The Really Popular Book Club: The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Really Popular Book Club: The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Really Popular Book Club: The Hours by Michael Cunningham

event Tuesday, February 28, 2023 schedule 7.00pm - 8.00pm GMT
Booking closed
Booking closed
event Tuesday, February 28, 2023 schedule 7.00pm - 8.00pm GMT
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The Really Popular Book Club is the reading group hosted by Cambridge University Libraries. Everyone is invited to join them and their special guests to discuss a really popular book, one that we all know and perhaps or perhaps not love.

This February, the University's Library Book Club will be discussing Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Hours. In London in 1923, the writer Virginia Woolf is making a start on the novel that will become her acclaimed Mrs Dalloway. In Los Angeles in 1949, Laura Brown struggles with motherhood and the role of the suburban housewife. In New York in 1999, Clarissa Vaughan is throwing a party for her sometime-lover who is dying of AIDS. Cunningham’s novel - which was adapted into an award-winning film by Stephen Daldry starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore - relates the lives of these three women in subtle, asymmetric ways. Channelling the spirit of Woolf’s modernist tales, he crafts an expansive yet intimate narrative of the twentieth century and its tragedies.

Special guest for the evening will be Dr Diarmuid Hester, a writer and radical cultural historian who teaches at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of English. He is the creator of A Great Recorded History, an audio trail of Cambridge focused on the city’s LGBTQ+ past, and the co-founder of Club Urania, a monthly performance and music night for LGBTQ+ people and their friends at Cambridge Junction. Nothing Ever Just Disappears, Diarmuid’s latest book about art, literature, and a queer sense of place, will be published by Penguin in August 2023.

About the book, Diarmuid says: ‘The Hours is gorgeous, tragic, and just a little bit camp—in other words, everything that a classic queer novel should be. I love how Cunningham’s writing deftly connects his three female characters across time and space. Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa seem to haunt each other’s stories, just as the lives of these women are haunted by ghosts of many dead young men. Just as real life is haunted by fiction, and history by trauma.’

As well as hearing from Diarmuid about his thoughts and observations on The Hours, we will once again be opening the floor up to you, our club members, to share your own observations and remarks. To get you thinking and to help prepare any comments or questions you might want to share, we have prepared three starter questions:

  1. Cunningham’s book was published in 1999, and the dawn of the new millennium is the backdrop for his tale. How is The Hours a book about time?
  2. The author said his novel was an improvisation on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, like a jazz musician riffing on a piece of great music from the past. Do you think you have to have read Woolf’s novel to enjoy this one? If you have read Woolf, how does this improvisation compare?
  3. The Hours is beloved by readers straight and gay, and it’s widely considered to be one of the first mainstream LGBT bestsellers. Does this feel like a queer novel to you? Why/why not?

Further information about The Really Popular Book Club, including our FAQs, can be found here.

Booking information

Booking for this event is now closed.


United Kingdom