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The Hours [Paperback]

Michael Cunningham
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
Price: 6.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

3 Feb 2003

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize and Pen Faulkner prize. Made into an Oscar-winning film, ‘The Hours’ is a daring and deeply affecting novel inspired by the life and work of Virginia Woolf.

In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel.

A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’.

And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend.

Moving effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, this exquisite novel intertwines the stories of three unforgettable women.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; Film tie-in edition edition (3 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184115783X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841157832
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 806,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

The Hours is both a homage to Virginia Woolf and very much its own creature. Even as Michael Cunningham brings his literary idol back to life, he intertwines her story with those of two more contemporary women. One grey suburban London morning in 1923, Woolf awakens from a dream that will soon lead to Mrs.Dalloway. In the present, on a beautiful June day in Greenwich Village, 52-year-old Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her oldest love, a poet dying of an AIDS-related illness. And in Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown, pregnant and unsettled, does her best to prepare for her husband's birthday, but can't seem to stop reading Woolf. These women's lives are linked both by the 1925 novel and by the few precious moments of possibility each keeps returning to. Clarissa is to eventually realise:
There's just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we've ever imagined ... Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.

As Cunningham moves between the three women, his transitions are seamless. One early chapter ends with Woolf picking up her pen and composing her first sentence: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." The next begins with Laura rejoicing over that line and the fictional universe she is about to enter. Clarissa's day, on the other hand, is a mirror of Mrs. Dalloway's--with, however, an appropriate degree of modern bevelling as Cunningham updates and elaborates his source of inspiration. Clarissa knows that her desire to give her friend the perfect party may seem trivial to many. Yet it seems better to her than shutting down in the face of disaster and despair.

Like its literary inspiration, The Hours is a hymn to consciousness and the beauties and losses it perceives. It is also a reminder that, as Cunningham again and again makes us realise, art belongs to far more than just "the world of objects." --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


‘“The Hours” is a book which heightens the perception of the reader. Cunningham’s craftsmanship is overwhelming.’ Robert Farren, Independent on Sunday

‘An extremely moving, original and memorable novel.’ Hermione Lee, TLS

‘Engrossing, imaginative and humane.’ Richard Francis, Observer

‘“The Hours” refracts the lives of three women through the prism of a single day. Michael Cunningham evokes these three discrete characters with rare skill.’ Financial Times

‘The concept behind the novel is bold, the execution rich with feeling.’ Helen Dunmore, The Times

‘A sensitive marriage of intelligence, integrity and finely textured emotions.’ Sunday Times

‘Cunningham has found an American tone which is exhilaratingly modern – tense, tender and completely without strain.’ Guardian

