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The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours

by Michael Cunningham

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,552158301 (3.94)443
  1. 111
    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (twomoredays, TammyWright)
    twomoredays: If you don't read Mrs. Dalloway before The Hours, I suspect it wouldn't be nearly as fulfilling a reading experience.
    TammyWright: It gives you a much fuller appreciation of what Cunningham accomplished with his wonderful novel, "The Hours."
  2. 10
    Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: And Other Poems by T. S. Eliot (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Cunningham is constantly referencing Prufrock. If you haven't read it, you should
  3. 00
    Ohio Angels by Harriet Scott Chessman (Miels)
  4. 11
    Five Bells by Gail Jones (fountainoverflows)
  5. 01
    John Cheever: Collected Stories and Other Writings (Library of America, No. 188) by John Cheever (Cecilturtle)

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English (146)  German (3)  Dutch (3)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (156)
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The difficulty with writing a homage to a classic book is presenting old events in a new way whilst retaining the intentions of the old without completely copying and yet still subverting the reader's expectations. Thus, before we even start the novel, we know that the story will be over the course of a day, with the final event aiming to be a party, and our main character will be obsessing over something (turns out to still be a kiss) throughout this day, an effect of "Clarissa has to do this because Clarissa did it." The voices of the three women were also occasionally interchangeable and unconvincing, almost like a caricature of this is what and how all women think, no?, it was distracting and disheartening for a homage on a work by a feminist writer.

The change to the settings from London to suburbia London / suburbia America / New York in its three respective different eras, lost the particular mood of post-war London that I so enjoyed in the original. While the former two had good justifications, their changes evoked the sense of Now that the supposed worst is behind us, we should be happier but life is still a daily internal struggle, now what?, the latter retained the big city feel but lacked everything else.

In fact, it was the Dalloway story that dragged the novel down. Despite being self-aware - the protagonist of the section is called Clarissa and nicknamed Mrs Dalloway by her friend, Richard, is married to Sally, is visit unexpectedly by a de-facto lover-in-law, has a daughter whose friend she has conflicting feelings for, is throwing a party later that day-, not once did the character think that perhaps today seemed overly familiar, almost like a book she once read?

As evident by the relationship-reassignment of the characters - perhaps their real in-universe names are not those but the supposed whim of the in-universe author if you choose to be meta about it -, some effort has been put into subverting our expectations of the events. However, the trouble is, if you expect to be subverted, the subversion has better be extra-subverted but that was the case here. It felt more like the author going, I've changed the characters' romantic liaisons, even added homosexuality as a main theme here, my work is done, no need to add any themes or subtext that my new changes might offer, like a cross between a high school assignment and mad libs.

What I did like was:
- the Mrs Brown section - but even that was not without minor issues with the oddly emotional and incapable Richie and the twist was more of an inevitability of a novel of three parallel stories. I most-enjoyed Laura's scene in the hotel. It was everything that I wished a homage would be, the change of setting was layered with its interpretations and meaning to the character, while echoing the outwardly-perfect-but-maybe-inwardly-troubled theme of the original;
- when Virginia personified her headache and the scene of her almost-escape where we could feel her exhilaration but also fear and the symbol that the ticket was to her. ( )
  kitzyl | Sep 13, 2015 |
I feel like I am the only person who didn't read this when it came out in 1998. Now I'm really glad I waited until now to read it as it seems to mean much more to me what what life means to me now than it would have nearly 20 years ago. The movie version I had seen and while very good, the book has so much more and all the layerings are so much more obvious to me. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Jul 19, 2015 |
The Hours is a loving homage to Virginia Woolf's [Mrs. Dalloway]. The novel tells the stories of three women — Clarissa, a 52-year-old woman planning a party for her friend and former lover dying of AIDS; Laura, a young pregnant housewife in 1949 feeling trapped by the order of her life, and Virginia Woolf herself attempting to begin the writing of Mrs. Dalloway in 1925. Each story relates the women's complex inner journeys over the course of a single day.

One of the many profound ways these women's lives and hearts overlap is the way each woman seeks to create her own form of perfection in the world, making such a small thing into so much more than what it is. For Clarissa, it's putting together a party that will properly honor her friend. For Laura, it's assembling a cake that reflects all her feelings of love. For Virginia, it's taking words and shaping them into a story that reveals and transports. And yet, each in her own way feels herself incapable of achieving this perfection. This is just one part of this novel, just one piece, but it's a piece that resonated with me and is something I found to be a part of what makes this novel so heartbreakingly beautiful.

