Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours” – book review

I have to admit I didn’t have high hopes for Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, as I had seen the screen adaptation of the book and it hadn’t done much for me. I saw this book on offer for Kindle, and I bought it – just in case, I was missing out. Now I’ve finally made myself read it.

The film was quite faithful to the book (at least, as far as I can recall—I’ve watched it a while back.)

Many people are deeply affected by the novels of Virginia Woolf. Those of us with a writing bent are often driven to imitate her style of writing. This is basically what Michael Cunningham did when writing The Hours, only unlike most of us, he got his novel published and it turned it into an international hit.

Don’t get me wrong – the writing is perfectly okay, it’s fine. It’s just anyone trying to write like Virginia Woolf will come across the insurmountable difficulty of not being Virginia Woolf.

We have Clarissa, jokingly called Mrs. Dalloway, who is organizing her party for Richard, her ex-lover, who is now dying from AIDS.

We have a Laura, a 1950s housewife who just wants to read her books and wants her husband and son, Richard, to leave her alone.

We have Virginia Woolf trying to write a new novel, beginning with the words “Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

I found myself aching to put down The Hours and reread Mrs Dalloway. And perhaps read Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf. Now that’s not a bad reaction to have to a book, but I can’t help thinking the author might have had something else in mind.

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