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on March 26, 2013
Despite the dark tone of death, and disillusionment presented throughout the story. Michael Cunningham crafted a clever depiction of the deteriorating lives, and relationships, of three women, uncannily connecting them to a single, tragic, ‘bright June day.’ Cunningham’s The Hours pays tribute to the triumphant hours that each of us sift out from the mundane, claustrophobic, and sometimes tragic other moments of human existence. The novel is a replete with figurative language, similies, metaphors, personification and symbols, coming together in associations, similar to a lyrical essay. The author’s brilliant mimicking of Woolf’s modernistic style in the use of internal monologue, stream of consciousness, original metaphors, and carefully chosen words, creates an almost poetic quality, and connects a pattern of similar images, of different women, at different times, each struggling with the dilemmas of middle-age; the novel come together as a metaphor of Woolf’s own tragic life.
Laura Brown, a housewife at on the cusp of middle age, pregnant with her second child, tries desperately to connect to her three year old son, and struggles with depression, disillusionment of living a stereotypical female life, and suicidal ideation, mirroring the demons that afflicted Woolf herself prior to her own suicide, in 1941. Clarissa Vaughn, dubbed Mrs. Dalloway (a character from a novel written by Woolf), by her ill-fated, bi-sexual, lover, Richard Brown, who not only is similar to the tragic character Septimus Smith, in the Woolf novel, but her story mirrors Woolf’s real life bohemian lifestyle where she had an open relationship with a man who had a separate gay lover, and where Woolf herself had a same sex relationship with Vita Sachville-West. Cunningham cleverly sets the tone of the story by weaving elements of the famous author’s own life, as tragic metaphors—of Mrs. Dalloway (Vaughn) and Mrs. Laura Brown, comparing them with Woolf’s own life in 1923, as she recovers from mental illness in the suburbs with her husband while writing her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, and planning a tragedy, that foreshadows, Richard Brown’s demise, in Clarissa’s story.
The clever use of language, and stream of consciousness similar to a modernist style, and the precise, vivid, descriptive language, that paints pictures into the mind of the reader, captures Woolf’s own unique style and enhances the melancholy tone of the novel. The author uses his character descriptions, not only to set the tone of the story, but to foreshadow its tragic ending, stating:
She straightens her shoulders as she stands at the corner of
Eighth Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the light… She
still has a certain sexiness; a certain bohemian, good-witch sort
of charm; and yet this morning she makes a tragic sight, standing
so straight in her big shirt and exotic shoes, resisting the pull of
gravity, a female mammoth already up to its knees in the tar,
taking a rest between efforts, standing bulky and proud, almost
nonchalant, pretending to contemplate the tender grasses waiting
on the far bank when it is beginning to know for certain that it will
remain here, trapped and alone, after dark, when the jackals come
out. (Cunningham, 13).
Through Clarissa’s story, Cunningham cleverly crafts his theme into the first few pages of his novel, “she loves the world, for being rude and indestructible, and she knows other people must love it too … Why else do we struggle to go on living, no matter how compromised, no matter how harmed?” (Cunningham, 15).
Like Woolf, Cunningham is able to develop original, fresh metaphors that capture an image, and compares her madness, and debilitating headaches to a “scintillating silver-white mass … like a jellyfish.” (Cunningham, 70). Cunningham use of a cake to represent ‘disappointment’ in Laura Brown’s story is Poignant, and reminiscent of the manner Woolf takes the mundane, in Mrs. Dalloway, and makes it remarkable. It compares the cake to her ‘life as a mother and housewife.’ Laura’s ability to bake a simple birthday cake for her husband transcends her success or failure as a wife and mother. “The cake will speak of bounty and delight the way a good house speaks of comfort and safety.” (Cunningham, 76). When she begins the process, Laura is filled with anticipation of a great accomplishment, “she hopes to be as satisfied and as filled with anticipation as a writer putting down the first sentence, a builder beginning to draw the plans” (Cunningham, 77) but in the end, Laura Brown is disappointed, “[t]he cake is less than she’d hoped it would be.” The cake parallels the disillusionment she has for her life, “there’s nothing really wrong with it, but she’d imagined something more. She’d imagined it larger, more remarkable.” (Cunningham, 99). Cunningham goes even further with his metaphor. He compares the disappointments in Virginia Woolf’s life, with the failure of Brown to make a remarkable cake. “Would she rather …have her cake sneered at? Of course not … she wants to be a competent mother … a wife who sets a perfect table. She does not want … to be the strange woman, the pathetic creature, … tolerated but not loved. Virginia Woolf put a stone into the coat of her pocket, walked into a river, and drowned.” (Cunningham, 101). Further, the subtle reference to an unknown illness revealed in Brown’s story of her neighbor and (wanton lover) Kitty, is metaphoric when compared to Clarissa’s allusive love interest in her friend and former lover, Richard Brown, who is dying of aids. Additionally, Cunningham places subtle references to the influence of the sexual abuse that plagued Woolf throughout her life, into the stories of these different women, as well as her homoerotic nature. Brown, kisses her child and feels something more than motherly love stirring, Clarissa’s kiss of her daughter Julia, and Woolf’s strange kiss with her sister Vanessa, stir restlessly below the surface, like the “innocent kiss” in the kitchen that “feels like the most delicious and forbidden of pleasures.” (Cunningham, 154).
Cunningham also sets up a metaphor where Brown’s suicidal ideation, as she rents a room to read a novel (ironically by Woolf) and is directly compared with Woolf’s own ideations, “She could decide to die… She imagines Virginia Woolf, virginal, unbalanced, defeated by the impossible demands of life and art, she imagines her stepping into a river with a stone in her pocket. …it would be as simple [] [] as checking into a hotel.” (Cunningham, 152). Through it all, Cunningham manages to eke out a positive, message from a dark theme of death, disintegrating relationships and disillusionment, by comparing the hours of ‘brightness’ in each story, Brown’s joy in her son’s tender moments of love and endearment, Clarissa’s romanticism, and love of nature, and of flowers—set in a natural way, compare with Woolf’s sudden realization that life hold’s precious moments that make all of the other dismal hours seem worthwhile, “there is this hour, now, in the kitchen” with her sister Vanessa, drinking tea, “[h]ow could she bear to leave all this?” And the forbidden pleasures of a “Kiss.” (Cunningham, 154).
Like a lyrical essay, with its poetic language streaming in the reader’s imagination, Cunningham ties his story together with delicate associations, and subtle metaphorical images that mesmerize, and leave a reader with a better understanding of modern literature; so immutable, touching, squeezing, and stimulating the soul of each of us with a unique, a
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on October 17, 2017
This remains one of the books im always recommending.

