The Hours by Michael Cunningham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
With a dramatic, heavy start (of how Virginia Woolf had drowned herself, with a big stone in her pocket) started “The Hours”, by Michael Cunningham. A very special book, unique in its delicacy, but also in its subject: a book after a book…and not only. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s famous novel, “Mrs. Dalloway”, Michael Cunningham recreated in “The Hours” a day from three women’s lives: a woman who writes the book, a woman who lives the book and one who reads it. They are women from three different (and successive) generations, but all of them are confronting their existence, mortality and sexuality. They are women whose interior life is much richer than their exterior one. They are women who love, in essence, the beauty of life and who enjoy the life as long the life is bearable.
The beauty of life can mean flowers, a party, a fresh summer morning, a city, a lovely apartment and its comfort, a tinny bird on its flower dead bed, a new beginning or just few hours to freely read. But the beauty of life could be also an escape or that moment of conscientious decision between life and death.
I found surprising the freshness and, as I said, the delicacy with which Michael Cunningham rewrote a book … about women. It is not only the recreated style of “Mrs. Dalloway” that impressed me, but the deeply understanding of women’s nature. Cunningham managed in “The Hours” (and with the help of time) to explore and develop themes and motives that Virginia Woolf only sketched them or made allusions to them. The condition of woman in the twentieth century, for instance: from a perfect host, to the inexperienced but devoted housewife, and further to the self-confident and trustful friend. Or the exploration of women’s sexuality; from a woman’s daring kiss on her sister’s lips, until the public and committed relation with another woman.
In “The Hours” we miss London, but we have New York. We miss Big Ben’s strikes that marked the hours, but we have the years that smartly connect lives, deaths, and women with a book.
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