The Hours by Michael Cunningham fulfilled the “Book that Takes Place in a Single Day” category of the PopSugar 2019 Reading Challenge. The novel spans the day of three women in three different points in time: Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Vaughn, and Laura Brown.
I should have read Mrs. Dalloway first.
I’m feeling like my blog is a Debbie Downer. In college, I was an Education/English major. We had to concentrate on a subject at UCONN even if we planned to teach elementary school. I love books and took varied classes in the English department from Shakespeare to Kiddie Lit. (Note: The famous (infamous?) Sam Pickering taught the Kiddie Lit class. He was the inspiration for Keating in The Dead Poet’s Society, but unfortunately, no Robin Williams.)
With these classes under my belt (two Shakespeare, two American Lit, short story, kiddie lit, poetry, author study on Nadine Gordimer, and a few more), I can say I’ve read my fair share of literary fiction, and classics. And most bore the crap out of me. I try to be well-read, but many times, the novels aren’t worth the effort of reading. For me, books are entertainment. I don’t mind having to think, but if I have to slog, no thanks.
The Hours was not a slog, but it also failed to entertain. I think I missed something with all the hype. Perhaps I have been desensitized to its main themes of sexuality and mental illness. When the book was written 1998, homosexuality and mental illness were not topics of everyday discussion. Mental illness, more than sexuality, was shoved in the closet and not discussed. Even today, the topic can inspire ugly responses. Sometimes people can’t get up and start their day. It’s a thing. (A thing that should be seen to by a therapist, but I digress.) We discuss LGBTQ issues daily in my house, not to mention that mental health is always on our minds. The book did not surprise or shock me. Perhaps, it didn’t age well.
The category was “Book that Takes Place in a Day.” After doing some research, I found the Mrs. Dalloway also took place in a single day. Mr. Cunningham mirrored Woolf’s style. The author pushed as much life into that one day as he could. We see the beauty in the mundane, the gloriousness of the average day, especially the calmness before a tragic event. But it was heavy-handed. The narrative stated over and over these themes ad nauseam. I got it the first time. Thanks.
I listened to the story on audio read by the author. Wow, talk about pretentious. Mr. Cunningham breathed snootiness into every line. Perhaps if I had read the novel on paper, I wouldn’t hold it in such contempt. Every word that dropped from his lips seemed to say I was too dumb to understand what he was doing. Perhaps I am, but he’s no Woolf, or Austen, or Shakespeare.
I liked the message of The Hours—live life to the fullest, appreciate the day, be okay with sexuality, and it’s okay not to want the life you have. But I did not like the book.
I give The Hours three little books.