In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, who is recognized as "one of our very best writers" (Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times), draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.
The novel opens with an evocation of Woolf's last days before her suicide in 1941, and moves to the stories of two modern American women who are trying to make rewarding lives for themselves in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.
Clarissa Vaughan is a book editor who lives in present-day Greenwich Village; when we meet her, she is buying flowers to display at a party for her friend Richard, an ailing poet who has just won a major literary prize. Laura Brown is a housewife in postwar California who is bringing up her only son and looking for her true life outside of her stifling marriage.
With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes the two women's lives converge with Virginia Woolf's in an unexpected and heartbreaking way during the party for Richard. As the novel jump-cuts through the twentieth century, every line resonates with Cunningham's clear, strong, surprisingly lyrical contemporary voice.
Passionate, profound and deeply moving, The Hours is Michael Cunningham's most remarkable achievement to date.
Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and the 1999 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too heavy for the weather. It is 1941. Another war has begun. She has left a note for Leonard, and another for Vanessa. She walks purposefully toward the river, certain of what she'll do, but even now she is almost distracted by the sight of the downs, the church, and a scattering of sheep, incandescent, tinged with a faint hint of sulfur, grazing under a darkening sky. She pauses, watching the sheep and the sky, then walks on. The voices murmur behind her; bombers drone in the sky, though she looks for the planes and can't see them. She walks past one of the farm workers (is his name John?), a robust, small-headed man wearing a potato-colored vest, cleaning the ditch that runs through the osier bed. He looks up at her, nods, looks down again into the brown water. As she passes him on her way to the river she thinks of how successful he is, how fortunate, to be cleaning a ditch in an osier bed. She herself has failed. She is not ...
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. We hope they will give you a number of interesting angles from which to approach this incisive, daring, and deeply affecting new novel, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Faulkner Award.
In this remarkable book, Cunningham draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, life and death, creation and destruction. The novel moves along three separate but parallel stories, each focusing on the experiences of a particular woman during the course of one apparently unremarkable but...
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