The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Cross-posted from my book blog.

Published in 1998. 226 pages.
Awarded both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1999.

Brilliantly conceived and beautifully written, The Hours juxtaposes a few pieces of the life of writer Virginia Woolf with the lives of two other women. One is Clarissa Vaughan - nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway by her friend Richard after the character in Woolf's novel (first published in 1925); Clarrisa lives in Greenwich Village in the present day. The other woman, Laura Brown, who lives in California in 1949, is reading Mrs. Dalloway and struggling with her perception of her roles as wife and mother.

The 2002 film starred Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan, Julianna Moore as Laura Brown, and Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. Kidman won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Here are a few quotes about the book that put into words a lot of my own thoughts:
"[The Hours] is both a clever tribute to the life and work of Virginia Woolf, and a brilliant examination of the quietly desperate lives of three women." - Seattle Times

"Cunningham here undertakes perhaps one of the most daunting literary projects imaginable.... Cunningham's portrait of Woolf is heartbreaking.... With The Hours, Cunningham has done the impossible: he has taken a canonical work of literature and, in reworking it, made it his own." - Yale Book Review

"Brilliant... haunting - winding skeins of words that, as they unspool, render vividly the three heroines' complex interior lives." - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Hours was not on my original Book Awards Reading Challenge list, but because the Yahoo Book Awards group was reading it - and the Yahoo Classic Lit group was reading Mrs. Dalloway - I decided that I'd like to read them both. (I started with Mrs. Dalloway, but I got bogged down in Woolf's writing style, so I set it aside for The Hours. I'm committed to finishing Mrs. Dalloway before the end of the month though.) I'm also committed to watching the film version this coming week.

I can't say that The Hours is a "favorite" book - but I do think that it is noteworthy, and I'm glad that I read it.