hours. Internal and external discoveries are made, thoughts are shifted, resolutions are sought, and journeys begin and conclude. Several famous writers have experimented with this idea by writing novels that take place over the course of a single day. These novels are also known as “circadian novels”. The ‘circadian novel’ can pack lifetimes of experience into 24 hours, and therein lies its speciality. From James Joyce to Virginia Woolf, we’ve rounded up a list of 6 novels that will take you on a day’s journey from the comfort of your reading chair-
- Ulysses by James Joyce
Leopold Bloom is a Jewish advertising canvasser who is consumed by thoughts of his wife’s infidelity. Stephen Dedalus aspires to be a poet. Ulysses follows the two as they go about their daily lives, first as strangers, then as friends walking aimlessly across Dublin, all within a day. It’s worth recalling that this book, the most renowned of all circadian novels, contains some of the most exquisite and descriptive passages ever written in the English language.
- Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Clarissa Dalloway is a well-to-do woman who is planning a dinner party for her husband, a member of Parliament. Mrs Dalloway uses a stream-of-conscious narrative, similar to Joyce’s Ulysses, and flips between characters–socialite Clarissa and shell-shocked war veteran Septimus. Mrs Dalloway is an introspective tale filled with regret and pain that explores the various ways sadness presents in different people. There’s a seamless transition between past, present, and future here, as well as a crisp clarity and even the occasional moment of playfulness, which is uncommon in Woolf’s work. Bird’s-eye views of London are transformed into personal views.
- Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Eleanor Flood will not be a disaster today. No. Eleanor is going to get her act together today. She, however, does not. Eleanor deals with one mini-disaster after another, from her husband’s unannounced trip to a meeting gone horribly wrong, until a long-simmering family secret threatens to emerge. Eleanor Flood will be compelled to give up her small ambitions in order to face an exciting, new future. Today Will Be Different is a hilarious and heartfelt novel about reinvention, sisterhood, and how facing our previous selves can sometimes be the only way to actually begin living.
- The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
The Mezzanine follows Howie, an office worker, during his lunch break. Howie’s thoughts are as banal as his job: shoelaces, plastic straws, and the evolution of milk cartons. However, as readers progress through Nicholson Baker’s 135-page novel, they gain access to Howie’s formative years, with his mealtime reflections serving as portals into his boyhood and coming-of-age experiences. The novel’s core concerns the thoughts that pass through a person’s head in any given few moments, as well as the ideas that would emerge if he or she were given the opportunity to fully consider these thoughts.
- After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Mari Asai, the protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s eleventh novel, is looking for a peaceful spot to study late at night. The 19-year-old college student seeks refuge in a 24-hour Denny’s just before midnight. Her plans are quickly disrupted, as she abandons her books in favour of an attention-seeking trombonist, a “love hotel” owner, a Chinese-speaking prostitute, and an escort-battering businessman with ties to her coma-ridden sister. With Japan’s streets as its background, After Dark examines how places and the people who inhabit them change after the sun sets.
- Molly Fox’s Birthday by Deirdre Madden
An anonymous playwright housesits for her friend, the famed actress Molly Fox, in Deirdre Madden’s novel. The narrator muses on her 20-year connection with the homeowner as she seeks inspiration for her new play. The novel takes place on Molly’s birthday, as the title suggests, and explores how a once close friendship became distant. The action of this novel is presented in a stream of consciousness manner, and it takes place over the course of one day, but it covers a lifetime of sentiments and interactions between the main characters.
Every year, we are encouraged to take stock of ourselves: what have we accomplished in the last 365 days to better ourselves? What has changed–for the better or for the worse? Sometimes, these thoughts can also occur to us over the course of a single day. With their distinct characteristic of being set within a day, circadian novels are introspective in nature and encourage the reader to do the same.
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