The Hours by Michael Cunningham

2 out of 5 stars

This is the story of three women, each a generation apart, told over one day in their lives. One of the threads tells the story of Clarissa Vaughn who is hosting a party for her award-winning poet-friend Richard who is suffering from the ravages of AIDS. Around fifty years earlier, Laura Brown is an American housewife and young mother who over the course of her day spends some of it reading Mrs Dalloway hoping to escape domestic drudgery in the pages of the book. The third main character of the book is the troubled author, Virginia Woolf and it is set on the day that she begins to write Mrs Dalloway.

It is a clever idea linking the three stories all intertwined together with the common link of the book Mrs Dalloway. Picking up on details of their lives, Clarissa shopping for flowers for Richard, Laura wanting to stay in bed rather than face the stark realities of that day and Virginia avoid eating to spend time alone and writing. He picks up on their fears and insecurities as well as the small victories they pass through the day.

I have read one of his other books previously, Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown, and really liked it. This had been recommended to me via a friend on Twitter and managed to get hold of a copy, so I’d thought I’d give it a go. However, even though the writing is quite special, especially one particular moment that is one of the key points of the book, it really didn’t work for me. Not sure why, possibly because the link between the three characters is gossamer thin, but I think it might have been because of the Woolf connection. The only book of hers that I have read before, To The Lighthouse, I could not get along with and so it seems with this one.

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6 Comments

  1. Hmm. Interesting! Nothing to do with it being three women? Not suggesting – just asking! Because this is something on my own mind a fair bit, how each of us reads as men/women, and I’m interested in reading men’s take on it. I read The Hours many years ago, after seeing the film. I liked them both. I don’t remember much, given the time lag, other than an impression that it was cleverly constructed. Some books do date, I find. I wonder whether that’s the case here. Perhaps given that AIDS was far more prevalent and front of mind for us all when this was first released, perhaps it felt more current and immediate then, and less relevant now. I think I remember feeling that it was a take on how the impact of AIDS that involved women, and that was a first. I may, of course, be making this up in retrospect. No idea really! But I still have my copy – maybe I’ll have a dip into it to remind myself what it was like. Thanks for the chance to revisit it. F

    • admin

      April 13, 2019 at 8:36 am

      No nothing at all, Fiona. I try and pass my opinion on the book that I am reading at that time with the context of comparing it to all the others that I have read before. For example, I thought that the Robber Bride, was a much better-written book and that was about several women who have a common enemy, Zenia. Much stronger plot too.

  2. Interesting. I really liked this but I’d read a lot of his fiction already so knew his themes, style and abilities (however, I didn’t like the last one of his I read so much). The film I found a bit odd – definitely preferred the book!

    • admin

      April 15, 2019 at 5:04 pm

      This is the second of his that I have read and his first fiction too. I think he is a very talented writer, but the plot on this didn’t work for me.

  3. Ohh, bummer, sorry this one didn’t shine for you! Have you seen the film? It might be a little easier to fall into, especially given the INCREDIBLE performances from Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore!

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