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Please read this book (again!) 21 Dec 2000
By A Customer
I felt compelled to write a review of this book since two of the previous reviewers only gave it two stars. Don't believe it!!
This is a truly inspiring and deeply thought-provoking book, based on a profound appreciation of Woolf's novel. It is written with marvellous economy and scholarship, tightly structured around a single day in the lives of three women. The meeting of two of the characters in the final chapter is the least important of the linkages between the three strands and after all that has gone before seems partly irrelevant.
The themes of 'Mrs Dalloway' which the book picks up and develops are among the most simple and entrancing - love, loss, consciousness, how and why we go on living. And I'm sure there's plenty that I missed.
I'm looking forward to re-reading this book and I do encourage those readers who didn't appreciate it first time round to do the same. This powerful little book may not reveal all it's depths to you without a little work but that should do nothing to diminish your enjoyment of it.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a novel within a novel within a novel 15 July 2002
By A. Peel
I can only comment on "The Hours" in its own right, not having read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, but in a sense this might allow me to judge the work more objectively. Whilst I undoubtedly overlook certain intricacies in the plot it is very important to mention that my enjoyment was definitely not limited by not having read "Mrs Dalloway" previously.
In my humble opinion, the novel is extremely cleverly constructed and appears to be the work of an utter perfectionist. Cunningham demonstrates such incredible understanding of the life, time and mind of Virginina Woolf that his historical research was clearly scrupulous. He delves into the very depths of the minds of his female characters in particular; notably those who most seem to mirror Virginia Woolf. He shows an exquisite and very delicate sensitivity to his characters, and you truly sense that he is totally at one with them all, as well as with their differing fictional worlds, each of which seems to be tainted with Virginia's sadness, isolation and reflection, despite the fact that the characters' world seems to overflow with love as well as material comforts.
I found the book a great pleasure to read. It really is a novel within a novel within a novel, and the three parralel plots blur around the edges. The book is all fictional, if based on reality, and yet this is three-level fiction, leading the reader to question who is whose fiction and where the lines between fiction and reality can really be drawn? We are also lead to ponder on when fiction is fantasy and when it is an outsourcing of real anguish, fear and frustration, for Virginia, and even, through Virginia and the other protaganists, for Cunningham himself? It is a multi-layered and highly thought-provoking masterpiece.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting 9 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This book is unworthy of criticism, it is written with sublime beautiful prose and consumes the reader with richly crafted sentences.
It might not change your life but it certainly will make you feel good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendidly written, and truly fascinating 6 Nov 2000
I think this is one great novel. It is highly readable, and at the same time written in such a stile... it so much reminds us of Virgina Woolf. And at the same time the story and the characters appear so modern. Last, but not least, a story which is intense and fascinating up to the (surprising) end.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant. 17 April 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am compelled to write an impromptu review, seeing that the only other reviewer saw fit to allow a paltry 2 stars to this elegant gem of a book. I first read The Hours over a year ago, after reading several glowing newspaper and magazine reviews. I was not disappointed. This little novel has really stuck in my mind-- I'm sure I will read it again and again in my lifetime.
The great accomplishment of this novel is the way that Cunningham has absolutely captured Virginia Woolf-- her life, her spirit, and her writing style. Had I not known otherwise, I would never have believed that this was written by a man. Her wit, the off-center brilliance of her observations, her malaise and isolation, are all perfectly captured here. But the GENIUS of the story is the way in which her life, and most especially her death, are not made to seem sad, but beautiful and poetic in a way that touches us all. He shows this by linking Woolf in unexpected ways to the lives of two very different women living in different eras. Great literature is transcendant in ways that we rarely appreciate in our day-to-day lives; Cunningham has shown that there can be great poetry and meaning even in shopping, baking, and death.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars seventeen and impressed 29 Sep 2003
By ollie
I was getting sick of harry potter, I couldn’t handle the hype anymore, so for my next book I wanted a more mature angle to it with no broomsticks in sight!
I needed a book for a school project, a book with enough detail and inspiration to have a basis for an essay. I looked no further than ‘the hours’.
At first I was a bit unsure if it was the right choice but once I started reading I just refused to put it down. This book was by far one of the most inspirational, moving and emotional that I have ever read.
As I read many of the reviews I can see many adults reviewing their best parts of ‘the hours’ and practically writing a whole essay in doing so. But for a book that would blow away a seventeen year old boy, leave him questioning life, leave him out of breath, leave him with a tear on his cheek has to get more than a patronizing “Well done” it deserves more so much more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Really good
This book was much better than I expected. I had to buy it because I needed to read it in my class. However it is a book which I definately would have read in my sparetime as well. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Hannah
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
My introduction to Michael Cunningham was through the book "A Home at The End of The World", which I thought was excellent, and then I read his "By Nightfall", again, excellent. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Philip Mayo
5.0 out of 5 stars best read in a long time!!
I absolutely love this book, such a clever story!! So clever how it keeps flipping in between different characters and era's, yet not confusing at all! Read more
Published 13 months ago by blah blah
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious
I really did not enjoy this book and would probably have abandoned it if it hadn't been in the form of an unabridged audiobook. Read more
Published 15 months ago by DubaiReader
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful writing.
This book is phenomenal. The way Michael Cunningham uses the English language to depict moments in different times and lives is wonderful. Very powerful writing.
Published 17 months ago by LucyA
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book !
Michael Cunningham wrote one of the great masterpiece of the era. Amazing price for a priceless book. It should be on everybody must read list.
Published 17 months ago by Rua
5.0 out of 5 stars perfect
It arrived on time, the book was perfect, and I just have to read it now. But I'm happy with my purchase.
Published 18 months ago by maria
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bowden Romance
I found the book a very interesting journey into the past, I was quite enlightened by some of the history of Stockport and found the book enjoyable! Read more
Published 19 months ago by Lisa.warby
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Cunningham's "The Hours" - a gem!
A book that produced a movie that was very good, the film script was true to the book. However, the book contains words and thoughts that no film script could replicate. Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2012 by Dave-o's review from Oz
2.0 out of 5 stars Clever and arid
All very impressive - different strands, literary allusions and all the other paraphernalia of a modern literary novel - but it reads as though more designed to be admired and... Read more
Published on 8 Jun 2012 by WillDavies
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