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5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Classic
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...
Published on June 13 2004 by B. A Riesgraf

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3.0 out of 5 stars More than the eye can see
Michael Cunningham sensitively describes the lives of women. He also sympathetically takes us into the minds of homosexual people, making us wonder, and then making us see. His flowers, furniture, artefacts - even his cake - are believable. His smells are credible, and his textures.
This is a book written with three protagonists of equal importance, and yet, one is...
Published on May 29 2003 by Rosanne Dingli


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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
(REAL NAME)   
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional, But Rewarding, Feb. 25 2004
By 
JRU (PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Hardcover)
A person (the snob one, the one who can scan a book without moving his lips) commented to me once how mediocre this book is. "Absolutely mediocre," he said, "I just read it because of the movie." After finishing Cunningham's book, THE HOURS, I felt the need to agree with my friend, but only for a fraction. There's nothing wrong with the book, really, but I suppose the intellectual reader would still brand it dull and overly emotional. The book, after-all, is a study (a brilliant one, let me add) of three women's lives- their daily frustrations, their wants and needs that can't be earned no matter how one tries so hard. (Melo-dramatic, is it not? quite soap-operatic?) But Cunningham is a loveable writer, and here he suceeded and gave us a masterpiece that could have been worst. This is a highly readable novel, a novel both for the curious and the gifted, a book that you'll love for sure.
Cunningham's Richard is the ultimate modern-day tragic hero. Here he created a character that is a source of pain, only pain, a Virginia Woolf re-incarnation of some sort. But Richard's pain, the author reminds us, is not one brought by his sexuality or illness but by the past, brought by rejection and how this rejection shattered the life of a supposedly brilliant man.
In a way, THE HOURS, is a meditation of the past, a rememory, a re-living. And there's nothing mediocre about it. (NOTE: In addition, read THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP by Tolm Coibin)
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Meditation on Life...Love...Death, Feb. 2 2004
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved MRS. DALLOWAY and I loved THE HOURS. I think it's a beautiful book, though I don't think it is necessarily meant to be written in the exact "stream of consciousness" style as is MRS. DALLOWAY.

THE HOURS tells the interwoven story of three women: the writer, Virginia Woolf, a 1950s housewife named Laura Brown and a present day woman, Clarissa Vaughan. Laura is obsessed with reading MRS. DALLOWAY just as Woolf is obsessed with writing it. Clarissa is obsessed with giving her friend, Richard, a poet dying of AIDS, the "perfect party," just as Clarissa Dalloway was obsessed with the perfect party. Richard, the reader will come to learn, will be the slender thread that eventually connects Clarissa to Laura.

One of the things I found so beautiful, and so remarkable about this novel were the seamless transitions from one character's narrative to another's. Cunningham has written perhaps the most fluid and beautifully intertwining of narratives I've ever encountered.

I've read and heard criticism of this book because it does not strictly follow the rules of "stream of consciousness." I'm not sure it was meant to and I can't fault it for not doing so. Pure "stream of consciousness," of course, follows, not just the main character's thoughts but also the thoughts of others in relation to the narrator. In THE HOURS, we get only Woolf's thoughts in her narrative. In Laura's narrative, we read only her thoughts. In Clarissa's narrative, Cunningham gives us not only Clarissa's thoughts but also the thoughts of one of her party guests and here, Cunningham is writing "stream of consciousness" as Woolf wrote it...to a much lesser degree. But, I have to ask, does this lack of "pure" stream of consciousness diminish THE HOURS or lessen Cunningham's homage to Woolf? I am not sure. I think the book would have been strengthened and enriched had Cunningham woven the thoughts of the other characters around the thoughts of Woolf, Laura and Clarissa, but THE HOURS is so seamless and beautiful in its structure and execution that I can't fault Cunningham for neglecting, or choosing not, to do this.

The only other quibble I have with the book is the fact that everyone seemed to either prefer same-sex relationships or at least have leanings in that direction. What are the chances of that? Not many, I think. I was most annoyed by Laura's experimentation with her neighbor. It just seemed to ring a very false note with me. But that, as I said, is nothing more than a quibble.

