The hours / Michael Cunningham.
Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 September 1998
/*Starred Review*/ It takes courage to emulate a revered and brilliant writer, not to mention transforming her into a character. Cunningham has done this and more in his third novel, a graceful and passionate homage to Virginia Woolf, his goddess and his muse. The Hours was her working title for what became Mrs. Dalloway, the template for this evocative tale, and Cunningham makes beautiful, improvisational use of every facet of Woolf's novel and life story. He neatly cuts back and forth in time among three women: Woolf, whom he portrays in the throes of writing Mrs. Dalloway and contemplating suicide; Laura, a young wife and mother suffocating in the confines of her tidy little life in L.A. in 1949; and Clarissa, who is giving a party in the present in New York City for her closest friend, Richard, a writer dying of AIDS. Clarissa is Mrs. Dalloway once removed--a distinguished book editor and mother of a teenage daughter, she has lived with her female lover for 18 years. These particulars match surprising well with the intellectual, sexual, and artistic complexities of Bloomsbury, Woolf's hothouse world, thus revealing the full extent of Cunningham's identification with his mentor. And his prose! He is almost eerily fluent in Woolf's exquisitely orchestrated elucidation of the torrent of thoughts, memories, longings, and regrets that surges ceaselessly through the mind. Even if Cunningham's moving tribute served only to steer readers to Woolf's incomparable books, he would deserve praise, but he has accomplished much more than that. He has reaffirmed that Woolf is of lasting significance, that the questions she asked about life remain urgent, and that, in spite of sorrow, pain, and the promise of death, the simplest gestures--walking out the door on a lovely morning, setting a vase of roses on a table--can be, for one shining moment, enough. ((Reviewed September 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews
LJ Reviews 1998 July #1
The celebrated author of Flesh and Blood draws on Virginia Woolf's final days to illuminate the life of a contemporary poet. Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews
LJ Reviews 1998 October #1
Clarissa Dalloway certainly is a popular lady nowadays, with a recent movie and now a new book based on her life. She is, of course, the heroine of Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel about a day in the life of a proper but uninspired wife and the tragic event that changes her. In this new work by Cunningham (Flesh and Blood, LJ 4/15/95), that day's events are reflected and reinterpreted in the interwoven stories of three women: Laura, a reluctant mother and housewife of the 1940s; Clarissa, an editor in the 1990s and caretaker of her best friend, an AIDS patient; and Woolf herself, on the verge of writing the aforementioned novel. Certain themes flow from story to story: paths not taken, the need for independence, meditations on mortality. Woolf fans will enjoy identifying these scenes in a different context, but it's only at the end that the author engages more than just devoted followers with a surprisingly touching coda that stresses the common bonds the characters share. Given Woolf's popularity, this is a book all libraries should consider, with an exhortation to visit Mrs. Dalloway as well. Marc A. Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 1998 Library Journal Reviews
LJ Reviews Newsletter
For readers who want another experience of an author turning a real writer into a fictional character, consider suggesting Cunningham's multiple-award-winning novel of Virginia Woolf. With astounding skill and grace, Cunningham brings Woolf and her novel Mrs. Dalloway into a new perspective, gifting readers with Woolf's presence in this shimmering work structured around three women: Clarissa Vaughan who is planning a party in NYC at the end of the 20th century; Woolf herself, in 1923, working on Mrs. Dalloway; and Laura Brown, a 1949 housewife living in Los Angeles who is reading Mrs. Dalloway. With its focus on literature, rich characterizations, beautiful prose, and exquisite management of both plot and pace, Cunningham's remarkable novel should please Carlene Bauer's fans. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
PW Reviews 1998 August #4
At first blush, the structural and thematic conceits of this novel three interwoven novellas in varying degrees connected to Virginia Woolf seem like the stuff of a graduate student's pipe dream: a great idea in the dorm room that betrays a lack of originality. But as soon as one dips into Cunningham's prologue, in which Woolf's suicide is rendered with a precise yet harrowing matter-of-factness ("She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa."), the reader becomes completely entranced. This book more than fulfills the promise of Cunningham's 1990 debut, A Home at the End of the World, while showing that sweep does not necessarily require the sprawl of his second book, Flesh and Blood. In alternating chapters, the three stories unfold: "Mrs. Woolf," about Virginia's own struggle to find an opening for Mrs. Dalloway in 1923; "Mrs. Brown," about one Laura Brown's efforts to escape, somehow, an airless marriage in California in 1949 while, coincidentally, reading Mrs. Dalloway; and "Mrs. Dalloway," which is set in 1990s Greenwich Village and concerns Clarissa Vaughan's preparations for a party for her gay and dying friend, Richard, who has nicknamed her Mrs. Dalloway. Cunningham's insightful use of the historical record concerning Woolf in her household outside London in the 1920s is matched by his audacious imagining of her inner lifeand his equally impressive plunges into the lives of Laura and Clarissa. The book would have been altogether absorbing had it been linked only thematically. However, Cunningham cleverly manages to pull the stories even more intimately togther in the closing pages. Along the way, rich and beautifully nuanced scenes follow one upon the other: Virginia, tired and weak, irked by the early arrival of headstrong sister Vanessa, her three children and the dead bird they bury in the backyard; Laura's afternoon escape to an L.A. hotel to read for a few hours; Clarissa's anguished witnessing of her friend's suicidal jump down an airshaft, rendered with unforgettable detail. The overall effect of this book is twofold. First, it makes a reader hunger to know all about Woolf, again; readers may be spooked at times, as Woolf's spirit emerges in unexpected ways, but hers is an abiding presence, more about living than dying. Second, and this is the gargantuan accomplishment of this small book, it makes a reader believe in the possibility and depth of a communality based on great literature, literature that has shown people how to live and what to ask of life. (Nov.) FYI: The Hours was a working title that Woolf for a time gave to Mrs. Dalloway. Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews