The Hours focuses on three women: Virginia Woolf, the author of Mrs. Dalloway, which this book plays with; Laura Brown, a young housewife who is reading Mrs Dalloway and struggling with her too-perfect and not-perfect-enough home life; and Clarissa Vaughan, who is living a sort of 20th century version of Clarissa Dalloway’s life. Cunningham switches between chapters and at the end, manages to make them all come together in this dream of a literary novel.
Okay, I’ll also be honest that I’m a little prejudiced here. I love Mrs. Dalloway. I’ve read it twice and I plan on reading it many more times. I love the way Virginia Woolf reflects the human consciousness, how everyone gets distracted by certain things, and how she can flit from person to person, all while maintaining a beautiful prose style and never getting the reader confused. I love that the entire novel fits in one day, but reflects on the enormity that can happen in just that one day, in so many people’s lives.
So, how could I not love The Hours? The answer is, there is no way, because I did love this novel. Cunningham plays with the storylines in a way that makes them richer, impossible as that is to imagine. He takes Woolf’s style and spreads it over several lives, paying homage to her work and making something entirely new of his own out of it. We can experience Woolf’s struggle between depression and genius, then flip a page and read his 20th century interpretation of the story, and then flip another page and experience how a book can change lives forever (albeit an extreme example). And then I adored the way the storylines came together at the end. I thought this book was pure brilliance. Moreover, not only does he do all this, but he manages to get across essential, beautiful messages about the transitory nature of life and what we’re all about that really touched me.
This book has won at least two awards, one of which is the Pulitzer prize. It also won the PEN/Faulkner award. I’m not surprised, because it is excellent. The literature student in me adores this book. I don’t know why I waited so long to read it! I’m going to recommend it to everyone I know – but only if they’ve read and liked Mrs. Dalloway. They would miss too much otherwise. Buy this book on Amazon.