Right at the onset of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, I knew I was reading a work by a truly skilled writer. The prose is effortlessly emotional. The language is profound and simple, yet incredibly insightful. Few writers could make you think and feel so much with so little.
It’s a cleverly-crafted book that takes place on a single day of three women: Clarrisa, Laura and Virginia Woolf, as their lives take shape in light of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. It is a powerful look at the influence of literature both on those who create it and those who consume it.
The Hours is also a wonderful meditation on consciousness and the meaning of life. The suicidal undertones that well up from loneliness, from disease, or from failing mental health were heavy as they were beautiful, but at the core of it, The Hours is a celebration of life despite its misery. It helps us deal with making sense of the mystery of why some people choose to go on living amidst the seeming hopelessness of it all.
“A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease or, if we’re very fortunate, by time itself.
There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.
Heaven only knows why we love it so.”
* This is the last of Mad Women series for August after Shopgirl and Wide Sargasso Sea. I didn’t really plan on reading successive books on women with mental health issues, well, I don’t really have much of a reading plan (I leave that to the book bargain gods), but this was fun!