The Hours

The Hours✤ [Download] ➼ The Hours By Michael Cunningham ➶ – Heartforum.co.uk In s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of s Los Angeles, yearns to escape In s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of Mrs Dalloway And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friendThe Hours recasts the classic story of Woolf s Mrs Dalloway in a startling new light Moving effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, this exquisite novel intertwines the worlds of three unforgettable women.

Michael Cunningham is the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours winner of the Pen Faulkner Award Pulitzer Prize , Specimen Days, and By Nightfall, as well as the non fiction book, Land s End A Walk in Provincetown His new novel, The Snow Queen, will be published in May of He lives in New York, and teaches at Yale University.

Paperback  ✓ The Hours PDF Ä
  • Paperback
  • 230 pages
  • The Hours
  • Michael Cunningham
  • English
  • 23 September 2019
  • 0312305060

10 thoughts on “The Hours

  1. Jeffrey Keeten says:

    We throw our parties we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep it s as simple and ordinary as that A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pillsdie by accident and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we ve very fortunate, by time itself It s about the hours right Those few precious hours We throw our parties we struggle to write books that do not change the world, despite our gifts and our unstinting efforts, our most extravagant hopes We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep it s as simple and ordinary as that A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pillsdie by accident and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we ve very fortunate, by time itself It s about the hours right Those few precious hours over a lifetime when we feel we have a chance to do something special, to prove that we can do something that will forever immortalize us as someone exceptional It was Charlotte who pressed this book upon me We were at a party conducted by a Mrs Clarissa Galloway I hear you are on a reading binge She d leaned in close, as she had a tendency to do with me Her lips mere millimeters away from my ear It made me shiver somewhere in the core of me.When I was between assignments, which was all too frequent, I would read book after book usually I would be in the middle of at least three at any one time I was getting about four hours of sleep a night which right now was making me a cheap drunk One martini was going to bethan enough The Hours by Michael Cunningham, didn t they make a film out of it with Kidman She nodded She leaned in close again I often wondered if she knew what she did to me The book won a Pulitzer Prize Catherine told me you just finished reading Mrs Dalloway This is a terrific follow up The sisters You couldn t really be involved with one without being involved with the other Catherine, my girlfriend, was writing a novel It was brilliant in fact, but now was somewhat weighed down with its own brilliance She was happy with the beginning and the ending, but the middle was not living up to the standards of the rest Charlotte designed book covers for publishing companies She had a gift for it, but frequently had to endure someone further up the chain asking for modifications, her masterpieces often becoming somethingcommercially appealing and soulless When I was doing research on Virginia Woolf, before reading Mrs Dalloway, I couldn t help thinking of Catherine as Virginia and Charlotte as VanessaVanessa laughs Vanessa is firm of face, her skin a brilliant, scalded pink Although she is three years older, she looks younger than Virginia, and both of them know it If Virginia has the austere, parched beauty of a Giotto fresco, Vanessa islike a figure sculpted in rosy marble by a skilled but minor artist of the late Baroque She is distinctly earthly and even decorative figure, all billows and scrolls As usual, I wasn t really sure why I was at this party I thought with remorse of the lost pages of reading the party had already cost me I could see the books strategically scattered around the room of the flat A book by each of my favorite reading places This party was bad for me, and if it was not good for me, it had to be an absolute torture for Catherine I looked past Charlotte s large, attentive eyes and could see that Catherine was pale Her complexion was always pale, but there were various shades of pale that would tell me exactly what was going on with her She closed her eyes and took too long to open them I could tell it was time to go I leaned in and kissed Charlotte s ear, raising the stakes, and then muttered in the sea shell of her ear that I was going to take Catherine home Charlotte always smelled so good, but I was never able to quite identify the scent, something old, something new Somehow it would be breaking the rules of the game to ask her I walked over to Catherine and put my arm around her and kissed her on the side of her mouth She looked at me with surprise