Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the hours.


'We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep-- it's as simple and ordinary as that.  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 knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult.'

'The Hours' was, once upon a time, a title given to what we now know as 'Mrs Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf.  Instead it has been given to a book dedicated to three different women, each on the same day in different time periods.  There is Virginia Woolf, on the brink of madness in the 1920s; Laura Brown - a housewife in 1940s Los Angeles and finally Clarissa Vaughan, throwing a party in 1990s Manhattan - who decides that she will buy the flowers herself.

There is no need, I believe, to have read 'Mrs Dalloway' to be able to enjoy this book.  In my opinion 'The Hours' is a bit more accessible than 'Mrs Dalloway' because it can be very hard to get into a 'stream of consciousness' frame of mind.  Instead we see three women consumed by the same ideas and problems and linked by the same book.  Love, death, and madness affect these women in different ways on the same day. 
The film version is very close to the text but I always had difficulty understanding the actions of 1940s housewife, Laura Brown.  It is her husbands birthday and she becomes fixated with making the perfect cake.  Before leaving her young son with a neighbour, checking into a hotel room and spending the day reading 'Mrs Dalloway'.  I think the book gives a better insight into the minds of these women; something the film, I felt, didn't really offer.

Both film and book tell the same beautiful story in their own excellent way; what I found most haunting was the character Virginia Woolf's obsession with being a failure at life.  A woman who writes such astounding novels, walks past a farm hand clearing a ditch and thinks 'how successful he is, how fortunate, to be cleaning a ditch.  She herself has failed.  She is not a writer at all really; merely a gifted eccentric.'

Have you read it or seen the film?  What do you think?

1 comment

FromGemWithLove said...

Might have to read/watch this, xxx

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