3. The Hours, Michael Cunningham

Many times a novel weighs heavily on our shoulders and should not be read on a murky, rainy day.  “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham literally grasps your heart and you are holding your breath for over 200 pages. The most ironic thing is that you are reading about three people and the ordinary life they lead and not an adventure with twists and turns on every page. However, in the end as these three unconnected people meet their faith we see just how masterful with words Cunningham truly is. A novel deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it has received.

I have never read any works by Virginia Wolf but do enjoy when novels are written about great authors. It makes me want to pick up one of their books and see what it’s all about. So the novel starts out in an unfortunate way with Virginia Woolf committing suicide in 1941. She drowns herself in a river in Sussex, England. As she is drowning, Virginia marvels at the images of ordinary life around her. In the very beginning pages her husband finds her suicide note which is the actual suicide note she left when she committed suicide. For the sake of space I have included the suicide note in the “Favorite Quotes” section of the blog.

The novel is about three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel and their narratives go back and forth in the book. In those narratives the reader gets unfiltered thoughts and past memories of protagonists that are very unpredictable. In Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway” the whole book takes place in one day in the life of the central character Clarissa Dalloway. In Cunningham’s book it is one day in the life of each of the three central characters; Clarissa Vaughan, Laura Brown and Virginia Woolf herself. Cunningham shows the beauty and profoundness of every day in our life. He illustrates how even the most ordinary day in every person’s life can be examined through the prism of one single day. I believe this is the true beauty of this novel.

The first is Woolf herself writing “Mrs. Dalloway” in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness which this book showcases in an extraordinary and emotional way. You can’t help but sympathize with the struggles the human mind faces especially when it is as brilliant as Woolf’s. 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. She is probably the most relatable character to me as well as surprising. I was most griped by her story and the struggles she faces. Often times she wonders if there is more than being a housewife, raising children and what has she given up to commit to this life. What talent has she wasted and what potential has she killed? These are the questions she asks in the privacy of a hotel room as she thinks about what it’s like to have the power to end your own life. The third is Clarissa Vaughan, a lesbian, who plans a party in 2001 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover, the poet Richard, who is dying of an AIDS-related illness. Here we see characters dealing with a lot of LGBTQ issues. From today’s perspective it is interesting to read about a lesbian living with her partner in the 1940s.

The situations of all three characters mirror situations experienced by Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway in “Mrs. Dalloway”, with Clarissa Vaughan being a very literal modern-day version of Woolf’s character. So with that being said, “Mrs. Dalloway” is now on my to-read list. As for my final thought on this novel…well it is not for the faint of heart but it is for those that like to read between the lines, that like to observe simple things in life and give those simply things profound meaning. It is a book to be read more than once because there is so much thought and feeling on every page. You need capacity to take it all in and you can’t do it all in two days. You need time to contemplate life, it is an ongoing process that Cunningham has captured in this novel. I found out that there is a movie based on this novel and will have to see it soon.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. E.K.M.
    May 10, 2013 @ 07:48:40

    Hi, I love your reviews and your style of writing, so I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award! Congratulations! For more information, please check out my post at: http://64books.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/liebster-award-nomination/


  2. arhartley
    Jun 11, 2013 @ 16:53:09

    Thank you for this wonderful review of the Hours–after reading it, I’m itching to get up and find my copy and reread it as soon as I can. It’s such a wonderful book, and I highly recommend reading Mrs. Dalloway. Also, be sure to check out the movie with Meryl Streep, she’s fantastic!


    • sarajurisic
      Jun 11, 2013 @ 19:52:19

      I have been meaning to check out the movie. I curious to see how the book translates into a film. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read the review!


  3. Touch2Touch
    Jun 14, 2013 @ 18:29:30

    The movie is superbly done. But the first order of business is surely to read Mrs. Dalloway. It is, simply, brilliant.
    If you like that, Woolf’s To The Lighthouse would probably appeal to you.


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