Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Publication Date: July 31, 1998.
Rating: 3 Stars
Dear fellow babblers,
Tick, Mrs. Dalloway. Tock, Mrs. Woolf. Tick, Mrs. Brown. Tock, Mrs. Dalloway…again.
Reviewing The Hours I find myself stuck somewhere in between tick and tock. Reading a novel, poem, play, screenplay, it’s often easy for me to lose touch with reality and completely absorb myself into the world of a story. I lose touch with myself. The sounds around me. The smells hovering under my nose. The world happening around me. Time elapses into nothingness.
The Hours, however, made me fully aware of my position in reality, the noises of the outside world, the stuffiness of the air, and the slowness of time. In brief, The Hours leaves me feeling strangely hollow and irked.
Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, “The Hours” is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s 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 Cunnningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.
The book alternates between the stories of three women Tick: Mrs. Dalloway; Tock: Mrs. Woolf; and Tick: Mrs. Brown – all whom appear vaguely dissatisfied with their lives. It remains rather obscure and somewhat misleading, until the very end, as to how their narratives converge, apart from their longing and entertaining of the possibility of a life different and perhaps more meaningful than that which they find themselves trapped within.
Tick: Mrs. Dalloway.
Also known as Clarissa Vaughn, heroine of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. An exquisitely loyal friend, caretaker and avidly nostalgic observer of the writer and AIDS sufferer, Richard Brown.
Tock: Mrs. Woolf.
Despairing, yet romantically hopeful, Mrs. Woolf spends her ticks and tocks dreaming up stories and possible plot turns for the writing of her new novel. Residing in Richmond with her protective husband, Leonard, Mrs. Woolf longs for the fog, business and sweet transparency of London.
Tick: Mrs. Brown.
Dear Mrs. Brown. Beseeched in suburban Los Angeles with a loving husband, Dan and curiously observant son, Richie, Laura Brown hopes without knowing what she hopes for. She lives without knowing what she lives for. She escapes without knowing what she is escaping from.
Tick tock, tick tock go the hours.
One day; one utterly transformative and inescapable 24 hours of each of the women’s lives is slowly narrated, beginning with life, and ending with the possibility of death as means of escape from a banal, yet disheartening existence. Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Woolf and Mrs. Brown all seem to lead banal, ordinary lives dealing with the daily hardships typical of the era in which they live, but are curiously described in a way that renders them different, yet also relatable. They have a home, health, and « happiness » yet find themselves unhappy and nostalgic for a feeling or situation that perhaps may not even exist.
Time, the passing of time, the inevitability of time lies at the heart of the novel, as it is time, it’s passing, and its prevalence that causes each of the narratives to ultimately converge in the book’s final pages.
Although the plots and events of the stories prove to be difficult to piece together and disallow for a completely pleasurable « readerly » experience one CANNOT deny the beauty and artistic way in which each character, event, place is illustrated. Cunningham’s language is brilliantly seductive and offers an evocative portrayal of life and how we, as readers, lovers, feelers – humans – experience time, the passing of time, and the inevitability of time.
In terms of plot, I would not recommend The Hours (who cares if it won the Pulitzer Prize or that it’s Oprah’s favorite book or that Meryl Streep doesn’t shut up about it), but in terms of language, it’s impossible not to utterly fall in love with Michael Cunningham’s words:
We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep – it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself. 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…
– and I’ll leave you to ponder on that dear, dear babblers.
Thoughts? Recommendations? Did ya love? hate? Totally NOT get The Hours? Lets babble! Comment bellow dear, hopeless babbler!
(Photo credits go to Google).