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The Hours: A Novel Paperback – January 15, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st Thus. edition (January 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312243022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312243029
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (602 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Hours is both an homage to Virginia Woolf and very much its own creature. Even as Michael Cunningham brings his literary idol back to life, he intertwines her story with those of two more contemporary women. One gray suburban London morning in 1923, Woolf awakens from a dream that will soon lead to Mrs. Dalloway. In the present, on a beautiful June day in Greenwich Village, 52-year-old Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for her oldest love, a poet dying of AIDS. And in Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown, pregnant and unsettled, does her best to prepare for her husband's birthday, but can't seem to stop reading Woolf. These women's lives are linked both by the 1925 novel and by the few precious moments of possibility each keeps returning to. Clarissa is to eventually realize:
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.... Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.
As Cunningham moves between the three women, his transitions are seamless. One early chapter ends with Woolf picking up her pen and composing her first sentence, "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." The next begins with Laura rejoicing over that line and the fictional universe she is about to enter. Clarissa's day, on the other hand, is a mirror of Mrs. Dalloway's--with, however, an appropriate degree of modern beveling as Cunningham updates and elaborates his source of inspiration. Clarissa knows that her desire to give her friend the perfect party may seem trivial to many. Yet it seems better to her than shutting down in the face of disaster and despair. Like its literary inspiration, The Hours is a hymn to consciousness and the beauties and losses it perceives. It is also a reminder that, as Cunningham again and again makes us realize, art belongs to far more than just "the world of objects." --Kerry Fried --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

At first blush, the structural and thematic conceits of this novel--three interwoven novellas in varying degrees connected to Virginia Woolf--seem like the stuff of a graduate student's pipe dream: a great idea in the dorm room that betrays a lack of originality. But as soon as one dips into Cunningham's prologue, in which Woolf's suicide is rendered with a precise yet harrowing matter-of-factness ("She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa."), the reader becomes completely entranced. This book more than fulfills the promise of Cunningham's 1990 debut, A Home at the End of the World, while showing that sweep does not necessarily require the sprawl of his second book, Flesh and Blood. In alternating chapters, the three stories unfold: "Mrs. Woolf," about Virginia's own struggle to find an opening for Mrs. Dalloway in 1923; "Mrs. Brown," about one Laura Brown's efforts to escape, somehow, an airless marriage in California in 1949 while, coincidentally, reading Mrs. Dalloway; and "Mrs. Dalloway," which is set in 1990s Greenwich Village and concerns Clarissa Vaughan's preparations for a party for her gay--and dying--friend, Richard, who has nicknamed her Mrs. Dalloway. Cunningham's insightful use of the historical record concerning Woolf in her household outside London in the 1920s is matched by his audacious imagining of her inner lifeand his equally impressive plunges into the lives of Laura and Clarissa. The book would have been altogether absorbing had it been linked only thematically. However, Cunningham cleverly manages to pull the stories even more intimately togther in the closing pages. Along the way, rich and beautifully nuanced scenes follow one upon the other: Virginia, tired and weak, irked by the early arrival of headstrong sister Vanessa, her three children and the dead bird they bury in the backyard; Laura's afternoon escape to an L.A. hotel to read for a few hours; Clarissa's anguished witnessing of her friend's suicidal jump down an airshaft, rendered with unforgettable detail. The overall effect of this book is twofold. First, it makes a reader hunger to know all about Woolf, again; readers may be spooked at times, as Woolf's spirit emerges in unexpected ways, but hers is an abiding presence, more about living than dying. Second, and this is the gargantuan accomplishment of this small book, it makes a reader believe in the possibility and depth of a communality based on great literature, literature that has shown people how to live and what to ask of life. (Nov.) FYI: The Hours was a working title that Woolf for a time gave to Mrs. Dalloway.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

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 and the Pulitzer Prize), and Specimen Days. He lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

