Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Length: 226 pages
One Sentence Summary: Virgina Woolf writes Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Vaughn plans a party, and Laura Brown tries to escape — three different women all impacted by the same novel.
Two Sentence Review: This book gives you just enough story about the characters to make you want to read more about all of the. The Hours is a book that is much more complicated than it initially appears.
I started reading The Hours because readers voted is as the book I should be sure to read in April. Given that so many people have already read this book, I thought doing my review in the form of questions might be fun. So here we go!
Care (Care’s Online Bookclub) asked: If you could only pick three words to describe this book, which words would you choose?
I’m not sure if these will work, but here’s my try: Escaping, Sexuality, Literature.
Gavin (Page247) asked: Do the three strands work? Are each of the characters in balance or does one “overpower” the others?
One strand of the book is about Virgina Woolf as she is writing Mrs. Dalloway. The second is about society woman Clarissa Vaughn (nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway by a friend) planning a party for her good friend Richard. The third is about Laura Brown (reading Mrs. Dalloway), a 1950s housewife that feels trapped in her life with her loving husband and son.
The three strands are connected together by the book, along with themes like lesbianism, escape, and, I suppose, feminism. Clarissa is a more literal reinterpretation of Mrs. Dalloway, but Laura also has some close moments with the book.
I thought the three strands balanced well; I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any of the characters. The ties between Virgina and Clarissa were pretty clear, but the ties to Laura were less obvious to me until I got to the end of the book and had a “duh!” moment because I hadn’t figured it out earlier.
Nymeth (Things Mean a Lot) asked: What do you think about the conclusion Clarissa Vaughan eventually reaches about happiness?
I think the conclusion Clarissa reaches — that there is a lot of bad in the world, but that we keep going because of the moments that “burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined” and learn to cherish the idea of more — is quite lovely. I guess it’s a little depressing too, the idea that we have to sort of slog through most of life to get to the good stuff, but I still like it. I think it’s a mature recognition that not everything can be perfect, so we have to appreciate what we have.
I’m not sure if that’s exactly what the author intended, but that’s what I took away from reading.
mlh30504 asked: I’m trying to read all the Pulitzer Prize winning fiction and wondered if I should try to read Mrs. Dalloway first, before I read the PP winning The Hours. What do you think?
I think it depends what kind of reader you are. I’m a sort of reader that likes to “get” books — understand the symbolism and references and the ways one author reinvents the stories of another. Because of that, I was really frustrated that I hadn’t read Mrs. Dalloway before this book. But if your the sort of reader that is content with a good story and doesn’t care about that extra stuff, I think The Hours holds up well even without Mrs. Dalloway as a reference.
Joanne (The Book Zombie) asked: Would this book would make you want to read Woolf’s works, or maybe search out another book based upon her life?
Yes, I’ve never read Virgina Woolf before, but I would like to now. The Hours opens with Woolf’s suicide by drowning herself in a stream, which confused me because I kept thinking she was Sylvia Plath (who killed herself by sticking her head in a stove). I looked it up on Wikipedia and had another literary “duh!” moment there too.
Anyway… I want to read Mrs. Dalloway, and probably some other Woolf now, but I’m not sure where to start. A biography maybe? Suggestions welcome! 🙂
Eva (A Striped Armchair) asked: Have you seen the movie? Which do you prefer? I ask because I saw the movie first, and I liked it more than the book! Of course, I’d also read Mrs. Dalloway first, and I think it’s difficult to follow in Woolf’s footsteps.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I really want to now. I might have a hard time convincing Boyfriend to watch it with me, but I may just find someone else.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!