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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The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger

The Devil Wears PradaTitle : The Devil Wears Prada

Author : Lauren Weisberger

ISBN-10 : 0307275558

ISBN-13 : 978-0307275554

Paperback : 448 pages

The Plot :

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger gives a new meaning to the term ‘Boss from hell’. Loosely based on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, it deals with the fashion magazine publishing business. For those who have only seen the movie starring Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestley, Anne Hathaway as Andrea ‘Andy’ Sachs and Emily Blunt as Emily Charlton, the plot of the book is somewhat different especially in the way it ends.

The book starts with Andrea ‘Andy’ Sachs, fresh graduate from Brown University, moving to New York City to realize her dream of being a writer for a magazine like ‘The New Yorker’. She and her best friend Lilly, who is studying at Columbia University, move in together. After applying to every available position and publishing company she can think of, Andy is surprised to get an interview call from the Elias-Clark Group as the junior assistant to Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of ‘Runway’ one of the most popular fashion magazines.

From the very beginning she is told how coveted her job is and how “a million girls would kill” for her job. With very little knowledge or interest in the fashion industry, Andy takes up the job just because she is told that after working for Miranda for just a year, she could have her pick of jobs anywhere within the magazine industry. Determined to do her best and impress Miranda, Andy start work at “Runway” under Emily Charlton, Miranda’s senior assistant.

From day one she realizes that Miranda is a nightmare to work for and Miranda respects no one and cares for no one but herself. She has unreasonable demands like getting the unpublished Harry Potter books for her twins to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, and Andy tries her best to cope with it. In addition to Miranda, Emily also doesn’t make things any easier for her.

Meanwhile her new job and boss are so demanding that it starts to take a toll on her relationship with long term boyfriend Alex, best friend Lilly, her parents and other friends. Lilly starts turning to alcohol and one night stands with creepy men to relieve her stress from grad school. Alex, struggling with his own demanding job as an inner-city schoolteacher, grows frustrated with Andrea’s long hours and constant stress. And things get worse when Andy is forced to go to Paris for fashion week, in place of Emily who has fallen ill, there by having to cancel a long awaited trip with Alex.

Finally in Paris, Miranda asks Andy what she would like to do in the future, career wise. Learning of Andy’s dreams to work for The New Yorker, Miranda promises to help her get a job with them as soon as she finishes a year as her assistant. At the same time, Andy gets calls from Alex and her parents, asking her to come home immediately, as Lilly has been in a serious accident and is in a coma.

Although Andrea is pressured by her family and Alex to return home, she tells Miranda she will honor her commitment to Runway. Miranda is pleased, and tells her that her future in magazine publishing is bright. At the Paris fashion show for Christian Dior, however, Miranda phones her with yet another impossible demand. Andy finally realizes that the job ‘a million girls would kill for’ might just become the reason she kills herself and that it was not worth the prize. She feels that her family and friends are more important than her job, and realizes to her horror that she is becoming more and more like Miranda. She refuses to comply with Miranda’s latest outrageous request, and when Miranda scolds her publicly, Andrea replies, “Fuck you, Miranda. Fuck you”. She is fired on the spot, and returns home to reconnect with her friends and family.

The book was a wonderful read and I enjoyed every bit of it. My favorite parts were the unimaginable demands of Miranda Priestley. The pace of the book is a little slow, but it is definitely worth a read.


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