Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 1999The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughan, a beloved friend of ailing poet Richard Brown, who one fine New York morning goes about planning a party in his honor; Laura Brown, who in a 1950's Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace.
©1998 Michael Cunningham; (P)2003 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Adult Fiction, 2001
"An exquisitely written, kaleidoscopic work that anchors a floating postmodern world on pre-modern caissons of love, grief and transcendent longing. (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"A delicate, triumphant glance...A place of late-century danger but also of treasurable hours." (The New York Times Book Review )
Compared to many best-sellers, this book actually displays literary prowess by its author. Although he veers into over-writing at times (not unusual for a newer, over-enthusiastic novelist), author Michael Cunningham clearly has a way with the English language. Even better, he is very skilled at created fully realized characters (a *very* refreshing change from most best-selling fiction). All this said, The Hours is still somewhat difficult to recommend. Most audiobook listeners prefer a strong plot or at least some sort of clear linear thread to pull them through long hours of commuting. If you are such a listener, then this book is definitely not for you. The plot is the least important element of this book and as such, is very slight. Instead, what you get is mostly the inner thoughts of three very fascinating women in very different circumstances. Expect to hear extended interior contemplations of things as mundane as buying flowers and baking a cake. This doesn't exactly make for the most "exciting" listening. But if you enjoy skillfully constructed prose and don't mind a book where very little happens (at least in plot terms), then you'll be in for a treat. Incidentally, if you've seen the film adaptation of this novel, don't expect the huge emotional outbursts that the filmmakers felt so compelled to insert. Most of this book is about internal thought processes, not external displays of raw emotion. Additionally, familiarity with Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" is helpful (though not required) for enjoying some of the nuances of this novel. Finally, please note that the author serves as the reader of this audiobook. He's not the typical professional voice-over artist that we usually expect to hear from audiobooks. As such, his voice is a little unusual, but not necessarily unpleasant. I recommend clicking on the "Hear Sample" link to be sure you won't mind spending over six hours with his voice.
I still plan to read this book in written format because I've heard so many wonderful things about it. And I have listened to some author-read books that I enjoyed very much (most recently The Kite Runner, which was exquisitely read). Unfortunately, Cunningham insists on reading this book as if it is a poem with pauses and emphases in strange places. I soldiered on for an hour and a half and then couldn't take it any more. It seems like empty affectation and distracts from the content. What a terrible disappointment and waste.
The bold concept of The Hours is to capture the essence of life in a single day. It is a contrast of mundane and extraordinary, life and death, and the ability of a human to carry all this inside, with every breath.
Mr. Cunningham takes a lot from Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and while it is not necessary to read Mrs. Dalloway first to appreciate this novel, it greatly added to my enjoyment as I recognized the parallels between the two books. It is pure brilliance that he was able to take another author's concept (and stay true to it), borrow from the actions in her book and yet make it his own.
I have previously read this book and thought that listening to it would enhance the beauty of the writing. Unfortunately, Mr. Cunningham's reading of The Hours leaves something to be desired. I don't think he does the power and beauty of the words justice. However, if you love literature, this is a must read, whether in print or this audible edition.
I have no doubt that this is probably a fanstastic read. I put it in my cart just based on the number of awards it had won without knowing anything about the plot or premise. Almost an hour into the book, I still didn't get it. I don't know if it was the narration or the production, but I couldn't easily pick up on the thread switches or follow who was who. I've been an audiobook lover for over 8 years now and have to say this definitely ranks low on my list. I would suggest trying another audio version or try the physical book.
I couldn't tell you whether the novel The Hours was good or bad because I couldn't get past the absolutely horrendous reading in this recording. I was looking forward to the book, but I had to turn it off about an hour into the audiobook because the reader was just too irritating. All the prose is read in poetry-reading style - lots of unnecessary pauses and strange vocal intonations. I recommend buying the physical book and passing on the audio version. Highly disappointing.
All the other bad reviews are right: the narration of this book by the author is god-awful: it's boring to listen to. Great book, though, and if this is the only way you can access the book, it's at least usable & unabridged.
A voice over artist would have made all the difference. It's such a good idea and a well-written story, but the narration is so bad :-(
Be kind to someone today.
The characters in this book continue to pop into my head years after reading it. I will read it again soon.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I turned to the novel thinking it would add some depth and breadth to the phenomenal movie version. It didn't add much. If anything, it highlighted Cunningham's weaknesses as a writer. His characters aren't so much individual creations as they are aspects of a single character. His situations are all too often lacking in dramatic punch. His world has a kind of bland sameness about it that suggests he doesn't get out much. New Yorkers would probably be surprised to hear that their corner of the world is really sort of a tiny slice of all there is. His strengths are his ability to synthesize multiple storylines to tell something of greater significance. In that respect, this is still an impressive book. What the movie added in creating more forceful characters and more dramatic situations is a testament to the very talented people who saw the potential here. One charming little surprise is that Meryl Streep is (possibly) in the book, but this episode was quite appropriately cut from the film.
I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR HOW BAD THIS EXPERIENCE REALLY WAS, BETWEEN THE STORY AND THE AUTHOR'S READING. I MADE MYSELF LISTEN, HOPING FOR A GOOD STORY. NEVER HAPPENED. BORING STORY AND A TERRIBLE, BREATHY NARRATOR. THANKFULLY IT WAS A SHORT BOOK.
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