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Comments for The Hours

The HoursThe Hours: 06/19/07

Right around the time we moved to our current home, I heard Michael Cunningham interviewed on NPR and he was reading a selection from one of his books. I remember being unimpressed by his interview; he just rubbed me the wrong way. That interview and my own general stubbornness about reading popular (even if they are award winning) books, has made me avoid reading The Hours. Last year, though, another BookCrosser RABCKed me a box of books and among them was The Hours.

In the spirit of "reading and releasing" I've finally read The Hours. It was a pleasant surprise. It had some flaws here and there and wasn't the best book I've ever read but it was oddly compelling and I stayed up a little late to finish it. One of the debates I've seen among other reviewers of the book (I haven't checked if this is true among film viewers too as I've not seen the film) is whether or not one needs to have read Mrs. Dalloway to "get" The Hours. The answer is no. I've not read Mrs. Dalloway (the only Woolf I've read is Orlando and that was in a one-night college cram session for a test; not one of my prouder moments of book reading or test studying). What one does need is the ability to keep three different time lines straight in one's head and the willingness to discover how these three timelines are part of a greater story.

There are three female protagonists: Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. Woolf, and Mrs. Brown. I've listed in the order of their first appearances. Mrs. Dalloway lives in the "present" and takes her name from the novel that Mrs. Woolf is struggling to write over the course of the book. While her life somewhat mimics that of Wolfe's character, the truth behind the nickname lies in the history of the person who gave her the name. Meanwhile, back in 1949, Mrs. Brown is trying to keep it together while she puts together the perfect birthday celebration for her husband when all she'd really like to do is finish reading Mrs. Dalloway.

On the surface the book is a short and simple affair. It's a few hours out of the lives of three women. But it's more than that too. It's hard to describe the gestalt of the book without giving way the ending. Since this is a blog and not an essay, I'll leave the deeper analysis for another time and save the spoilers for anyone else who hasn't read the book yet.

Read the review at 1morechapter.

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