I could see the slender flutes of her nose flutter as she took me in Could it be that she could sense her sister s scent even among the mingling fragrances of flowers that filled Mrs Galloway s party She put her slender, fluted fingers on my shoulder I can feel one coming on I m here to take you homeShe can feel the headache creeping up the back of her neck She stiffens No, it s the memory of the headache, it s her fear of the headache, both of them so vivid as to be at least briefly indistinguishable from the onset of the headache itself I went to see Robert the next day I d read most of The Hours last night Charlotte had been right It was the perfect followup to Mrs Dalloway Robert had been my friend almost my entire life or at least for the segment of my life that I still wished to claim He d had a good career on the stage, had mother issues of course, and had always been unapologetically gay The young nurse from Hospice was taking a vial of blood from him when I arrived There was something so intimate about blood letting I averted my eyes as if I d just caught her furtively giving him a hand job I m so weak This is it, my friend His voice, the voice that had boomed out to theaters full of people, had been reduced to a whisper I patted his hand He weakly grasped it I left my fingers there surrounded by the parchment of his hand You ve rallied before I d meant to put exuberance into that sentence, but somehow it all went wrong My voice cracked and tears sprang to my eyes Oh, come on now Tears now You should have wept with joy when I looked like a young Marlon Brando Not now, not over this decrepit body If you were a true friend, you d pick me up and hurl me out that window I thought of Septimus from Mrs Dalloway and Richard from The Hours It was almost too much Don t say that My voice was still shaking I freed my hand from his grasp to wipe my eyes When I put my hand back on the bed, his hand was gone Do you think six floors would be enough to kill me God, what a tragedy if it only breaks my bones, and leaves me somehow alive with fresh sources of pain I was thinking about it the other day I wouldn t want to fall on the concrete I want to land on a car I want to explode through the top like they show in the movies You own a car, don t you Couldn t you park it beneath my window You are hurting me, Robert He sighed Closing those magnificent blue eyes that had mesmerized women and men in equal numbers, That is the last thing that I want to do to you, my friend When I got back to the flat, they must not have heard me Catherine was leaning over Charlotte Virginia leaned forward and kisses Vanessa on the mouth It is an innocent kiss, innocent enough, but just now,it feels like the most delicious and forbidden of pleasures Vanessa returns the kiss I wanted to wrap my arms around both of them and nudge them across the room to the bed I wondered if Leonard Woolf had ever had such desires They might have willingly went, but then what By trying to hold them closer, I d only lose them both I cleared my throat and hung up my jacket When I turned around, they were both looking at me with clear, intelligent eyes Two sisters, so different, but so much alike as to be indistinguishable when standing in the same space It was hard not to think about the big stone She selects one roughly the size and shape of a pig s skull The one that took her down to the depths of the river The one that would not let her escape the embrace of the water even if her natural desire for self preservation had kicked in The stone was too real to be denied Catherine had read Mrs Dalloway and was now reading The Hours She had needed a break from her own writing anyway Reading sometimes gave her a fresh source of inspiration I wasn t sure about her reading either book, but both together could enhance her already acute suicidal tendencies I d seen herthan once raking a butter knife across her wrists as if testing how it would feel I d had the gas oven taken out and replaced it with an electric one I read her diary She wasn t particularly careful with it She left it out all the time, rarely tucking it back under the mattress on our bed I don t know if she trusted me not to read it or she, being a writer, always wanted an audience for her writing Everything she sees feels as if it s pinned to the day the way etherized butterflies are pinned to the board She was obviously feeling trapped Like Leonard Woolf decided to do with Virginia, I arranged to take Catherine to the country for a month She was being overstimulated in the city Robert threw himself out the window He asked the nurse to open the window to give him some air The stubborn bastard crawled across the floor, pulled himself up the wall, and threw himself out the window Though he would have preferred a Rolls Royce, he landed on a Mercedes.Six floors, as it turned out, was enough Two days after we reached the country Catherine disappeared As I walked the river, along with every other able body in the county, I kept thinking about a stone the size of a pig s skull If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at

