Sunday, January 9, 2011

"The Hours" by Michael Cunningham

Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Published: Picador, 1998
Where I Got It: Library

Also posted on The Broke & the Bookish!

Do you like Virginia Woolf? If so, you'll probably like this one, especially if you've read Mrs. Dalloway.

The Hours is told from the perspective of three different women: Virginia Woolf, the author, living in 1920s London; Laura Brown, a housewife in suburban Los Angeles in the 1950s; and Clarissa Vaughan, a woman living in modern day Manhattan (well, modern as in the 90s). Each of these three women, though separated by time and distance, are all connected through the story Mrs. Dalloway.

If I correctly recall, Mrs. D took place during the span of one day; so does this book. Virginia Woolf, obviously, is writing the book. As she is planning a visit from her sister, she muses aloud, some of which will make it into her novel. She tries to juggle her writing with being a wife and entertainer to friends and family. Laura Brown, pregnant and dealing with a small child, is actually reading the book. She wishes she could stay in bed all day and finish the book (don't we all!), but her wifely duties call. Laura struggles with running away from her life with her book in tow, and doing the right thing and staying with her family when they need her. Clarissa Vaughan, affectionately called 'Mrs. Dalloway' by her closet friend, is for all practical purposes, is living the story. When we first meet her, she is leaving to buy flowers for a party later that evening.

A favorite technique of mine in books are separate timelines somehow merging together: this one definitely qualifies! The ending is completely unexpected (at least I didn't see it coming), and all the timelines conclude nicely. All the struggles that the three women were dealing with contrasted nicely with their time period. Before you think this is a nice, light read, let me say a few things. A lot of the characters are either gay or are leaning towards it. AIDS also plays a big part. There are several suicides and some other tough subjects come into play. Everyone seems to be struggling with doing the right thing, not the selfish things.

Overall, this was pretty interesting. It's not perfect, but gets 4 stars for being pretty entertaining. I do seem to be in the minority for liking it though. It gets ripped apart on goodreads!

The novel was also adapted into a movie in 2002. It won some awards, but looks a lot more dramatic that the book....which is usually the case.


  1. A big reason why I haven't read this is because of how badly it gets ripped into on Goodreads... I might pick it up at some point, now!

  2. I liked this book a lot! I liked the movie even more than the book , which is strange because usually I never like the movie versions.

  3. I really only read this because I wanted to watch the movie...but I've heard some bad reviews on that as well...ahh! Must form my own opinion though.



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