Not only do are each of these women affected personally by the novel, Mrs. Dalloway, but also the writing style of The Hours imitates Woolf's style, the way she layered image and meaning together in complex network of poetic prose. Like Mrs. Dalloway, The Hours is a novel that requires a certain amount of presence and focus in order to follow, but the result of each novel is uniquely beautiful and each are worth a read.

A delightful little footnote: I love that Clarissa mentions seeing a movie star (maybe Meryl Streep) and that Meryl Streep plays Clarissa in the movie version of The Hours. ( )
1 vote andreablythe | Jun 3, 2015 |
There is a unique sensation of both immense loss and joy when you read the final page of a book that you immediately recognise as one of your life's favourites.

Having seen the film first (and loved it), I feared that it would spoil my enjoyment of the book, knowing exactly what was going to happen. At first I had a sense of rushing the book for that reason, but then the story hooked me all over again, and I was rushing simply from an urgency to devour more and more of it's clever deliciousness.

To intertwine a modern retelling of a classic story with parallel stories of Virginia Woolf's demons when writing Mrs. Dalloway, and the fragile state of mind of someone reading Mrs. Dalloway is sheer brilliance - complex yet so simple.

I have not yet read Mrs. Dalloway, but feel I will have to, just to gain another perspective of the immense depth of this novel. Certainly, in reading the novel things became clear to me that I did not pick up on when I watched the film, and I'm sure that having an understanding of Mrs. Dalloway would enhance the book still further. ( )
  AlisonY | Jan 19, 2015 |
As I said elsewhere in my review of André Dubus’s The House of Sand and Fog, I much prefer to read the book before I see the film, only because it becomes virtually impossible to divorce myself from the actors’ portrayal of the characters in the book from what I imagine those characters to be as I read the book. As I also said in that same review, however, seeing the film first didn’t necessarily detract from the book version of the story. Such is also the case with Michael Cunningham’s The Hours.

When I first came out of the movie theater, I was depressed. “Because of the subject matter of the movie?” you may well ask. No, not in the least. Rather, because I felt I could never write anything that good (and I assumed, given the integrity of the film, that the Director had stayed close to Cunningham’s original storyline.

When I next read the book, I closed it at the end and was equally depressed. “Why” again? Because reading the book only confirmed my earlier sense of resignation.

The Hours is a flawless performance in celluloid and an equally flawless performance in prose. Could Michael Cunningham rest on his laurels with this book? I think he could. I hope for all of us, however, that he won’t.

Brooklyn, NY, USA
( )
2 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cunningham, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alopaeus, MarjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goddijn, ServaasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hodge, PatriciaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We'll hunt for a third tiger now, but like the others this one too will be a form of what I dream, a structure of words, and not the flesh and bone tiger that beyond all myths paces the earth. I know these things quite well, yet nonetheless some force keeps driving me in the vague, unreasonable, and ancient quest, and I go on pursuing through the hours another tiger, the beast not found in verse.
- J.L. Borges, The Other Tiger, 1960
I have no time to describe my plans. I should say a good deal about The Hours, and my discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humour, depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, and each comes to daylight at the present moment.
- Virginia Wolf, in her diary, August 30, 1923
This book is for Ken Corbett
First words
Sie hastet aus dem Haus, wirft einen für die Witterung zu schweren Mantel über: 1941.
She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941.
"We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we're very fortunate, by time itself. 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, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.
Heaven only knows why we love it so."
What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.
It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book...What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.
Clarissa dislikes arrangements. She prefers flowers to look as if they've just arrived, in armloads, from the fields.
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Book description
The book concerns three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel. The first is Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs. Brown, wife of a World War II veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband's birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, a lesbian, who plans a party in 1998 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover, the poet Richard, who is dying of AIDS. The situations of all three characters mirror situations experienced by Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway in 'Mrs. Dalloway', with Clarissa Vaughn being a very literal modern-day version of Woolf's character.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312305060, Paperback)

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 gray 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 realize:
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 beveling 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 realize, art belongs to far more than just "the world of objects." --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:26 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In a novel of love, family inheritance, and desperation, the author offers a fictional account of Virginia Woolf's last days and her friendship with a poet living in his mother's shadow.

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