Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Hours

I did not expect to like The Hours by Michael Cunningham and I'm not even sure what about it intrigued me enough to pick it up in the first place. Isn't it nice when a book that you think will be totally over your head surprises you by being touching and, at least at some level, understood? This is what happened with this one.

The Hours is actually three stories in one; the stories of three women, all looking for something different, something more. There is Virginia Woolf herself, working on writing Mrs Dalloway in the 1920s; her husband insists on living in the country because it should keep her more sane, but she yearns for the bustling energy of London, she feels stifled in her environment. There is Clarissa, modelled on Clarissa Dalloway herself, who, in modern New York, spends her day planning a party for a dying friend. And there is Mrs Brown, who lives in 1940s California and tries to be what her family expect her to be; when all she wants is some time on her own to read Mrs Dalloway.

I found all three women's stories engrossing. Cunningham replicates Virginia Woolf's stream of consciousness style and does so splendidly. The stories all take place in the space of one day, which is apparently meant to show the beauty in the everyday. But what it showed me was how rich the human mind is; we go through so many thoughts, observations, worries, questions, moments of peace and happiness in each and every day. If we'd take the time to notice every single thing we come across in the space of one day, we'd find it all incredible I think.

The longing of the characters for something else was touching and beautifully portrayed. I understand that the themes running through The Hours are the same as some of the themes in Mrs Dalloway, so I'm now inspired to read the latter. We'll see.

Oh and The Hours won both the Pulitzer and the PEN/Faulkner Award, so I guess many others were also touched by it.

Challenges: 1% Well-Read Challenge, 999 Challenge, Book Awards 3

5 comments:

Charley said...

I thought The Hours was beautifully written. I wish I had read Mrs. Dalloway first. Alas, it is still waiting for me on the bookshelf.

Lezlie said...

I need to get to this one to go with Mrs. Dalloway. I'm glad to hear it's good!

Lezlie

Nymeth said...

I loved this book. I'm glad you did too.

Kailana said...

I really like Michael Cunningham in general. Glad you enjoyed this one!

joanna said...

Charley - I'm just working my way through it now and also wonder if I shouldn't have read it first.

Lezlie - I think this is one you'll really appreciate!

Nymeth - I thought you might have - such beautiful writing!

Kailana - Hmmm, I'll have to look into some of his other books then.