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5.0 out of 5 stars A literary feat
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel intertwines the lives of three women from different eras. Laura Brown, a pregnant housewife in 1949 California, is planning a party for her husband but is preoccupied reading Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa Vaughan, a publisher, living in late twentieth-century New York is throwing a party for her friend Richard, a famous author dying of AIDS, the...
Published on Aug. 29 2009 by Christina Clapperton

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gloss masquerading as substance
This book tells in alternate chapters the story of a day in the lives of three women at different times: writer Virginia Woolf struggling with her novel "Mrs. Dalloway" in 1923, unhappy wife Laura Brown clinging to sanity by reading that same novel around 1949, and Clarissa Vaughan, a New York book editor in the present who's throwing a party just like the fictional Mrs...
Published on July 2 2003 by Ralph Lara


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gloss masquerading as substance, July 2 2003
By 
Ralph Lara "opera fanatic" (Miami Shores, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
This book tells in alternate chapters the story of a day in the lives of three women at different times: writer Virginia Woolf struggling with her novel "Mrs. Dalloway" in 1923, unhappy wife Laura Brown clinging to sanity by reading that same novel around 1949, and Clarissa Vaughan, a New York book editor in the present who's throwing a party just like the fictional Mrs. Dalloway.
Enough rave reviews have been written about this novel so that the whole world and its mother thinks it's magnificent. I think that the author's undeniable feel for significant, character-defining details may be here mistaken for profundity. The novel's main characters are all unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives but don't know why (except Woolf, who has a legitimate reason - she's gradually going mad).
Clarissa is rich, as she tells you. She lives in an enviable apartment in a fashionable Manhattan neighborhood. She doesn't have a worry greater than the right choice of clothes or flowers. Laura and her husband own a new house and a convertible; she gets to stay home and bake cakes. Not bad for 1949. Virginia and her husband own a small printing company so she can publish her own books. Maybe a couple of weeks in a third world country would enlighten these women as to how privileged they are. They are not only self-important, self-absorbed and pathologically self-preoccupied but view the people outside their charmed circle with condescension and disdain. Clarissa walks the streets of New York noticing the ugliness and vulgarity of everyone, especially "foreign drivers who believe women should walk three paces behind their husbands." How sad that such lesser creatures must share the city with Clarissa and her elite crowd, people who buy $400 shirts without thinking twice and whose earth-shaking views and decisions deal mainly with where to dine and what party to attend.
Woolf comes across as a snobbish prig, eyeing her servants with barely controlled disgust at their stupidity and commonness. She delights sadistically in giving them overly difficult, unnecessary tasks that are as humiliating as they are trivial. She sees her sister as insensitive and shallow. You feel that this Virginia is an insufferable snob, trapped in the suburbs (horror!), away from glamorous, intellectual London (where she rightfully belongs), lamenting that no one is clever or worthy enough to appreciate or understand her, the literary genius.
What I find most distracting and indeed insufferably irritating about this book is the author's need to make practically every character in the story gay. Clarissa is gay and lives with Sally who is gay. So are all the people in New York, at least those whom Clarissa knows: Richard, the AIDS-afflicted former lover for whom she's throwing the party, is gay. Julia, her daughter by artificial insemination, is gay. Julia's older friend Mary, is gay. Louis, who was briefly Clarissa's lover (and then Richard's), is gay. Walter Hardy, a writer of homosexual potboilers, is gay. He takes care of Evan, who's gay. Oliver St. Ives, famous movie star, is gay. You get the idea...
Those few characters who are not overtly gay have gay tendencies. That includes Virginia (whose entire gay reputation hinges on the fact that she slept twice with Vita Sackville-West and didn't like it). Laura has gay tendencies and her son Ritchie will grow up to be gay. Only her husband Dan is straight and that's because he has to be shown as everything Laura wants to get away from (although he's a good person). Eventually we expect homosexuality to be conferred on everything in the novel, including pets and inanimate objects.
It's as if Victor Hugo had decided that every character in "Notre Dame de Paris" had to be a hunchback or if Tolstoy had made every person in "Anna Karenina" have a scandalous extramarital affair. Eventually it just gets too tedious.
Mr. Cunningham (who I'm told is gay) appears to believe that the way to validate a character's lifestyle is to make everyone else in a story share the same inclinations. Strength does not lie in numbers but in the certainty and integrity of one's convictions. If you're a vegetarian you don't need to fantasize that everyone else is one in order to feel that you're doing the right thing. Furthermore, whereas the real Virginia Woolf wrote about affluent society whilst keeping a distance that allowed her to acutely question and criticize such a world (one of the things that make her a great writer), Mr. Cunningham is unable to keep any distance whatsoever from this insulated and privileged milieu because he thoroughly belongs to it and thus identifies with it. A glossy but ultimately shallow novel, and a narcissistic work for a narcissistic time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A literary feat, Aug. 29 2009
By 
Christina Clapperton (Toronto, ON) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel intertwines the lives of three women from different eras. Laura Brown, a pregnant housewife in 1949 California, is planning a party for her husband but is preoccupied reading Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa Vaughan, a publisher, living in late twentieth-century New York is throwing a party for her friend Richard, a famous author dying of AIDS, the illness causing her to reevaluate her choices in life. Virginia Woolf is starting to write her book, Mrs. Dalloway, in 1923 suburban England. The basic theme is wondering if it is better to live your life for your own happiness or the happiness of others.

