Mrs Dalloway Day 4 – The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham, The Hours (Fourth Estate: 2003, 9781841150352)

I hope you had a good Dalloway Day yesterday and on Monday. I did promise a Dalloway week so I thought I’d expand the Dalloway horizon today.

Meet, or revisit, The Hours by Michael Cunningham. The book is a/n(?) homage, or reworking, of Mrs Dalloway. In the book, Virgnia Woolf writes Mrs Dalloway in 1923. Laura Brown, an unhappy housewife, reads it in 1949. In the late 1990s, Clarissa Vaughan’s day mirrors Dalloway’s in Woolf’s novel, but modernised to fit the 20th century and give Vaughan her own unique character. Her friend and former lover who calls her Mrs Dalloway is dying from a disease and, like Septimus in the original novel (and Woolf in real life), hears voices singing in Greek.

The Hours (the original working title Woolf had for Mrs Dalloway) depicts one day in the life of these women, with themes in common with Woolf’s novel, such as the power of the trivial and of quotidian experiences, memory and regret.It does have elements of stream of consciousness but it is much more formally traditional than Mrs Dalloway. If you have read one, the other will be that much more satisfying with all the references and parallels. But you can start with The Hours – I did, and that’s how I discovered Mrs Dalloway and ‘The Classics’ as a teenager.

To tell you the truth, I discovered The Hours through the film. I was casually flicking through the channels, watched it, liked it, spotted the book in the library at sixth form by chance, and so the obsession began. This is bookish heresy but I think the film is even better than the book. The script by David Hare is perfect, as are the performances. Philip Glass’s soundtrack is supernaturally good (in Absurd Review’s stories this week). It’s just the most stunning film, please see it. Watch the trailer below.

Tell me what you think if you’ve seen or read The Hours!

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