Michael Cunningham: The Hours

26.12.1999

In 1998 Michael Cunningham published The Hours, a warm and elegant variation on Mrs Dalloway. Cunningham has transferred the plot to Manhattan in the 1990’s. The day in the life of the modern day Clarissa (nicknamed Mrs Dalloway by her best friends) is alternated with the story of Mrs Woolf, set in 1923, who is working on a novel called "The Hours", (which would later be known as "Mrs Dalloway"), and of Mrs Brown, mother of a small boy and pregnant with her second child, set in a suburb of Los Angeles in 1949. At the end of the book all three storylines intersect in a natural, elegant and surprising way.

As in Mrs Dalloway the prose in The Hours is extremely beautiful. Michael Cunningham writes with such love and tenderness that I sometimes just had to stop and let the sentences resonate in my mind. The Hours is a book about happiness, the happiness that resides in simple things of which we only become aware long after the moment itself has passed.

"It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, the New York Clarissa thinks of her early relationship with Richard, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than 30 years later, to realize that it was happiness. . . . There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other."

Category: Books