Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: The Hours by Michael Cummingham

Description (from Goodreads): 
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

My thoughts:

I bought this book a couple of years ago when I found it from this sale basket from the local bookstore. I had heard about the movie made from this novel, but I had not seen it. When I had some time to read something other than school books (NOW I ONLY HAVE TIME FOR OTHER BOOKS, FINALLY) I picked this from the bookshelf and after the first pages I was totally hooked. The novel is so interestingly constructed and the way the stories of these three women intertwine is just excellent. 

The novel introduces the reader to three women; Virginia Woolf in 1923 in London, Laura Brown in 1949 in Los Angeles and Clarissa Vaughan in present time in New York City. In London, Virginia Woolf wakes up from a dream and gets an inspiration to Mrs Dalloway. In Los Angeles Laura Brown is reading Mrs Dalloway. She is pregnant and she tries to be the "domestic goddess" that can prepare a beautiful cake for her husband's birthday. Laura cannot stop reading Woolf, and that eventually has dramatic results. Clarissa lives in Greenwich Village with her female lover. She is planning a party for her old love, a poet called Richard who is sick with AIDS. I don't want to explain the plot with more detail because I think that would ruin the reading experience. At least I was surprised about the deep linkage between these women when I finally figured it out at the end of the novel.

What I really liked about 'The Hours' was how Cunningham has been able to intertwine the stories together. Even though there is gap of many years between these women, the way the stories are put together is so masterful that it makes a lover of good literature grin with pleasure. Now when I look back, I regret not taking this book before from my bookshelf, but on the other hand, it provided A GREAT passage way for me away from school work for a short while.

I watched the movie afterwards and I feel that it really was able to catch the feelings and emotions from the novel. I recommend this book to everyone who loves literature, this one is really worth reading!

I even ordered Mrs Dalloway so I can read it at some point... :D


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