All posts for the month June, 2011

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

Published 27/06/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

The HoursThe Hours by Michael Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel is far superior to the film it inspired. Michael Cunningham interweaves the stories of three women: Virginia Woolf’s initial attempts to write ‘Mrs Dalloway’, Clarissa (‘Dalloway’) Vaughan as she prepares for a party to celebrate a literary prize awarded to a former lover, and Laura Brown, who is trying to arrange a birthday party for her husband, but who is finding difficulty concentrating on the baking and cooking as she is absorbed in reading ‘Mrs Dalloway’.

Cunningham’s novel is a kind of homage to Woolf’s novel. He develops and embroiders her plot and ideas, but the reader (if he/she has read Woolf’s original) cannot fail to recognise the echoes and the parallels. The time scale, the parties being organised, similarities in the plots, in the names of some of the characters and in some of the themes. He inhabits the psychology of the three women, just as Woolf does with Clarissa Dalloway, and writes in a similar style, including the use of parenthetical brackets. Above all, the three protagonists are examined over the course of one day with ample descriptions of cityscapes as they walk the streets of New York and Richmond, just as Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway walks through London.

The three tales interconnect and weave seamlessly and leave the reader with a strong feeling of satisfied enjoyment. I’m tempted to return to Woolf’s original tale to remind myself of Cunningham’s literary skill.

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August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien

Published 12/06/2011 by damselwithadulcimer

August Is a Wicked MonthAugust Is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven’t read anything by Edna O’Brien for a long time, but still have fond memories of the Country Girls trilogy.

August is a Wicked Month was written in 1965 and may seem rather dated now. Ellen has left behind her life in Ireland (repression, Catholicism and Magdalen Laundries) and now lives in ‘Swinging London’. With no commitment forthcoming from her latest lover, she books her first visit to the South of France and yearns ‘to be free and young and naked with all the men in the world making love to her, all at once.’ However her dreams for her holiday don’t turn out at all how she imagines them. August is a wicked month for her in several ways.

O’Brien’s style is often languid and sensual, inviting the reader to share in the senses and sensations of her protagonist. Ellen is adrift where she doesn’t quite belong and often wants to return home to Ireland, rather than to England. She arrives back in London ‘not happy, not unhappy’ to face ‘a cool and lovely autumn’ that will contrast with the five sizzling days suffered by Londonders during August.

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