The Hours – Michael Cunningham

The HoursTitle : The Hours

Author : Michael Cunningham

ISBN-10 :  0312243022

ISBN-13 : 978-0312243029

Paperback : 240 pages

The Plot :

Michael Cunningham draws on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair.

The novel opens with an evocation of Woolf’s last days before her suicide in 1941, and moves to the stories of two modern American women who are trying to make rewarding lives for themselves in spite of the demands of friends, lovers and family.

With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes the two women’s lives converge with Virginia Woolf’s in an unexpected and heartbreaking way. As the Novel jump-cuts through the twentieth century, every line resonates with Cunningham’s clear, strong, surprisingly lyrical contemporary voice.

Review :

Having seen the movie before reading the book, I had great expectations for it, and it truly lived up to all the high hopes. The story beautifully transitions between these women spread across eras. The common thread that runs through the three stories is Virginia Woolf’s book ‘Mrs Dalloway’.

For me, this was one of the rare books that had me dumbfounded and thinking for long after I had finished it. A quick one sitting read, but with such a deep meaning, this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!

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Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Romeo and JulietTitle : Romeo and Juliet

Author : William Shakespeare

ISBN-10 : 1439526362

ISBN-13 : 978-1439526361

Paperback : 286 pages

The Plot :

William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is probably one of his most famous works. The story of the start crossed lovers is set in Verona, Italy. Romeo is a Montague, Juliet is a Capulet. The Montague’s and the Capulet’s are in conflict for many years. Both the families command a lot of respect and have a lot of loyal followers in the city, thereby each having fractions of the city battling in their name. The city is ruled by a Prince Escalus, who is trying to maintain peace in fair Verona.

The play starts with a couple of servants from the Montague and Capulet families in a verbal squabble that soon escalates with people drawing out their swords. Soon the Prince shows up and tells the two families that whoever is involved in the next such fight will be killed in order to put an end to the senseless bloodshed (Yes the irony is not lost on me!).

We then find out that Romeo is depressed because the girl he loves, Rosaline, doesn’t love him and Paris a Prince, is enamoured by Juliet. Juliet hears about this and plans to find out more about this prince at the Capulet’s grand ball. Romeo and his friends plan to sneak into the ball to see Rosaline. Here is the first time Romeo and Juliet meet. They fall in love (at first sight) and Rosaline is forgotten. They soon discover that their families are arch enemies. They manage to meet in secret and decide to get married because they truly love each other and feel that they don’t have any part in the family feud.

Romeo arranges with Friar Laurence, who agrees to marry them in secret and Juliet talks her nurse to help them co-ordinate the event and shortly they are married. Soon another fight break out between the two families and Romeo kills one of the Capulet’s who has killed his friend, Mercutio. The prince hears about this and banishes Romeo from Verona as a punishment.

Meanwhile Juliet’s father, unaware that she is already married to Romeo, has arranged for her to marry Prince Paris. She conspires with the friar who married them to deceive her family so that she can steal away and be with Romeo. It’s not until that plan ends tragically that the two families realize how foolish they have been.

Initially, I thought that ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was going to be boring and sappy. I assumed it was a plain old love story between two people on opposite sides of a feud. I have read some other works by Shakespeare and so expected beautiful language and prose though, and that is why I picked up this book. But when I read this play, I loved it from start to finish. Not surprisingly, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has it all: clever dialogue, passionate romance, violent conflict, and plenty of poetry. I enjoyed it thoroughly and will leave you with the prologue :

“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.”


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