Monday, 11 October 2010

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Hours follows the day in the life of three women, Virginia Woolf in 1920s London, Laura Brown in 1940s Los Angeles and Clarissa Dalloway in 1990s New York. The day goes through the mundane while themes such as depression, suicide and death feature quite heavily until all three lives converge.

Well I have never read Mrs Dalloway (in fact I’ve never even read Woolf) so I am unable to comment on the similarities between the narrative of the two books.

The author has made the mundane meaningful and the novel is quick and relatively easy to read. The way the women’s day intertwine and mirror each other is very clever as is the way their life's link at the end.

But while I liked this book, I did not love it. The book for some reason did not emotionally stir me in anyway to the point that I was almost left cold, I found the whole thing completely humourless without any kind of joy. Aside from Laura Brown, I failed to really connect with the rest of the characters or their situation as they meandered from one depressing thought to another.

I did see the film a few years ago and I remember finding that a far more emotional experience to the point that I almost cried. Laura Brown in the film also got the opportunity to explain herself better which added impact at the end. Perhaps because I had seen the film first I was let down slightly by the book? I realise that having a film ruin the reading experience of a book is quite rare but the film was wonderfully cast and it filled in a few gaps for me.

Would I recommend this? My feelings towards the book are very much in the minority so I would seek out other reviews rather than take my word for it. However it might have more of an impact and understanding if the novel Mrs Dalloway was read first?

Verdict 3/5

Posted by Jess


  1. I didn't love this book either. It was mediocre in my opinion.

  2. I've actually never heard of this book I guess I'll reserve judgment?

  3. I saw the movie when it first came out and have been putting off reading the book because I don't know if the film ruined it for me. Ed Harris did such a phenom performance.

  4. The Hours is my favorite movie of all time. I saw it in theatres and I couldn't help but cry, and I've seen it hundreds of times since. I used to watch it daily when I was pregnant with my third son.

    I read the book afterwards, thinking that usually the book is better than the movie, right? I hated it. I'd only seen the movie once at that point, but I felt like the book was so sloppy and poorly written, good in concept but awful in writing. It didn't feel at all like Virginia Woolf either (I've read Mrs. Dalloway several times, as well as many other books by her).

    So many people say how good this book is, though. People I trust. It makes me wonder if I was just skewed when I read it before, and maybe I should try it again. I don't know. I'm leery.

  5. I saw the movie, quite like it. I thought perhaps the book would convey the emotions a lot more better than the movie could. I'm reading Mrs Dalloway now, perhaps then it will make more sense of why Woolf feel the way she feels in the movie.

    An honest review, I appreciate it.

  6. Stephanie - Im glad Im not the only one who thought so! Most of the reviews Ive read have raved about it.

    Zara - it won the Pulitzer priz a few years back which is why I think its so famous, and of course the film as well.

    christina - I think everyone in that film was brilliant, it was so so well cast. Unusal but I really think that the film was much better.

    Amanda - I was sure I missed something because so many people love this. I am going to read Woolf at the end of this month so it'll be interesting to see if I get on with that. The film was amazing though.

    JoV - Woolf in the book was one of the characters that did make sense in the book in terms that I got her motivation but her role was extended in the film.

  7. I read this book at university and thought it was one of the most powerful and beautiful books I'd read up until that point. I haven't re-read it since, but the impression of how terrific it was has stayed with me. I think you have to have read Mrs Dalloway to really appreciate it, which is why you might not have enjoyed it that much. Which is a shame! Because I really think it's a magnificent novel and I'm sad you didn't think so too!

  8. I actually loved this book, in particular for how it connected with Mrs Dalloway, one of my favorite books and one I return to regularly because I love it so much. I agree with the commenter above me - it just makes it so much more meaningful. I can't really imagine how I'd reacted without reading the book! I haven't seen the film, but clearly I should.

  9. I haven't read The Hours but I have read Mrs. Dalloway, twice. I didn't find it over-emotional but maybe your right, it could lend a different understand of this book. Either way, I am intrigued.

  10. I have not read Mrs Dalloway, or well, tried to and then gave up. I want to give it another try, because I know most people I trust in their book tastes love it. The Hours is on my list for the same reasons. Your review has made me less eager to read it.

  11. bookssnob - I really do think it was the film that ruined the book for me. It wasnt a bad read don't get me wrong but I was expecting it to be so much better.

    Meghan - I'll be reading the Waves later this month so perhaps I should read Mrs Dalloway afterwards and see if I 'get it'.

    Brenna & irisonbooks - this book won the pulitzer prize and most reviews have loved this book (including some of the comments here) so I think perhaps its one you should read to make you own mind up.

  12. I'm pretty sure I read this one, or at least parts of it but it was rather unremarkable. When books like this go unliked by me, I often think that I missed something along the way. Sometimes I will revisit a book if others encourage me to do so, but I don't recall anyone disagreeing with me at the time I read it so they must have agreed.

  13. I haven't read Mrs Dalloway either but I'd like to now. My favourite character was Laura - I think she was the only one I actually really liked. But I was definitely more emotionally involved with the film. I found a lot of the writing clunky at time and almost gave up at some points!

    What I did like about it was the questions it raised and the way it got me thinking.

  14. And also - I got two comments for my review - I wonder what I'm doing wrong?

  15. Oh, this one's one my list! Now I know to read Mrs. Dalloway first. :-)

  16. Ti - with it winning the Pulitzer and all I am sure theres something I've missed but I'm not reading it again!

    Bethany - Laura was my favorite character as well, Clarissa was the worst I think. I found the film more thought provoving and I haven't thought about the book since I've read it.

    Jillian - its a quick read so even if you dont enjoy it you wont spend much time with it.

  17. I adored this book, when I read it - maybe two weeks after I finished Mrs. Dalloway? Thought the inspiration (for lack of better words) it drew from the Woolf classic was mindblowing, and I just couldn't put the book down.

    Do I dare suggest attempting to read the classic and then the book? :)