The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Pulitzer Winner 1999
Three parallel lives are followed through a single day in each life: Mrs Brown, a 1950s housewife who is reading Mrs Dalloway; Clarissa, known as Mrs Dalloway who is living the life, in present day New York, from Mrs Dalloway, the novel; and Mrs Woolf, the author who is writing Mrs Dalloway in 1920s England. Hmm, perhaps I should have read Mrs Dalloway first? I'm pretty sure I missed a lot of the symbolism and parallels that connect this book to Mrs Dalloway. While I usually firmly believe in reading the book first, in this case I think the movie would stand alone better than the book. Now I need to see the movie and see if I am right.
Themes of suicide are throughout; the prologue details the author Virginia Woolf's drowning suicide, Mrs Brown is contemplating it as a means of escaping the life she feels trapped in, and Clarissa deals with the death of a friend. I read about other themes and important symbols at the Sparks notes site. This novel will be discussed at Bookawards Yahoo Group during the month of December and I expect to discover some interesting ideas and themes during that discussion.
However, any book of only 225 pages that takes me over a week to read must have some problems. I didn't connect enough with the story and the characters because it was so busy being important, with symbols and parallels. Not to say that I wasn't interested, because I did want to see how all three stories connected in the end and I would like to read Mrs Dalloway, I think, if only to see where this book came from. But overall, this book was just an okay read, nothing wrong, just not a book that I will rave about or remember too much from. I applaud the author's ambition, and with enough prior knowledge and background, I think I would have enjoyed it more. But there was no prerequisite listed on the cover, and I think there should be.