Monday, January 24, 2011

Kelly's Review of "The Hours" by Michael Cunningham

Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Published: Picador, 1998
Where I Got It: Library

Do you like Virginia Woolf? If so, you'll probably like this one, especially if you've read Mrs. Dalloway.

The Hours is told from the perspective of three different women: Virginia Woolf, the author, living in 1920s London; Laura Brown, a housewife in suburban Los Angeles in the 1950s; and Clarissa Vaughan, a woman living in modern day Manhattan (well, modern as in the 90s). Each of these three women, though separated by time and distance, are all connected through the story Mrs. Dalloway.

If I correctly recall, Mrs. D took place during the span of one day; so does this book. Virginia Woolf, obviously, is writing the book. As she is planning a visit from her sister, she muses aloud, some of which will make it into her novel. She tries to juggle her writing with being a wife and entertainer to friends and family. Laura Brown, pregnant and dealing with a small child, is actually reading the book. She wishes she could stay in bed all day and finish the book (don't we all!), but her wifely duties call. Laura struggles with running away from her life with her book in tow, and doing the right thing and staying with her family when they need her. Clarissa Vaughan, affectionately called 'Mrs. Dalloway' by her closet friend, is for all practical purposes, is living the story. When we first meet her, she is leaving to buy flowers for a party later that evening.

A favorite technique of mine in books are separate timelines somehow merging together: this one definitely qualifies! The ending is completely unexpected (at least I didn't see it coming), and all the timelines conclude nicely. All the struggles that the three women were dealing with contrasted nicely with their time period. Before you think this is a nice, light read, let me say a few things. A lot of the characters are either gay or are leaning towards it. AIDS also plays a big part. There are several suicides and some other tough subjects come into play. Everyone seems to be struggling with doing the right thing, not the selfish things.

Overall, this was pretty interesting. It's not perfect, but gets 4 stars for being pretty entertaining. I do seem to be in the minority for liking it though. It gets ripped apart on goodreads!

The novel was also adapted into a movie in 2002. It won some awards, but looks a lot more dramatic that the book....which is usually the case.


  1. I liked this book a lot, but I like Virginia Woolf much more -- the movie was good, though :)

  2. Thanks for the review.

    Do you think one should read Mrs. Dolloway first, id it help? I haven't read it but heard good things about it.

  3. I thought this book was very deep & moody but so well written. I'll have to read what all the griping is about on Goodreads. I was also struck by the small timeframe for each character's vignette but completely taken with how it all came together.

  4. I sort of want to read this but know next to nothing about Virginia Woolf so it's probably not a good idea at the moment.

  5. I've been meaning to read this book since I saw the movie. I love that movie.

    I read Mrs. Dalloway and enjoyed that also, although it's a strange read...

  6. I just went to the GoodReads page, and I see what you mean! Everyone either absolutely hates or absolutely loves it. There's hardly anyone in-between. I am always so curious about books like that. I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway yet (though my boyfriend says it's a really amazing piece of art), and I haven't seen the movie yet either. Now I'm curious about all three! Thanks for reviewing this. I think I'll put it on my to-read.

    -Emily @ Reading While Female

  7. This is one of the few instances where I love both the book and the movie. I'm usually wary of novels that take on other novels (like all the fake Pride and Prejudice novels out there) but this one satisfies. It saddens me that it's not so beloved on Goodreads!

  8. I really enjoyed this book. I read it as part of a class on Virginia Woolf. It also happened to be the same year the movie came out, so that was a special treat for the class.

  9. I gave it the same rating you did on Goodreads. I liked it a lot more than I was expecting too but didn't find it to be a perfect read.

  10. This is one of my favorite novels. I absolutely agree that I loved the way the ending came together.

    Alas, I do feel that the movie butchered it. You can't have everything in life. Great review!

  11. I read both this and Mrs. Dalloway, but I can't remember which I read first! I liked them both. I have not seen the movie yet.

  12. leeswammes - I personally haven't read Mrs. Dalloway and I wasn't totally lost reading this book...but I'm sure you would get a lot more out of it if you've read Mrs. D. So I'm not really sure :/

  13. I have read Mrs Dalloway, and I liked The Hours a lot better (this is probably blasphemy but I don't care!), you can see quite a lot of parallels between Clarissa's story and Mrs Dalloway's if you read them both, but it doesn't really seem to be vital (imho, anyway!)
    Love love love Laura's story (not just because we have the same name hehe) and a good review too :)

  14. The movie version of The Hours is my favorite movie of all time. I watched it daily when I was pregnant with my third child and have seen it over 100 times. Sadly, I saw it before reading the novel and when I did read it, I was sorely disappointed...

  15. This has been on my TBR forever--hopefully I'll get to it in 2011.


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