I finished The Hours a couple days ago, and appreciated again how you can have a completely different experience each time you re-read a book. When I’ve read the book before, the themes that stood out were those of madness and genius, of beauty and recognition of that beauty amidst the drudgery of life. Those themes were still there this time, but they took a back seat to that of the choice to leave or stay, and the consequences of that choice.
The three women in the book all face the choice in different ways and for different reasons. Virginia Woolf struggles to decide if living in a place that inspires her genius is worth living with the overpowering madness that is exacerbated by it. She makes two attempts to leave- one, unsuccessful, to return to London for a few hours, and the other far more permanent, into the river that takes her life.