The Hours (novel)

novel by Michael Cunningham

The Hours (1998) by Michael Cunningham won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and was later made into an Oscar winning 2002 movie of the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore. The novel concerns three women of different generations and times whose lives are interconnected by the novel Mrs.Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf. The plot takes place within the span of one day in the life of each of the three women, just as Woolf's 'Mrs.Dalloway' takes place within the span of one day in the life of her protagonist.


  • I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been.
    • quote from Virginia Woolf's suicide note to Leonard Woolf.
    • p7, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.
    • Clarissa reflecting on the day as she walks to the flower shop.
    • p10, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • Why doesn't she feel more somber about Richard's perversely simultaneous good fortune ("an anguished, prophetic voice in American letters") and his decline ("You have no T-cells at all, none that we can detect")? What is wrong with her? She loves Richard, she thinks of him constantly, but she perhaps loves the day slightly more.
    • Clarissa thinking about Richard.
    • p11, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • The woman's head quickly withdraws, the door to the trailer closes again, but she leaves behind her an unmistakable sense of watchful remonstrance, as if an angel had briefly touched the surface of the world with one sandaled foot, asked if there was any trouble and, being told all was well, had resumed her place in the ether with skeptical gravity, having reminded the children of earth that they are just barely trusted to manage their own business, and that further carelessness will not go unremarked.
    • Clarissa spotting a movie star sticking her head outside her trailer door in response to a film crew's noisiness.
    • p27, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • He makes her think sometimes of a mouse singing amorous ballads under the window of a giantess.
    • Laura reflecting on her son's transparent love for her.
    • p44, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • ...the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.
    • Laura remembering a quote from Woolf's 'Mrs.Dalloway.'
    • p48, 1999 Fourth Estate paperback edition.
  • It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book...What lives undimmed in Clarissa's mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it's perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.
    • Clarissa reflecting on her past.
    • p98, 1999 paperback edition.
  • ...Virginia lingers another moment beside the dead bird in its circle of roses. It could be a kind of hat. It could be the missing link between millinery and death.
    • Virginia in the garden.
    • p121, 1999 paperback edition.
  • We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep. It's as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out windows, or drown themselves, or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us 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 & expectations, to burst open & give us everything we've ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) know these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still, we cherish the city, the morning, we hope, more than anything for more. Heaven only knows why we love it so.
    • Clarissa reflecting at the end of the day.
    • p225-226, 1999 paperback edition.

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