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