Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Hours - Michael Cunningham

Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Country: America
Year: 1998
Rating: B-
Pages: 230 pgs.

This is turning out to be one of the novels that, for me, is enhanced by time. I watched the movie while on vacation, and believe the two complement each other wonderfully. After absorbing and thinking about Michael Cunningham's style, I've changed my mind, and now have a higher opinion of this book.

First sentence: She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather.

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving. That is the description found on the back cover of my copy of The Hours. That statement places a large expectation in the mind of the reader. Does the novel live up to it? In some ways, yes. In others, no.

Michael Cunningham pays homage to Virginia Woolf in this novel about three women (including Virginia Woolf herself) from three different generations who are tied together by Woolf's novel Mrs Dalloway. Writing in a style reminiscent, but not quite as good, as Woolf herself, Cunningham takes you on a day's journey in the lives of these three women, as we see how their stories intertwine.

I felt the largest weakness of the novel was the one-dimensional aspect of the women, particularly Laura Brown and Clarissa. I was particularly disappointed with the imitative style of Clarissa's storyline. I was expecting something more out of a Pulitzer winning book.

Would I recommend The Hours to others? Maybe. I don't feel as if I wasted my time reading it. The quality of writing is superb, and for that alone, I feel it was worth the read. And I really enjoyed the symbolism he incorporates, particularly with roses. But it might not stick around on my bookshelf that much longer (keep an eye on my PBS account if you would like the book--it will probably end up there soon).


Literary Feline said...

I admit that I haven't really been drawn to this book--or the movie for that matter. I'm not sure why, but I don't feel so bad about it after reading your review.

Callista said...

I've added your review to the Book to Movie listing :)

Nyssaneala said...

literary feline - I was really interested in the book, because I enjoy Virginia Woolf. But, I am always a bit wary of books that expand on classics, I never think they are great. If an author is going to do that, I prefer one's that take barely there characters and make a new book about them (Ahab's Wife; Wide Sargasso Sea)

callista - thanks! I plan on watching the movie this weekend.

Kailana said...

I don't know why, but I really liked this book. I am a fan of Michael Cunningham, anyways, I guess. :) It was before it was super famous, so maybe it was because there was no hype around it...

Nymeth said...

I also really loved this book, but like Kailana I read it a long time ago, before there was even a movie, so I didn't have particularly high expectations. I don't know, I just think he captured the feeling of emptiness and despair the characters experience so perfectly.

Dewey said...

It's hard for me to be unbiased about this book, because I read it already madly in love with Mrs Dalloway, so I just adore it. But I don't know how someone might feel if they didn't already love Mrs Dalloway so much.

Nyssaneala said...

dewey - I actually love Mrs Dalloway as well, which is why I think I didn't like this book as much! lol

soleil said...

i saw the movie when it first came out and really enjoyed it although i barely remember it now. and since i liked the movie i wanted to read the book it was based on, but still can't bring myself to do just that.

Nyssaneala said...

soleil - The book is worth reading. I would definitely recommend reading some of Virginia Woolf's books first; at the very least Mrs Dalloway.

Anonymous said...

My name is Ilse De Rop and I’m a belgian final year journalism student. For my English class I had to read an English novel. I read ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham and I truly loved it. It’s a beautiful book and incredibly emotional. The fact that Cunningham uses the life and work of Virginia Woolf is very particular and the interwoven stories make the book unbelievably powerful.

I would highly recommend ‘The Hours’, it’s an excellent book. ‘The Hours’ is most certainly not a happy book with a happy ending, but I guess I knew this already before I started reading the book. Nevertheless I loved the book and the three main characters. Now that I’ve read ‘The Hours’ I’m thinking about reading ‘Mrs. Dalloway’. Did you read ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf? I would love for you to give me some feedback about what you think about ‘The Hours’. Should I also see the film? I read some opposite opinions on several discussion boards. And if possible, can you give me some advice about ‘Mrs. Dalloway’, wether I should read the book or not?

I hope you are willing to mail me a short answer to my questions. You would do me a great pleasure. Thank you in advance for your anwer.

Ilse De Rop
Plantijn Academy
Antwerp, Belgium