The Hours – Michael Cunningham

Oct 17

The Hours – Michael Cunningham

This book (#18 on my quest to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction) was entirely too short. I could have finished it in one sitting; I stretched it out for a few weeks because I simply did not want it to end. Michael Cunningham creates a genius homage to Virginia Woolf. (I did not enjoy Mrs. Dalloway at all; I am just as shocked as you are that I loved this book as much as I did.)

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The three main characters are all affected by the book Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf herself is struggling with bouts of mental illness and the desire to create a story that will stand the test of time and possibly save her sanity. Laura Brown is a 1940s housewife with a war hero husband, a toddler, and another baby on the way. She immerses herself in the book to escape her life. The banalities of her seemingly perfect family life are driving her to question living at all. She is constantly reminding herself to be happy. “What if that moment at dinner-that equipoise, that small perfection-were enough? What if you decided to want no more?” Finally, we have Clarissa Vaughan, dubbed “Mrs. Dalloway” by her former lover and current best friend, who is planning a Mrs. Dalloway-type party and recognizing the many parallels between her own life and the book’s.

The book definitely has depressing undertones; mental health issues abound. Those issues are balanced out by the wonderful things we see and experience in every day life. Certain sentences absolutely killed me.

“She, Laura, likes to imagine (it’s one of her most closely held secrets) that she has a touch of brilliance herself, just a hint of it, though she knows most people probably walk around with similar hopeful suspicions curled up like tiny fists inside them, never divulged.”

Brilliant.

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