The Hours by Michael Cunningham
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The Hours is a very subtle book. It took me awhile to actually work out what was going on it and I found in the beginning, I had to keep checking back to find the links between the stories.
There are three main characters in the book, who all live at different periods of time. The book follows their lives in a parallel fashion, looking at just one day of each of their lives. Each day looked at represents a subtle turning point in their lives, which they would be aware of, but would not show outwardly to others.
Firstly you have Virginia Woolf, in the last days of her life, before she committed suicide. She suffers with severe headaches which bring on a form of madness and depression and all the way through she is struggling to fight them and just exist wihtout feeling a failure.
Secondly, there is Laura Brown, a young wife living in the Los Angeles suburbs during the 1940s. She is struggling to live the life she has slipped into.
Lastly, you have Clarissa Vaughan, fondly known as Mrs Dalloway by Richard,her Aids stricken friend, of more than forty years. She is about to throw a party for her friend and questions her past and her present existence.
Each woman, appears to be strong and successful on the outside, but each is struggling with their emotions and they all find their lives to be a difficult. They are each unhappy with the way their lives have panned out and want to free themselves any way they can. Just existing is an effort to each of them. They each contemplate ways of escaping their lives, even considering suicide as an easy way out.
The main theme of the book deals with the outside appearance of sanity and the inside torment of insanity. They all feel that they are failures in what they do, yet to others they are seen as successes. Another big theme of the book is lesbianism. Virginia toys with making her new character, Mrs Dalloway love a woman; Laura Brown kisses another woman, wondering what a full blown relationship with one would be like and Clarissa has lived as a couple with a woman for eighteen years, but wonders what it would have been like if she had married her gay friend Richard.
Each character is also interlinked by flowers,each putting yellow roses to good use. Their days follow similar routines which link the stories together.
This book is a lovely book to read and I would recommend it. I did enjoy it once I got into it and guessed some of the links between the women before I finished reading it. By the end of the book, you will see how all their lives are intertwined.