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This is the first review for 2 member Book Club of 2013 (consisting of me and a friend)
Title: The Hours
Author: Michael Cunningham
Prices for:- Audio – £3.95 Hardback – £3.99 Paperback – £5.59
(Source of above information: amazon.co.uk)
Storyline (Source from amazon.co.uk):
Exiled in Richmond in the 1920s, taken from her beloved Bloomsbury and lovingly watched over by her husband Leonard, Virginia Woolf struggles to tame her rebellious mind and make a start on her new novel. In the brooding heat of 1940s Los Angeles, a young wife and mother yearns to escape the claustrophobia of suburban domesticity and read her precious copy of Mrs Dalloway. And in New York in the 1990s, Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich Village apartment and goes shopping for flowers for the party she is giving in honour of her life-long friend Richard, an award-winning poet whose mind and body are being ravaged by AIDS.
Set out: the book doesn’t number the chapters but names them after the focal character of that chapter. The chapters alternate between time as it starts with Virginia Woolf and leaps through time to the 1940’s to Mrs Laura Brown and to Mrs Clarissa Vaughan who is dubbed as Mrs Dalloway.
What I liked: (a) My favourite character out of them all was Mrs Woolf. She had a distinct witty and sarcastic voice that stood out from Mrs Brown and Mrs Dalloway. Cunningham was able to capture her troubled mind and social awkwardness beautifully with some comic and poignant moments. (b) Mrs Dalloway takes 2nd place as a woman troubled by her relationship with her long time friend, partner and daughter; her insecurity makes me pity her and her moments of insecurity make her vulnerable. She only takes 2nd place since I don’t like her but I don’t hate her either: she’s just a ‘nice’ character who spends the day reminiscing on times gone by, with some regret and fondness. (c)
What I didn’t like: (a) Mrs Laura Brown’s story seemed unfinished. She has a husband who loves her, a 3 year child who loves her and a baby on the way, but she’s unsatisfied. She at times resents how, maybe, nice and genuine her husband is and at how needy or adoring her son is of her. Cunningham didn’t go into depth about why Mrs Brown felt so unhappy in her life despite seeming to have ‘it all’; all she does is think about how at times she dislikes her son, how at times she dislikes her husband, how she wants to run away from it all and read her Mrs Dalloway in peace. She seems like someone who gave up her dreams to be a wife and stay-at-home mother but not knowing what those dreams are is what makes it frustrating to hear her complain about how clingy her son can be and how she wants to desperately read a book that people have usually read only because they had to study it (it’s not exactly an easy read)!
(b) What left be baffled the most were the kisses: between Mrs Woolf and her sister Vanessa and Mrs Brown and the ill reserved neighbour neighbour Kitty. The significance of those kisses are what baffles me. In the case of Mrs Woolf Cunningham may have used it as a means of indicating how Virginia possibly was inspired to make her fictional character (Mrs Clarissa Dalloway from Mrs Dalloway) have a female love from her childhood, but I don’t see how the moment of sexual arousal on Virginia’s part from the kiss is at all true. A sense of sisterhood, affection, closeness, warmth, I can understand and I accepted the goodbye kiss as simply that. But to later think of it sexually, if only for a few seconds is too forced.
(c) Similarly, when Mrs Brown and Kitty kiss I passed it off as again a moment of comfort and womanly affection. Not sexual. For Laura to later think of wanting Kitty and her husband in her life at the same time makes me think she confused a moment of unattached accidental physical contact with the unexplained need she has in her life to be understood and loved.
The two kisses left me feeling they had no real base and no purpose. They just happened but the women were made to ponder on them in a way that didn’t make sense. Clarissa Vaughan a.k.a Mrs Dalloway is the only homosexual character out of the 3 female leads, so I felt like the kisses between the other women were forced, had no real purpose (apart from maybe Mrs Woolf’s) and were events that had more/multiple meanings when it should have been kept simple.
My rating is 4/5 because Cunningham was able to give us a picture of Virginia Woolf that seems realistic and true to how you would have imagined her to be, considering the life she lead and how it ended. Also, because of the unexpected suicide of Richard (Mrs Laura Brown’s son). It was well done and powerful. But the book only gets a 4/5 since there things I felt needed more attention and they didn’t get that. But Cunningham’s style is nice and his book does capture the importance of time and relationships.
The Reading List:
The Hours by Michael Cunningham 2. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 3.Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi 4. War of The Worlds by H.G.Wells 5. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H.Laurence 6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 8. Life of Pi by Yann Martel 9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 11. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides 12. Dear Nobody by Berlie Doherty.