  2. Violet wells says:

    The film has always put me off reading the book In particular Nicole Kidman s tawdry depiction of Virginia Woolf as some kind of demented bag lady Surely the most unflattering cinematic portrait of any famous writer ever So the first pleasant surprise of this novel was that, far from being some kind of overly simplistic and dismissive view of Woolf as the film veered close to at times, it s actually a glowing tribute to her work and to her as a troubled soul However, it doesn t begin on a g The film has always put me off reading the book In particular Nicole Kidman s tawdry depiction of Virginia Woolf as some kind of demented bag lady Surely the most unflattering cinematic portrait of any famous writer ever So the first pleasant surprise of this novel was that, far from being some kind of overly simplistic and dismissive view of Woolf as the film veered close to at times, it s actually a glowing tribute to her work and to her as a troubled soul However, it doesn t begin on a good note To go inside Woolf s head as she kills herself came across as nothingthan a literary publicity stunt of misguided hubris Not once, I m afraid, did I believe in Cunningham s vision of her final moments of life And it added nothing to the novel and could easily have been and perhaps should have been excised Especially because her suicide comes up often in the text Sometimes, despite what it says in writing manuals, telling iseffective than showing But what soon began to win me over was Cunningham s fabulous prose His exciting way of putting things Of making me see the familiar in a slightly skewed and illuminating way Essentially The Hours is an inventive improvisation on the themes of Woolf s Mrs Dalloway It s perhaps a bit top heavy on same sex relationships with the largely unfounded implication that Woolf herself was that way inclined is it so hard to accept a person might perhaps simply possess no strong sexual impulse instead of always reading repression into inactivity My feeling about her is she did exactly what she needed to do to write what she did And to impose any kind of secret wish list on her is not only errant but also condescending Socially she was a flirt It was how she both dramatized and defended herself If she gave Vita the come on it was done, one feels, with a pinch of salt not from unowned depths of her being But overall surprised by how much I loved this 4.5 stars

  3. Candi says:

    Still, she loves the world for being rude and indestructible, and she knows other people must love it too, poor as well as rich, though no one speaks specifically of the reasons Why else do we struggle to go on living, no matter how compromised, no matter how harmed I m actually quite glad that I didn t have time to go to the movies in the early 2000s My first child was newly born, and I waslikely to be seen pacing a room with a cranky baby, changing a diaper, or passed out on the coucStill, she loves the world for being rude and indestructible, and she knows other people must love it too, poor as well as rich, though no one speaks specifically of the reasons Why else do we struggle to go on living, no matter how compromised, no matter how harmed I m actually quite glad that I didn t have time to go to the movies in the early 2000s My first child was newly born, and I waslikely to be seen pacing a room with a cranky baby, changing a diaper, or passed out on the couch from exhaustion Hell, I had even given up trying to read at that point in my life What I m trying to say is that I somehow missed seeing the film adaptation of The Hours when it was released Therefore, I went into this book with minimal knowledge of the plot It was an absolute joy to read this Michael Cunningham swept me off my feetShe could, she thinks, have entered another world She could have had a life as potent and dangerous as literature itself I loved everything about this book truly, every single thing First and foremost is the sublime prose The inter connectedness of the stories between three women Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughan affectionately nicknamed Mrs Dalloway by a dear friend and across three timelines 1920s, late 1940s and early 2000s is extremely effective There is an overwhelming feeling that despite where and when you are born, our struggles are timeless and cross all boundaries Virginia Woolf and her book, Mrs Dalloway, provide the link between all three story lines I have in fact read this slim novel by Woolf It s not necessary to have done so in order to appreciate The Hours The only advantage I had was understanding the relationship between Woolf s characters and those of Cunningham However, Cunningham seamlessly weaves the writing of the book Mrs Dalloway into the context of Mrs Woolf s section of this novel in such a way that you will do just fine without that prior knowledgeshe is again possessed it seems to be getting worse by a dreamlike feeling, as if she is standing in the wings, about to go onstage and perform in a play for which she is not appropriately dressed, and for which she has not adequately rehearsed I don t know how so much depth was packed into little over 200 pages It s pure genius I know these women intimately I shared their deepest sorrows and desperate longings I get them This is not a cheery sort of book, no We read about terminal disease, depression and suicide There is the constant search for identity, love and happiness Sometimes these things seem just out of reach Often they are impossible to hold onto when we are lucky enough to finally grasp them How does any one person make it through his or her day then What do we do with what we have Do we plow through and delight in those few moments that sustain us Do we take extreme action and do the unthinkable It s remarkable really that we are still here and we still thrive Life is a gift If we hold those few extraordinary hours in a lifetime of ordinary days in our hands like a fragile bubble that could burst at any moment, then we are doing our best, aren t we I m not ready to return this book to my shelf yet I need it by my side right now, to serve as a reminder when I have too much time on my hands to reflect on where I ve been and where I m going It s a punch in the gut and a divine blessing snugly wrapped up in one little packageThere is still that singular perfection, and it s perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promiseNow she knows That was the moment, right then There has been no other

