Picador, Oct 2002, 13.00, 228 pp.
Three women from different eras share the commonality of the female of the species. Book editor Mrs. Clarissa Vaughan, nicknamed "Mrs. Dalloway", struggles between her professional life and her personal life in modern day New York as she plans a gala event for a friend. In 1923, Mrs. Virginia Woolf begins writing her novel Mrs. Dalloway, but by 1941 the specter of war leaves her distraught and thinking suicide. A decade later, California housewife Mrs. Laura Brown reads Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway as she wonders is that all there is to life at least with her perfect family. These three women from different ages of the twentieth century that share much in common as they encounter a haunting tedious existence as the mainstay of their daily living.
Rotating points of view, Michael Cunningham provides an interesting look at historical parallelism focusing on the more things change, the more they remain the same. The three women are clearly the keys to this tale. The two fictionalized protagonists cleverly persuade the readers to believe that they were just as real as Mrs. Woolf was.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner
The Hours, a 1998 Pulizer prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham, takes its form from the 1925 Virginia Woolf nove. Mrs. Dalloway, which she had originally titled the same name.
Its structure and characters are similar, although New York replaces the London of Clarissa.
In The Hours, Clarissa Dalloway is planning a party for her friend, aids-stricken richard, who has been awaded a writing prize, while in Mrs. Dalloway, the heroine is planning a huge party to celebrate summer.
Suicide stalks both novels; in the first, Septimus Smith is the victim, while the Cunningham version has a surprise participant.
During the course of one day in Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa muses on death: Somehow (after death), she suvived: eing part of the trees, of the house at home, like a mist spreading her life ever so far."
Both Clarissas manage to pull off a successful party, although in The Hours, the party is a macabre celebration of life surviving the suicide of a loved one.
Cunningham adds a third celebration; he small, family gathering for Laura Brown's husband's birthdya in a suburb in Los Angeles; perhaps the banal vestige of elaborate, sophisticated London and New York galas.
His novel is a clever, contemporary adaptation of the Woolf classic, where Cunningham substitutes aids=sufferers and ovie stars for shell shock victims and royalty.
This report prepared by Betty-Jeanne Korson