A stunning book, beautifully written, absolutely marvelous.
Adam A. Fine
THE HOURS, Michael Cunningham's riff on Virginia Woolf's envelope-pushing novel MRS. DALLOWAY, is a pretty stunning piece of work in its own right.
C. Fletcher
I read this novel so quickly all in one day and I just felt tired afterward, I was drained of feeling.
Stephen S. Mills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 105 people found the following review helpful By glenn323 on January 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
You'll either love this novel so much you'll read passages over and over, or you'll give up after a couple of chapters. I think the reason so many people have problems with "The Hours" is that they don't enjoy reading a novel with such a dark mood. Some people aren't entertained by reading about such tragic loneliness. Cunningham deals with characters who who are depressed to the point of despair even when they are surrounded by people who love them unconditionally. It's probably hard for most people who are reasonably happy to grasp that kind of pain. The author's beautiful and sometimes poetic writing is an amazing work of art; the novel deserved all the praise it received. The way the story parallels Virginia Woolf's masterpiece "Mrs. Dalloway" is inspired. The book truly takes the reader into the world in which Virginia Woolf lived her brilliant and tortured life, and the transitions from Woolf's era to those of Laura Brown and Clarissa Vaughn were beautifully done. The best way to read this book is on a rainy day, classical music in the background and a pot of tea on the stove. If only other novels could compare...
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 1925, Virginia Woolf published her masterful novel, "Mrs. Dalloway". Set during a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, Woolf brilliantly used techniques which became hallmarks of the modern novel--interior monologue, first person narrative and a stunning, albeit unrelentingly difficult, stream-of-consciousness rendering--to produce one of the masterpieces of twentieth century English literature. Nearly seventy-five years later, Michael Cunningham has used many of these same techniques to write "The Hours", a fitting homage to Woolf and a novel which deservedly won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
"The Hours" tells the story of a bright June day in the lives of three different women living in three different times and places. The first story is that of Virginia Woolf during a day in 1923, when she is writing "Mrs. Dalloway". The second is the story of Laura Brown, a thirtyish, bookish married woman living in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Laura has a four-year-old son and is pregnant with another child as she plans a birthday dinner for her husband on a day in 1949. The third story is that of Clarissa Vaughn, a fifty-two year old, slightly bohemian, literary agent who is planning a party for Richard, her long-time friend and one-time lover, a prominent writer dying of AIDS.
"The Hours" is, among other things, a nuanced and sensitive picture of middle age in the lives of its characters. Like the novel to which it pays tribute, "The Hours" relies heavily on interior monologue-on thoughts, memories and perceptions-to drive the narrative and to establish a powerful bond between the reader and each of the female protagonists. The reader feels the psychic pain of the aging Virginia Woolf as she contemplates suicide in the Prologue.
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89 of 98 people found the following review helpful By M. H. Bayliss on July 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
I must say I'm a bit surprised by the vicious attacks launched at Cunningham, especially by readers who admit they have not read anything by Woolf -- there is the first mistake. Though I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway in quite a while, I have read To the Lighthouse (one of my all time favorite novels) and Cunningham captures her genius perfectly! This book demands a certain amount of concentration on the reader's behalf, but it's worth it. If you have ever read anything by Woolf, you will immediately appreciate the nuance of his language. It's not pompous just because he gets the prosody and rhythm of Woolf right on the nose! Normally I don't like split narratives that jump from chapter to chapter, but Cunningham does it so seamlessly and with such a feel for the 3 main characters that I found myself drawn into all three story lines. I don't want to reveal how they all come together, but let's just say they do, and with a bang. To give an idea of the kind of subtlety Cunningham displays, let me give one example: Lara Brown, the housewife, feels unconnected to her husband and 3 year old child and all she wants to do is finish reading Mrs. Dalloway. But, since it's her husband's birthday, she follows the expected role and tries to make him a fantastic cake. When the cake turns out to be amateurish and imperfect, she becomes almost suicidally depressed and decides to throw it out and start again. The scene continues, but the disappointment with the cake takes on a life of its own. Readers of To the Lighthouse will be reminded of the central dining scene when Mrs. Ramsey prepares a magnificant feast in much the same vein for her family. Cunningham's writing and grasp of Woolf is inspired -- I can see why he got the Pulitzer Prize. For those who criticize, be sure to catch up on your Woolf before nailing Cunningham to the cross. It's really a terrific book.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Stephen S. Mills on January 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
I wanted to read this book for a few years now since it's publication, but I never did. But when the movie came out and has so far been highly awarded as well I thought I should give the book a read. I have not seen the movie and I'm not sure about the movie after I read the amazing Novel. I'm so glad I started with Cunningham's novel because it is in one word: beautiful. I am a Woolf fan as well and I was amazed by how Cunningham was able to take the true essense of Woolf and create a truly different and complex novel. What is amazing about Woolf and Cunningham is the depth they place behind the characters. There is little talking in the book and little plot, but what is behind what is being said and done is the true message. Woolf's whole idea in writing was to explore the silence between people, all things left unsaid, all our inner thoughts and emotions, and in the end the big question is: do we ever truly know another human being? Cunningham has the very same ability in this novel as Woolf does in hers. I read this novel so quickly all in one day and I just felt tired afterward, I was drained of feeling. At first, as with Woolf's novels, I was depressed by the book, but I think going back and looking at it again I see the hint of hope that lies in the end of the novel, which is how many of Woolf's novels work as well. I highly recommend this amazing story of three women who all seem to be lacking something in their lives. Follow them through one day and explore the hours that help create them as complex and truly amazingly written characters.
My advice would be to read the novel before viewing the film. I plan to see the movie but I fear it will go against everything that Woolf and Cunningham are aiming at, I hope I'm surprised by the movie, but regardless this book is worth your Hours.
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