  4. Michael Finocchiaro says:

    I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars for this book It was beautifully written and has a somewhat unexpected and yet unsurprising ending The references to Virginia Woolf are omnipresent as she also comes to life under Cunningham s pen along with Mrs Brown and Mrs Dalloway Yes, it did relight a flame in me to read the primary Woolf works Orlando, Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, The Waves and reminded me of the one I did read A Room of One s Own , but still, something about it felt a little I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars for this book It was beautifully written and has a somewhat unexpected and yet unsurprising ending The references to Virginia Woolf are omnipresent as she also comes to life under Cunningham s pen along with Mrs Brown and Mrs Dalloway Yes, it did relight a flame in me to read the primary Woolf works Orlando, Mrs Dalloway, To The Lighthouse, The Waves and reminded me of the one I did read A Room of One s Own , but still, something about it felt a little superficial Was it the length just 220 pages and the relative ease with which I read it less than 2 hours Or perhaps the heavily laden sentences that perhaps dipped low towards being pretentious No, I have never seen the movie And, yes, perhaps I should But as a standalone novel, I have a hard time understanding why this one was chosen for the Pulitzer in 1997 Not having read either of the runner ups Cloudsplitter by Russel Banks about abolitionist John Brown or The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver about the Belgian colonisation of the Congo , both were far longer and of considerablydepth in terms of historical scope from what I can tell And yet, the Pulitzer committee settled on this short novel nearly a novella Well, I am not sure that I would have been in agreement and perhaps need to read the other two finalists to base aconsistent opinion Regardless, I was not blown away by The Hours, but perhaps will read Flesh and Blood by this author as suggested by another reviewer here on GR And perhaps the Kingsolver book as well.

  5. Brian says:

    We want so much, don t we The Hours is one of the best books I have read this year It is astounding I was drawn in from the first page the writing is just beautiful prose.The setup of the novel is that we drop into the lives of 3 woman Virginia Woolf while she is beginning to write her novel Mrs Dalloway in 1923, Laura Brown, a housewife reading Mrs Dalloway in LA in 1949, and Clarissa a woman who seems to be a real life Mrs Dalloway in current NYC Although this premise is intrig We want so much, don t we The Hours is one of the best books I have read this year It is astounding I was drawn in from the first page the writing is just beautiful prose.The setup of the novel is that we drop into the lives of 3 woman Virginia Woolf while she is beginning to write her novel Mrs Dalloway in 1923, Laura Brown, a housewife reading Mrs Dalloway in LA in 1949, and Clarissa a woman who seems to be a real life Mrs Dalloway in current NYC Although this premise is intriguing it pales in comparison to what the author, Michael Cunningham, does with it Interesting side note, the ever shifting point of view in this text is not limited to these three characters We get into the heads of quite a few people in this book, and Cunningham does this at times when the novel needs that shift in perspective It is a wonderful technical achievement.In one early chapter, Cunningham writes about a mother s resentment and uncontrollable love for her child, and it is insanely good How does a writer capture that massive and true contradiction so well and in a manner that conveys to the reader the great human truth of that moment The closing pages of this novel are stellar writing have I mentioned how well written this text is The writing in The Hours is the kind that makes you love the fact that you are a reader and get to experience it.This quick read is worth your time It is literary fiction of the highest order, but also a story with great depth and human beauty to it Really, when it is all said and done this text is a celebration of life, the good and ill, which the final pages of the novel make abundantly clear Heaven only knows why we love it so