The story shoots back to the past in their memories and, in doing so, creates a depth of history that infiltrates their minds during the present moments in the story. The plot cannot be examined separately; as descriptive as the moments of buying flowers (flowers are a central motif) and baking a cake are, they are trivial without the delicious internal thoughts that accompany them. However, the triviality of the tasks was deliberate. Complacencies are confronted, causing them to face important questions about life and death. The author uses stream of consciousness to explore their inner lives (also used in Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway--the book's literary muse), and he does this with great sensitivity.

Cunningham's choice of protagonists is an interesting study. Increasingly, flawed characters, even antiheros, are being accepted because they are more identifiable and accessible to readers. Different people, of course, have different reasons for reading, and a reader who wants a fast-moving plot will likely have difficulty getting through this meditation of humanity. As a new writer and a reader more interested in strong character development, I was enamoured by Cunningham's ability to successfully handle the complexity of the novel's framework. The novel inspires excellence in writers without alienating readers.

A kiss takes places between Laura Brown and her neighbour, Kitty, but affections toward her neighbour are not described. Perhaps the intended focus of this interaction is on the moment and her desperation rather than premeditated romanticizing or a realization of homosexuality. I would have liked to have known more about the shared history between Clarissa and Richard. Why they have remained so close and the impact of his illnesses--both physical and mental--on their relationship.