It seems striking to me that Cunningham chose to write THE HOURS sans the final party scene. This is the scene in which Woolf showcases her pure stream of consciousness to the fullest and it's the place where Cunningham could have done the same. I have to wonder if Cunningham thought he lacked the narrative sophistication and fluidity to accomplish this (a very difficult task) or whether he simply chose not to do so, feeling that the party inclusion would make THE HOURS seems too contrived. Not knowing the answer, I can't fault him for his choice.

I was going to award THE HOURS four stars based on the above, but it is so beautiful, so seamless, so structurally perfect as it is, that I can't justify awarding it any less than five. This is a beautiful, but harrowing, book that is also a meditation on life...on love...on art and, finally, on death. I think any lover of experimental or literary fiction couldn't help but love it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Homage to Woolf., Jan. 25 2004
By 
C. Middleton (Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
This is the first novel in many years that I was motivated to read after viewing its film adaptation. The film of the same name is a work of art, though the novel surpasses the picture in terms of its depth, subtlety and intelligent imitation and homage to Virginia Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway. As this was the author's stated intent, to my mind, he was wholly successful. Particularly the Dalloway chapters, it was if I was reading a 21st century version of Virginia Woolf's masterpiece. This novel is a superb piece of writing. Cunningham evokes the thoughts, impressions and inner feelings of his three main characters and their unique associations, and cleverly connects them by way of prosaic nuance and understated references to Woolf's novel. In fact, there are so many connections between the two novels, it would require several readings to find them all. This is a true literary achievement because Cunningham's execution, on the surface, seems effortless. His prose is liquid, flowing in and out of the minds and circumstances of each character with empathy, intense sensitivity and realism. However, the book's real achievement is the reader does not necessarily need to have an acquaintance with Mrs. Dalloway in order to appreciate Cunningham's incredible novel.
That said, having read Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, viewing the film more than once, and now having read Cunningham's novel, my appreciation and understanding of all three has become much richer as a result. Woolf's battle with mental illness and her exploration on the boundaries between 'insanity'and what we've come to believe as 'sanity', and her views on suicide, for example, have become a lot clearer to me after reading The Hours. All three works are major triumphs in themselves, but have managed to end up complimenting each other in insightful ways.
My suggestion would be to read this elegant novel, read Woolf's masterpiece, and see the film again. If time doesn't permit or you're not inclined to do so, at least read this novel, it will be well worth your time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Twelve stars. I went gaga over this book, Jan. 8 2004
By 
Peggy Vincent "author and reader" (Oakland, CA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Hardcover)
...and I'm almost never the ga-ga type. But The Hours took my breath away with its complexity, its interweaving of plots and time frames and the involvement of V. Woolf's (her writing and her own story) - all brought to modern times in twists and turns of writing that just, well, made me ga-ga, completely entranced. Several story lines are interwoven: Mrs. Dalloway (the book and its characters), Virginia Woolf's own life, the story of Laura Brown, a depressed and suicidal 1950's housewife, and Clarissa Vaughan's preparations for a party for her dying gay friend, who has nicknamed her Mrs. Dalloway.
Reading The Hours sent me on a quest to understand more about Virginia Woolf. I'd read Mrs. Dalloway years ago and found it hard going. But this time I read it slowly, savoring the long interior passages. And I've seen the movie. And I've read Quentin Bell's (Woolf's nephew) books about her and the whole Bloomsbury Set. I can't get enough and keep digging deeper and deeper.
Cunningham has spawned a whole new genre with this stellar piece of writing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Provides an understanding of Mrs. Dalloway, Dec 22 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
First, I saw the movie that was based on this book a year ago, and walked out not knowing if I liked or disliked it. In speaking to a friend of mine, she suggested I read "Mrs. Dalloway" and then read "The Hours." Her suggestion was I would get the best understanding from both this book and the movie. She was absolutely correct!
Unlike some of the other reviewers, I felt as though Michael Cunningham had a deep admiration for Virginia Woolf and her work. Yes, almost all of the characters in "The Hours" are lifted from the pages of "Mrs. Dalloway." However, Mr. Cunningham makes these characters interesting and alive and people I would like to know. He writes in an organized fashion, as compared to Mrs. Woolf's stream of consciousness gibberish. The characters seem to have more depth, curiously, than the ones they are based on. They are easier to understand and sympathize with.
