Tifany's Reviews > The Hours

The Hours by Michael Cunningham
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's review
Dec 06, 10

liked it

Cunningham writes well, and he also achieves something with this book that is somewhat remarkable, even if I didn't really like it, for that very reason. Clearly, he has studied his Virginia Woolf, and does a remarkable job of capturing her voice--but the entire tendency of this book is AWAY from the vast unfolding and heightening of Woolf's work. Mrs. Dalloway is a book that enlarges as it goes along, taking in more and more, and rising to a certain height or peak at the end that is almost transcendent--even if, or perhaps particularly because the event in question at that moment is so small, so practically not an event at all. The trend of Cunningham's book seemed to me to be completely the reverse. The book, despite its similarly unfolding style, seems to narrow in, as it goes along, and to end on a very dark and small note (impressively dark and small, but very different from Woolf). In short, he uses Woolf in a way that subverts her plan entirely, which is a kind of tour de force, and very effectively done. But it left with me with a little bit of a bad taste. I had read the book originally because of Daniel Mendelsohn's review, in his book How Beautiful It Is and How Easily It Can be Broken. Mendelsohn makes a great deal of Woolf's prioritizing women's lives and women's experiences and seems to see Cunningham as being faithful to that effort, whereas the effect of this book seemed to me very much to marginalize the women involved, at the same time that it so lovingly details them, since the main character in this book is in many ways the man whom two of the storylines center about; and his absence, at the end, leaves a void that these women (the two concerned) seem hard-pressed to fill. It all felt to me a little like a book that might have been written before Woolf came along, and not like a natural descendant. Well done, but not my cup of tea.

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