  6. Robin says:

    I approached this book in completely the wrong order By that I mean, I watched the movie first, in the theatre when it was released in 2002, having absolutely no prior idea as to what it was about I had no clue that that it was based on a Pulitzer prize winning novel, which was itself based on a novella by Virginia Woolf.The movie decimated me in a good way My best friend and I went from theatre to cafe in a daze, bludgeoned by the film, and spent the following hour in very awkward silence I approached this book in completely the wrong order By that I mean, I watched the movie first, in the theatre when it was released in 2002, having absolutely no prior idea as to what it was about I had no clue that that it was based on a Pulitzer prize winning novel, which was itself based on a novella by Virginia Woolf.The movie decimated me in a good way My best friend and I went from theatre to cafe in a daze, bludgeoned by the film, and spent the following hour in very awkward silence The evening could not be resuscitated A decade later, I read Mrs Dalloway That marked my only successful foray into Ms Woolf s oeuvre Maybe I shouldn t use the word successful I should just say it s the only book of hers that I have actually finished, and that is only because it is short Virginia Woolf is a writer who I have long wished to connect with I know she had a beautiful, impressionistic mind and that her impact on literature is vast She s the only writer who makes me feel illiterate, though She seems impenetrable I can t stay in hell, I can t even get in and I am so jealous of those who do I want to be part of that club.It s a few years later, and I finally read this book Like Mrs Dalloway, it is brief And like the film, it broke me Three people are straddling life and death The story is equal parts pain and beauty Pain being those interminable, almost unbearable hours life has to offer Always, the hours Beauty being those precious hours, oh those precious ones You know what I m talking about Those hours that stand out to you after decades have left them behind, but you still see them glittering, shining warmly as a reminder of what your life is all about.I could feel dismal, reading this book that tells of illness, suicide, abandonment, and, yes, depression But somehow, those illuminating hours, the precious ones, overpower everything else Our mortality is so grey, homogenous, unoriginal But those precious, beautiful hours Those filled the story and my heart with hope, with the excitement at being reminded of a treasure that had always been right in front of me.At times the book feels a little audacious periodically I wondered, who are you, Michael Cunningham, to tell me what life is all about But it works because he s really talking through Virginia Woolf, and somehow I don t mind her telling me He s like her translator, and what she has to say is sort of a miracle I m so glad he wrote this book 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, though everyone but children and perhaps even they knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker anddifficult Still, we cherish the city, the morning we hope,than anything, for .

  7. Barry Pierce says:

    I don t have much to say about this The words refuse to dislodge from the cobwebs of my mind I love this book.

  8. Katie says:

    Considering this is a novel which begins with a suicide and continues to develop the theme this is an incredibly uplifting novel, a lyrical celebration of life in the moment It begins with the last half an hour of Virginia Woolf s life and she, engaged in the writing of Mrs Dalloway, will be the subject of one of the novel s three narratives, each of which cover a single day in the characters lives There s Clarissa who mirrors Mrs Dalloway in Woolf s book and shares her name, who is organisin Considering this is a novel which begins with a suicide and continues to develop the theme this is an incredibly uplifting novel, a lyrical celebration of life in the moment It begins with the last half an hour of Virginia Woolf s life and she, engaged in the writing of Mrs Dalloway, will be the subject of one of the novel s three narratives, each of which cover a single day in the characters lives There s Clarissa who mirrors Mrs Dalloway in Woolf s book and shares her name, who is organising a party for her friend, a poet who is dying of AIDS and Mrs Brown, a suburban housewife in the 1950s who can t find herself in the role of mother and wife What makes the novel such a delicious read is the beauty of the writing and the host of thrilling insights it provides

  9. Richard Derus says:

    Book Circle Reads 20Rating 4.75 of fiveThe Publisher Says In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, who is recognized as one of our very best writers Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times , draw inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.The novel opens with an evocation of Woolf s last days before her suicide in 1941, and moves to the stories of two mo Book Circle Reads 20Rating 4.75 of fiveThe Publisher Says In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, who is recognized as one of our very best writers Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times , draw inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.The novel opens with an evocation of Woolf s last days before her suicide in 1941, and moves to the stories of two modern American women who are trying to make rewarding lives for themselves in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.Clarissa Vaughan is a book editor who lives in present day Greenwich Village when we meet her, she is buying flowers to display at a party for her friend Richard, and ailing poet who has just won a major literary prize Laura Brown is a housewife in postwar California who is bringing up her only son and looking for her true life outside of her stifling marriage.With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes the two women s lives converge with Virginia Woolf s in an unexpected and heartbreaking way during the party for Richard As the novel jump cuts through the twentieth century, every line resonates with Cunningham s clear, strong, surprising lyrical contemporary voice.Passionate, profound and deeply moving, The Hours is Michael Cunningham s most remarkable achievement to date.My Review Three women mirror the facets of the life of Clarissa Dalloway, heroine of the novel Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf One life is Mrs Woolf herself, shown in the depths of despair as she convalesces from one of her crippling bouts with depression in the suburban aridity of Richmond while pining for life in London s Bloomsbury, writing her novel of the exquisite nature of the quotidian Another is the life of Mrs Laura Brown, dying a million deaths every day in suburban Los Angeles, raising a son and pregnant again by a good man she doesn t love, as she reads Mrs Dalloway and ponders escape Lastly the life of Clarissa Vaughn, whose long unrequited love for Richard Brown, her gay poet novelist friend, has led her to care for him tenderly in his final years as an AIDS patient He long ago nicknamed her Mrs Dalloway, both for her first name and for her exquisitely self abnegating strength.Over the course of one day in the life of each woman, everything she knows and feels about her life is sharply refocused it is made clear to each that, to escape the trap she is in, she must accept change or die in the trap The ending of the book brings all three strands to their inevitable conclusions, with surprising overlaps I first read this when it came out in 1998 I fell in love instantly, as I had with Mrs Dalloway at a slightly earlier date I loved the imaginative structure of interwoven lives, commenting on each other and riffing off the events in each world, echoing some facet in every case the events in the iconic novel Mrs Dalloway.I can t give it five stars because, in the end, I wondered a bit if the clever clever hadn t gotten in the way of the emotional core of the book, which I saw as the gritty determination of the women to live on their own terms and in their own lives not dependent on convention In making the book conform to this ideal, I felt that some plot strands weren t honestly dealt with but rather forced into a shape required by the author s plans.That cavil aside, the book is beautifully written and wonderfully interestingly conceived I d recommend it heartily, and suggest reading it in conjunction with the movie

