Book Mini-Review: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
I picked up Michael Cunningham's The Hours at one of our library’s book sales earlier this year. I really did not know too much about it other than in the movie version, Nicole Kidman had that infamous prosthetic nose to play Virginia Woolf. But aside from that, I was going in fairly blind to the story. The Hours follows three women, Clarissa Vaughan, Laura Brown, and Virginia Woolf, and their intertwining stories. Clarissa lives in New York City in the late 1990s with her partner Sally. Laura is a pregnant housewife in California during the 1950s. And we see Virginia as she writes her novel, Mrs. Dalloway, in a London suburb in the 1920s.
In The Hours, each story takes place over the course of a single day, yet it feels like each woman discovers so much about themselves and those they love. Clarissa plans a party for her long-time friend (and one-time lover) Richard, who won a writing award, but is dying of AIDS. It is Laura’s husband’s birthday, and she and her son Richie prepare for his birthday dinner. Virginia works on Mrs. Dalloway, but struggles with her mental illness. This is not a plot-heavy book, rather it spends more time on character development.
Each of the three stories overlaps with the others. Richard has always called Clarissa "Mrs. Dalloway" since she shares the same first name. Laura reads Mrs. Dalloway during the day and finds herself connecting with Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia Woolf. We see Virginia brainstorming certain aspects of Clarissa Dalloway.
The Hours was a quick read; it is only about 220 pages. Laura and Virginia’s stories were much more interesting to me. I just could not get into Clarissa's story; Richard, Sally, and Clarissa's daughter Julia seemed much more compelling than Clarissa. But Cunningham writes all three of these characters so well, that I still found myself wanting to know how each woman would end her day. Cunningham's writing helped The Hours win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1999. I give it 4 stars. I am excited to watch the movie and see the story come to life.
Let me know whether you preferred the book or the movie.