TBR Challenge: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)
The Hours has been holding up other books on my bookshelf rather well since 2002 when the movie came to theaters. I had rushed out to buy a copy because I just had to read it. I bought it and placed it on the shelf to get lost in the shuffle of books for four years. I re-found it this month, while looking for another book, and decided that it would really be a good read for this month’s TBR Day.
In college, I read my first and only Virginia Woolf book, A Room of One’s Own. I loved it. I thought it was brilliant. I felt a strong connection down deep inside me. However, now upon recollection I can only remember my strong feelings of it and not really the reasoning behind those feelings. Mr. Cunninham’s writing of Virginia has rekindled my excitement for her. I am excited to reread A Room of One’s Own as well as read her other works including Mrs. Dalloway, which is the book she is working on when this novel is set.
Now, for Mr. Cunningham’s novel. As per the back of book,
Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughn, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950’s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.
I enjoyed reading this book very much. I felt the bouncing back from one woman to another added drama and kept the story moving along. I loved how Cunningham followed them and used everyday moments to show us the character of these women. I enjoyed his writing style. He took his time reveling layer upon layer of these women and the characters that came and went from their lives.
Though the women lived in three different times and were living three vastly different lives, they were similar in the heart of the matter. They all pretended and played roles for the world and for the people around them. Laura the role of a dutifully wife and mother. Clarissa the role of a ‘wife’ and intimate friend. Virginia, it seemed, had to pretend to be and do most everything in her life. They pretended to be what the world/their loved ones wanted or needed them to be. They judged themselves unworthdy because they could not attain the perfection they desired. Perfection seemed to be a disease of them all. This perfectionism can be seen most clearly in Laura’s cake, Clarissa’s flowers, and Virginia’s interactions with Nelly, the servant. This perfectionism still effects women today. Is my house clean enough? Are my children well behaved enough? These are just two of the questions women ask themselves each day. How do I measure up to others? Why is it we always measure ourselves against the best, most perfect ideal which often times does not exist? (end tangent)
This book was a great read. It isn’t an overly difficult or long (226pgs) read. It was well worth the time it took to read, which is not always the case.