  10. Laysee says:

    In 1941, Virginia Woolf put rocks in her coat pockets, waded into a river, and drowned herself That was the prologue a disquieting start to The Hours, a book I started reading with nary an inkling of its subject matter Little did I know that The Hours was anchored in the life of Virginia Woolf and that of Mrs Dalloway, one of her fictional characters I read To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway when I was too young to grasp the awe accorded to them all I recalled at the time of reading was th In 1941, Virginia Woolf put rocks in her coat pockets, waded into a river, and drowned herself That was the prologue a disquieting start to The Hours, a book I started reading with nary an inkling of its subject matter Little did I know that The Hours was anchored in the life of Virginia Woolf and that of Mrs Dalloway, one of her fictional characters I read To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway when I was too young to grasp the awe accorded to them all I recalled at the time of reading was the certain hunch I had that Woolf must have had a mental breakdown at some point in her life All the wonder surrounding the stream of consciousness eluded me at that time And I have been afraid of Virginia Woolf ever since.It was with trepidation that I dipped my toes into the chilling waters of The Hours I emerged from the haunting, deep darkness of this book with the exhilaration of a survivor I saw brilliance and beauty in how Michael Cunningham re created Woolf s personal story and interwove it with that of two characters in two later time periods who battled mental health issues The Hours captured the interior world of these three women over the course of one day.In the foreground is the story of Mrs Woolf in 1923 living with her husband in Richmond, an eight year exile from London for which she longed, to recover from her headaches and voices, and to write her novel, Mrs Dalloway The second story relates to the life of Mrs Brown, a pregnant housewife and mother in 1949, who feels trapped and tries to escape from a cake she is baking for her husband s birthday She spends long hours in bed reading Mrs Dalloway In parallel to the story of the fictional Mrs Dalloway is the story set in the 1990s of Clarissa Vaughan who is planning a party for Richard Brown, her best friend and writer who is mortally ill Mrs Dalloway is Richard s nickname for Clarissa, with whom he shared a kiss when they were in their teens The last story is an almost identical modern re creation of that one day in the life of Mrs Dalloway as told by Woolf.The Hours grapples with the thought life of vulnerable individuals that include not just these three women but also Richard the award winning poet who perceives himself as a failure Louis Waters Richard s lover , a playwright who weeps at the paucity of love in this world and Richie Brown the anxious 3 year old who adores his mother and fears losing her Cunningham distilled with insight and empathy the myriad shifts in mood over the course of an ordinary day the dark abyss into which any ordinary person can descend when overwhelmed by self loathing and rejection as well as the sunlit moments where life offers a gift that is accepted with gratitude One recognizes the fight several of these characters put up within themselves as they try to regulate their feelings and yield to the shreds of rationality they hold on to We see this in an episode of Mrs Woolf talking herself out of her antagonism toward her servant, Nelly, who is preparing a lunch she dislikesA lamb pie sounds lovely, Virginia says, though she must work to stay in character She reminds herself food is not sinister Do not think of putrefaction or feces do not think of the face in the mirror The Hours is a work of stunning brilliance It won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1999 PEN Faulkner Award for Fiction I love how the stories of Mrs Dalloway and Mrs Brown seamlessly become one The language is painfully beautiful and yet one must read it However, a book like this is perhaps better read when one is not knee deep in a miry bog of despair Read it when the heart is stable and strong

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