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Katharine Hilbery is beautiful and privileged but uncertain of her future. She must choose between becoming engaged to the oddly prosaic poet William, and her dangerous attraction to the lower-class Ralph. As she struggles to decide, the lives of two other women - women's rights activist Mary Datchet and Katharine's mother, struggling to weave together the documents, events and memories of her father's life into a biography - impinge on hers with unexpected and intriguing consequences. Virginia Woolf's light, delicate second novel is both a love story and a social comedy, yet it also subtly undermines these traditions, questioning a woman's role and the very nature of experience.