The Hours Hardcover – 21 Jan 1999
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The Hours is both an 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 AIDS. 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
‘“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.’ GuardianSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
It might not change your life but it certainly will make you feel good.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was positively reviewed on the radio recently so thought I'd give it a try. I haven't seen the film and have a read a little of Virginia Woolf so was looking forward to an... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lazy Lady
Four stars because I seldom give five stars. A very interesting read with the story flipping between Virginia Woolf, one of her novels, and a reader of her novel. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jas
I loved this, what a wonderful piece of writing. To be read before or after seeing the film, which this edition has a great film still off on the cover.Published 7 months ago by bertietrouble
Brilliant read. Cleverly crafted, beautifully written.... think I will start al over againPublished 10 months ago by Connie Ogrady
Wonderful book! should be read alongside Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. .Published 10 months ago by Mrs M E parsons