by Michael Cunningham
Category: Fiction / Literary
230 pages; ISBN: 0312305060
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Carolyn Howard-Johnson
The Hours has Much to Say to
Those Who are Prepared
Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of “This is the Place” and “Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered”
“The Hours” is aptly named, as one would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Like an hour, it can be singularly beautiful, a momentary flash and very long indeed. Like the hours of our lives, it can feel fragmented, full, and intact--in increments or all at once.
Michael Cunningham has written a literary novel firmly revisiting the 1920s, Virginia Woolf and her novel, Mrs. Dalloway. I thought I would remember enough about Woolf’s work to do justice to The Hours. I was wrong. You, too, may want to reread the book to which The Hours pays tribute, if you are determined to get the most from it, hear the lingering whispers, find the subtle innuendoes, recognize the implications.
The story is told primarily from the viewpoint of three women whose lives we find are inexplicably intertwined. A reader must be prepared that Cunningham—who has paid his dues—randomly breaks the rules that we, as new millennium readers, have come to expect. Most of us are not accustomed to a story told in first person, present tense.. Many of us have not read a work that uses stream of consciousness since we read Faulkner in college. Cunningham jumps—effectively but unfamiliarly—from point of view to point of view.
Perhaps it is time that those of us who have gotten rusty extend ourselves a bit, both to improve our skills and our understanding. This is a story about death and resurrection. It seems an affirmation of lives that we may find trifling, insignificant. Somehow, gently—very gently—Cunningham makes us see that existence is, after all, promising. Even if you plan to wait for the movie, you may wish you had “read the book first” and Mrs. Dalloway before that.
(Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s literary novel, “This is the Place” has won six awards.
She is also the author of the just released “Harkening” and a columnist for the Pasadena Star News. Learn more at: