Eva Figes Valentine Cunningham - Essay

Valentine Cunningham

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Eva Figes] dwells on the plight of a woman, but Days bids over-ambitiously to embrace the plight of all women, and its sympathies become rapidly too diffuse. A woman lies in a hospital bed, with memories of her own life, and thoughts about the men and women in it, sludging about in her mind. Her dribble—it's certainly less than a stream—of consciousness is least muddied when she focusses on the worthy females labouring about her…. [The] intrusive polemical moments are just condonable, I suppose, but a curiosity the novel fails to overcome is the merging of the first woman's thoughts with her daughter's. No warning is given of the switches back and forth and, confounding the confusion, the patterns of the two lives are identical…. We're intended to perceive an inextricable knitting of all womankind into a net of like dilemmas: instead, we're perplexed as to exactly what happens to any one woman…. But the strongest impression Days leaves is of unflagging rancour for the men who always win the prizes and the goodies, and who can't even spot what's wrong with the women. 'I hate men,' one of the women thinks. 'It was like a thought coming out of one's own head,' the other concurs.

Valentine Cunningham, "Woodman's Widow," in The Listener, Vol. 91, No. 2339, January 24, 1974, p. 120.∗