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The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Published by
Fourth Estate, 1999

Michael Cunningham takes Virginia Woolf’s life as the inspiration for a meditation on artistic endeavour, failure, love and madness.
The Hours –comprised of a trio of interlocking novellas – features a single day in the life of three women drawn from different time periods: Virginia Woolf as she begins work on Mrs Dalloway and contemplates suicide; Laura Brown an unhappily married woman living in California in 1949 reads Mrs Dalloway, looks after her son and prepares a birthday cake for her husband and Clarissa Vaughan, (nicknamed Mrs Dalloway) a young New Yorker in the 1990s organizes a party for her friend and former lover, Richard, who is dying of Aids. Cunningham's three women proceed through the day, through the hours, trying to keep themselves psychologically intact. With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes Laura’s and Clarissa’s lives converge with Virginia Woolf's in an unexpected and heart-breaking way at the end during the party for Richard.

Cunningham’s novel, like Woolf’s, is dedicated to capturing a person’s essence through the events of a single day. With this book, Cunningham reaffirms Woolf’s enduring significance. Her questions about life remain pertinent and even urgent for us today. The Hours is about the richness of time, creativity, and about trying to live true to oneself, if only for an hour.

‘With The Hours, Cunningham has done the impossible: he has taken a canonical work of literature and, reworking it, made it his own. His characters are not piecemeal borrowings from Woolf, nor is his style a slavish imitation of hers. His novel is not inferior Woolf, nor is it an improved version of a classic. It is simply new, and as such it stands as a potential classic in its own right.’ Sarah Van der Laan The Yale Review of Books.

‘Even if Cunningham’s moving tribute served only to steer readers to Woolf’s incomparable books, he would deserve praise, but he has accomplished much more than that. He has reaffirmed that Woolf is of lasting significance, that the questions she asked about life remain urgent, and that, in spite of sorrow, pain and the promise of death, the simplest gestures – walking out the door on a lovely morning, setting a vase of roses on a table – can be, for one shining moment, enough.’ Donna Seaman Booklist

The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999. The book has been made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Michael Cunningham was raised in Los Angels and lives in New York City.

By the same author:
A Home at the End of the World
Flesh and Blood

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