Overall it is a brilliant read, and I admire Cunningham's bravery to tackle this project and his accomplishment in seamlessly weaving different points of view in neat little segments. Bravo.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible book!, July 2 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the story of three women in three different time periods, Cunningham does a wonderful job in demonstrating the connections between these women. The story is simply about the dissapointments of life and how we cope. Cunningham is a great author and I strongly recommend his other books, Flesh and Blood and A Home at the End of the World.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Size does matter..., June 28 2004
By 
P. Shelton (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Hardcover)
I have to start by saying that Cunningham can write. He writes very well. Also, the book is an entertaining read. There are some surprises here that you may not have heard about even with all the hooplah (barring seeing the movie of course- which I haven't, if that makes a difference). Well-written, entertaining read...
Pulitzer winner?
From an award winner I expected more. The novel's concept (format) which kind of seems like a borrowed gimmick somehow detracts from the overall experience. The writing is so strong it doesn't need any attention-getters to prop it up. The pace was pretty quick throughout which didn't enable me to fully immerse myself. Many more details are needed. You can tell that Cunningham did a lot of research so apparently that's not the problem. In a way, I almost feel like I only read half of a novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Size does matter..., June 28 2004
By 
P. Shelton (Atlanta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Hardcover)
I have to start by saying that Cunningham can write. He writes very well. Also, the book is an entertaining read. There are some surprises here that you may not have heard about even with all the hooplah (barring seeing the movie of course- which I haven't, if that makes a difference). Well-written, entertaining read...
Pulitzer winner?
From an award winner I would have expected more. The novel's concept (format) which kind of seems like a borrowed gimmick somehow detracts from the overall experience. The writing is so strong it doesn't need any attention-getters to prop it up. The pace was pretty quick throughout which didn't enable me to fully immerse myself. Many more details are needed. You can tell that Cunningham did a lot of research so apparently that's not the problem. In a way, I almost feel like I only read half of a novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not as depressing..., June 24 2004
By 
rantboi (Dayton, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Hardcover)
...as some people think. I read this book in about two days, and to tell you the truth, I didn't feel 'depressed' because of it. I don't know, maybe it's because as someone who has been through war, poverty, depression, and other stuff I don't care to mention, I can't really see their problems as a big deal. I think that I, as a sixteen year old at this time, have more right to be depressed and suicidal than these three women. (Except maybe for Woolf, but not the way she was written into this book.) But, I still see how they could feel like that. After all, who am I to decide who should and shouldn't be depressed? As another reviewer said, depression can get to anyone, but for someone like me, I doubt these characters' problems will seem significant enough to call this a 'depressing' or 'life-changing' novel.
Now, to the writing. I think it was greatly done, although I liked his style in 'A Home at the End of the World' a bit better for some reason. (Still have to read 'Flesh and Blood'.) Michael Cunningham is for sure one of the better writers around. As for the movie based on this novel, I watched it before I read it, and thought it was beautifully done.
In conclusion, I think this novel is worth reading, but I highly doubt that people who've been through far more crap than these characters will really relate to them.
-Ater
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic, June 13 2004
By 
B. A Riesgraf (St. Cloud, Minnesota United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
I sincerely hope that, with the passage of time, this book will come to be seen as a true modern masterpiece. This is certainly the most fluid, effective, and beautiful novel I have been fortunate enough to encounter. I have not yet read Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, but, even without having experienced this book in the context of that work, The Hours stands very much on its own.
The story has been recounted so many times here that another summary would be completely superfluous. I'll concentrate here on the efficacy with which Michael Cunningham wields his literary powers. As he himself has said, a novel should function as a companion. The Hours seems to comply rather well with that definition. With its subtly yet powerfully interwoven themes of sexuality, contentedness, youth, affection, anxiety, the choices we make, and, especially, the nature of art, it manages to awaken the reader to a world of new ideas and perceptions. When you read The Hours, the book accompanies you inside yourself and out into the world; it has become a lens through which I analyze and observe.
The single most powerful aspect of the novel was, to me, the writing style. Even if a novel has poignant ideologies and effective characterizations, I find myself detached from it unless it speaks to me stylistically. Cunningham's prose is meltingly gorgeous. His writing isn't really stream-of-consciousness, but it just takes you so far within his characters.
The Hours earns my highest recommendation, as does the film adaptation, which is remarkably effective in translating a very un-cinematic novel onto the screen. Many have deemed both book and movie overly depressing, but I have found them uplifting and incredibly engaging. You owe it to yourself to read this novel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Top of my list, June 11 2004
By 
J. Laudermilch "The snarky critic" (Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
This book is a must read. Michael Cunningham managed to do what I think many authors fail to do: actually feel the emotional pain of his characters. While this turned out to be very depressing, it was a joy to read someone so in touch with the way people work. One of the greatest character driven novels ever written. One bit of advice: do not read this during your lunch hour at work because you will be a mess when you return. Another piece of advice: do not let this book pass you by. Also, check out the movie. It was one of the rare instances where the feeling and story of the book completely translated to the screen.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Consider reading, June 9 2004
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
The Hours is a novel that boldly deals with the delicate fabric of sensitivy, and explores the introspective realms of love, confusion, embitterment, life, and death. Michael Cunningham is unequivocally a talented writer, one who seems to have a fine grasp on the cerebral pulp of messy human minds. I will not bother going into a plot adumbration; but for the prospective reader who is yet unfamiliar with the story, still wavering on whether or not to dive in, consider this: The Hours is a novel about finding yourself, questioning convention, questioning why we resign ourselves to living a second-rate existence, what is it that makes us carry on every day--responsibility? hope? desire? Or if not for anything else, consider reading the novel for its opulent prose, which seems to run as naturally as a current; streaming liquid on paper. True literary Beauty.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I have ever read, June 6 2004
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
You'll get lost in the emotion of the character's from begging to end.I great read full of emotional rollercosters.Highly recomand for a book club.
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