How can someone keep living a life that's not their own, just to make people happy? They keep thinking life is good because making people happy makes them happy but the point where they reach the understanding that their life is not their own, it is heartbreaking but it lights the hope of life. No one can know what happens in other shoes unless you walk with them, and the motives and actions of some people may seem awful but for others might be the light of life illuminating everything.

Live the moment, your moment.
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on December 8, 2017
Chapter One is written beautifully. Because this is what I read on the Amazon sample, I purchased the book expecting more of the same. Huge disappointment. I am not familiar with Virginia Woolf’s writing. I made it to pg 97 of 230 and just quit. It is a rambling “what if” story going nowhere. There is nothing endearing in the character and nothing beautiful in the overly detailed descriptives of EVERYTHING around her. How did this book win the Pulitzer? I found myself bored, angry, and annoyed with it. As a result I let it sit for over a month. I need to move on to something more substantial.
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on December 2, 2016
Not having read or knowing anything about Virginia Woolf, The Hours is a haunting and thoughtful work. Cunningham places three completely unrelated main characters and story lines that he manages to brilliantly weave around themes regarding life and death. His literary skills are masterful. It is a relatively short book that reads quickly. The book brings to life the role of women and the silence of women suffering from an earlier period of time. Now I need to pick up and read Mrs. Dalloway.
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on March 21, 2015
Very slow going at first and difficult to keep track of the three different narratives. I had to keep rereading previous chapters to remind myself what had happened to whom. Lovely prose, though. I finished because I was determined to, though I wanted to quit every 10 pages or so.
A good read for literature aficionados, no doubt. The book is poignant and existential.
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on November 22, 2015
Story was dark but kept my interest. I had seen the movie prior to reading the book. The writer is very prolific and made me feel like I was right there, my senses on alert the whole time. Excellent read!
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How did I ever miss this book? It won the Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious awards. How did I miss the movie? Virginia Woolf is one of my favorite writers. Because my name, Clarissa, was rare while growing up, I always made a point to read books whose heroine, like Mrs. Dalloway, shared that first name. So how did I miss this? I must remain grateful for accidentally stumbling across a volume that echoes fleeting thoughts and feelings during the course of a lifetime. There is not much I can add in a review about a multi award-winning book that is so close to perfection, but I want to encourage anyone interested in Virginia Woolf, lesbian/gay issues or suicide to consider reading it. It is so much more than issues, of course. That is merely one level. At times, Cunningham's voice is identical to Woolf's, reminiscent of the novel To The Lighthouse or the essay A Room of One's Own, the magical, almost unbearable, Virginia Woolf sentences that many of us have aspired to emulate but never could write. I finished reading this spectacular story in tears...
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on May 24, 2017
I've never read a book where the way I feel comes out onto the page and expresses what is inside of me.... thank you
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on April 27, 2013
Cunningham's depth of understanding of Woolf's life and work is profound, and it gives him the freedom to play with her style, her themes, characters and motifs in a way that reveals new meaning in "Mrs. Dalloway," the novel upon which "The Hours" is based.
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on September 20, 2013
This book is by far one of the best written novels I've read. The style of Michael Cunningham is at its best here (not in vain was this work worth a Pulitzer for him).

The redaction is absolutely immersive, real and organic. The portraits of every character are totally believable and living, and the story is very humane and present.

Although "The hours" is very closely linked to "Mrs Dalloway", by Virginia Woolf, it shines with its own light and is a total delight by itself. (You don't have to read "Mrs Dalloway" to understand "The hours", but if you do you will find a bigger treasure in this book)
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