I would highly recommend this book, but I would equally recommend reading "Mrs. Dalloway" first. My own perception of "Mrs. Dalloway" was that it was duller than dull, but it does provide the basis for the characters the Mr. Cunningham brings to life and makes their stories easier to understand. I suppose one could read this book without reading "Mrs. Dalloway" but I would find that difficult, personally.
The one facet that Mr. Cunningham brings up that I either missed or was too bored with "Mrs. Dalloway" to pick up is the passage of the hours and their impact on the people in this book. It was obvious to me that Mr. Cunningham not only appreciated "Mrs. Dallowy" but he seemed to have an understanding of what VW was attempting to tell her readers and failed at. Here, he has succeeded.
If you are a Virginia Woolf fan or purist, you will probably not appreciate Mr. Cunningham's attempt at incorporating her characters into this story. However, if you like stories that have characters that are alive and are people you can relate to, this story will like hold your interest.
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5.0 out of 5 stars AN AUDIO WORTHY OF ACCOLADES, Dec 8 2003
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Audio CD)
From an acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and an award winning film of the same name comes an audio book also worthy of accolades.
Author Michael Cunningham gives an empathetic, moving reading to his story, a tribute to Virginia Woolf.
He pays homage to the late author by interweaving her life with those of two other women. Past and present unite to form a pallette of hope, courage, and love.
Listeners find Virginia Woolf in 1923; she is recuperating in London and "Mrs. Dalloway" is in an embryonic stage. Seque to a sunshine filled morning in New York City where Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for a dear friend who is in the late stages of AIDS. Move to a Los Angeles suburb in the 1950s and Laura Brown who is attempting a celebration of her husband's birthday.
It is a tribute to the author's proficiency and understanding that the lives of these women mesh with one another in unforgettable ways.
An audio to he heard over and over again.
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5.0 out of 5 stars AN AUDIO WORTHY OF ACCOLADES, Dec 8 2003
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Audio CD)
From an acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and an award winning film of the same name comes an audio book also worthy of accolades.
Author Michael Cunningham gives an empathetic, moving reading to his story, a tribute to Virginia Woolf.
He pays homage to the late author by interweaving her life with those of two other women. Past and present unite to form a pallette of hope, courage, and love.
Listeners find Virginia Woolf in 1923; she is recuperating in London and "Mrs. Dalloway" is in an embryonic stage. Seque to a sunshine filled morning in New York City where Clarissa Vaughan is planning a party for a dear friend who is in the late stages of AIDS. Move to a Los Angeles suburb in the 1950s and Laura Brown who is attempting a celebration of her husband's birthday.
It is a tribute to the author's proficiency and understanding that the lives of these women mesh with one another in unforgettable ways.
An audio to he heard over and over again.
- Gail Cooke
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2.0 out of 5 stars A neatly constructed mediocrity, Oct. 20 2003
By 
This review is from: The Hours: A Novel (Paperback)
I really don't understand why this book is so popular. Cunningham, instead of putting together three stories that play off each other, offers obvious parallels - carefully placed but without any life behind them, the work of a decent craftsman and not an artist - with a twist that kept me guessing for exactly five pages.
I remember reading a review that praised his impersonation of Virginia Woolf's style, but didn't seem to realize that perhaps Woolf's style was there for a reason, that it was the only way to animate the material that she wanted to write about. Cunningham is merely aping, and for no particular reason other than the fact that he decided that one of the three stories should be about Virginia Woolf-and then, lamely, had one of the characters reading Mrs. Dalloway and another named Clarissa.
Woolf's suicide, incidentally, came many years (and books) after Mrs. Dalloway-and is not connected to it in the way that Cunningham implies, and only because the commonplace association exists between the madness of the soldier in Mrs. Dalloway and Woolf's recurrent mental health problems. Placing these stories together offers nothing but surface understanding. No novel that has receiving so much praise recently is less worth rereading.
The only reason this book needs to exist is to bring people to Mrs. Dalloway and, even better, To the Lighthouse. Otherwise, it is just a bunch of wax sculptures with some pretty parts. I don't think that Cunningham, incidentally, is a writer who should be a novelist. He is better at illuminating small moments -- exploring types vividly, for a few pages -- than creating characters that have sustained life. His short stories are actually very good: this book is just very average.
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