by Michael Cunningham
Forget the movie, even (for a while) forget Woolf's novel, Mrs. Dalloway -- The Hours stands on its own as a stunning book, lyrical and heartbreaking, witty and painfully real. While it is closely based on Mrs. Dalloway, it's written in a different style, and the three main characters of the book (Virginia Woolf, Laura Brown, and Clarissa Vaughn) are fresh and unique. Their relationships with those they love, and with each other, feel true to life. Each of these women goes through one day in June, and the overwhelming sense is that wherever (and whenever) they are, they are just human beings trying to get through the next few hours.