5 Epic Novels Unfolding Over A Single Day

24 hours. 1440 minutes. Not a lot of time when compared to our entire life, but enough time to change its course. No one understands it better than writers. Perhaps that’s why they have written not just sweeping sagas which take place over months and years, but also books that take place in a single day. If you would like to read a novel where a single day in the protagonist’s life becomes the epicentre of the plot, here is a list of five such books:-

Ulysses by James Joyce

A modernist novel that was first published in 1922, Ulysses takes for its subject matter the events of a single day that happen in the lives of Molly Bloom, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus. Written mostly in a stream-of-consciousness style, Ulysses is said to have been inspired by Homer’s epic Odyssey. Running into around 700 pages, Joyce’s Ulysses is an epic in itself. 

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

A slim book, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway is the story of Clarissa Dalloway, a woman married to a British parliamentarian and the party she is due to give on the day the book takes place. It portrays her disillusion with the life she is living within the barriers of her class. Another strand that runs parallel in the novel is the story of a war veteran Septimus Smith who is suffering from PTSD. The novel is considered to be one of the greatest works of Woolf and has inspired other novels in its wake.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Murakami’s After Dark follows nineteen-year-old Mari when she meets a young man who shows her a new face of her city after darkness falls. Through an array of people that Mari discovers on her night travels in After Dark, her life changes in subtle yet irrevocable ways. Replete with Murakami’s trademark surrealism and shorter than his other famous ones, After Dark is a good entry point for all those hoping to get into his magical literary world.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich describes a single day in the life of its eponymous protagonist who is serving a sentence of hard labour in one of Stalin’s labour camps in Siberia. Describing the details of a day in Ivan’s life from the moment he is forced to wake up at 5 am till he is allowed to sleep at night, the novel is a study of what a man must do to survive in extreme conditions and his search for dignity even in the most humbling circumstances.

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

Anand’s novel gives his readers a peek into one day of the life of Bakha, the ‘untouchable’ protagonist. It describes the ignominy of being a social outcast that Bakha must accept as his lot in life and his attempts to find his identity. With themes like injustice, oppression and poverty at its forefront, Untouchable is a novel that will resonate with readers even today. 

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Dr Sneha Pathak

About the Reviewer:-

Sneha Pathak has a PhD in English Literature and has taught at the collegiate and university level. She currently works as a freelance writer/translator. Her writings have appeared in various publications such as Muse India, Purple Pencil Project, The Wise Owl Magazine, The Curious Reader, Mystery and Suspense Magazine etc. She recently published her first book of translation, an anthology of stories translated from Hindi. Follow her here: Instagram

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