The Hours - Michael Cunningham
I tried to read The Hours once several years ago, perhaps just after the movie had come out. For some reason I put the book down and never revisited it until now. It's not an impossible book to read, and as I haven't read Mrs. Dalloway, the book with which this story is entwined, I can't confirm that the style is intentionally similar. It's the story of a single day, played out in three very different years, of the lives of three woman.

Virginia Woolf, author of Mrs. Dalloway, mentally sketches out the progress of the book she's begun to write. The day brings a surprise visit from her sister (technically a surprise - while it was planned everybody shows up early), and Woolf agonizes over Mrs. Dalloway's fate.

Clarissa, christened Mrs. Dalloway by her friend Richard, goes through the motions of planning a party for him. Minute details like flowers and guests to invite take up the most space in her mind, as she contemplates what could have been in her relationship with her friend.

Mrs. Brown, a housewife in 1949, is reading Mrs. Dalloway and preparing a cake for her husband. The time alone with her young son seems almost suffocating as she struggles to create a perfect cake and battles guilt over wanting more time for herself.

The connection of these three goes quite deep, but I won't spoil more than what I have. Cunningham takes great pains to detail everything in this story - scents, sounds, the slightest flinch of a character reacting to somebody's speech. Characters seem to strive for perfection and internally question their motives - Virginia wants the perfect tea, Clarissa regrets a casual invite to a potentially unwanted guest, Mrs. Brown finds fault with the shape of an icing Y on the cake. Reading something like makes me realize I either don't devote enough time to minutiae or else I have it pretty good.

Nonetheless, it's one of the more vivid novels I have read so far on this journey.