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Revolutionary Road [Paperback]

Richard Yates
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 25 2000 Vintage Contemporaries
"A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." —William Styron

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It's the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.

In his introduction to this edition, novelist Richard Ford pays homage to the lasting influence and enduring power of Revolutionary Road.

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The rediscovery and rejuvenation of Richard Yates's 1961 novel Revolutionary Road is due in large part to its continuing emotional and moral resonance for an early 21st-century readership. April and Frank Wheeler are a young, ostensibly thriving couple living with their two children in a prosperous Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. However, like the characters in John Updike's similarly themed Couples, the self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel fulfilled in their relationships or careers. Frank is mired in a well-paying but boring office job and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. As their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfillment are thrown into jeopardy.

Yates's incisive, moving, and often very funny prose weaves a tale that is at once a fascinating period piece and a prescient anticipation of the way we live now. Many of the cultural motifs seem quaintly dated--the early-evening cocktails, Frank's illicit lunch breaks with his secretary, the way Frank isn't averse to knocking April around when she speaks out of turn--and yet the quiet desperation at thwarted dreams reverberates as much now as it did years ago. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, this novel conveys, with brilliant erudition, the exacting cost of chasing the American dream. --Jane Morris,

From Library Journal

"So much nonsense has been written on suburban life and mores that it comes as a considerable shock to read a book by someone who seems to have his own ideas on the subject and who pursues them relentlessly to the bitter end," said LJ's reviewer (LJ 2/1/61) of this novel of unhappy life in the burbs. It is reminiscent of the popular film American Beauty in its depiction of white-collar life as fraught with discontent. Others have picked up on this theme since, but Yates remains a solid read.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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THE FINAL DYING SOUNDS of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard lessons Oct. 28 2003
Reading the praise for this book actually made me less inclined to read it. Another unmasking of the banality of the suburbs and the bland conformity of the 50s didn't strike me as particularly appealing or necessary. Both of those things have been unmasked so often that I wonder why anyone bothers with either; there's nothing left to expose.
The choice of target is also a little unfair: first, hypocrisy and small-mindedness are not localized in the suburbs to the extent that authors and filmmakers seem to think. If a writer deliberately populates his story with caricatured materialistic bourgeois, then he shouldn't expect it to be a legitimate criticism of the age. In any case, if an audience can separate themselves too easily from the people being described, the book has no sting - like American Beauty had no sting. A real work of art should hurt a little.
But Revolutionary Road was not what I expected from the reviews. Yates knows all of the pitfalls of the standard send-up of the middle class: the main characters in his story are not the usual suburban types, but people who consider themselves better than the dull people in their neighborhood; they mock the people that we, as readers, are so used to mocking, and become our surrogates.
The real theme of this book is much deeper, and it transcends the era and even the plot of the book: what do people do when they are intelligent and spirited enough not to be satisfied with the conformity and blandness of their surroundings, but lack the drive to ever escape mediocrity, because they are, fundamentally, much more a part of their environment than they imagine?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very modern book written in 1961 July 19 2004
April and Frank Wheeler are around thirty and live in a suburb in Connecticut. They have a nice house, Frank has a job that is not too demanding and they have two small kids, so in essence all a couple can wish. Except, that they are not happy at all: April has not become the actress she wanted to be, they consider their neighbours and friends to be narrow-minded and they have fights over small matters that become so big that it is practically impossible to cope with it. In a last attempt to escape April decides that the family will move to Europe: she will work and Frank will finally have time to develop his talents. Frank does not exactly want to go, but he does not know how to tell his wife. And so the family heads for disaster without anybody noticing or knowing what to do about it.
This book was written in 1961, was nominated for big prizes together with such classics as Catch-22 and was forgotten after that. It is really a very modern book: the dreams and expectations of "the common" people have not changed much in all those years and the way in which Frank and April react and interact is only too recognizable. At times this book really hurts. You would like to shout to them: "Listen to each other!" "Don't fight over marginal subjects!" A good book that deserves to be rediscovered.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Martinis, skyscrapers, abortion, despair May 31 2001
By A Customer
You're likely to hear two thing about RR: it's a dark fifties anatomy of suburban emptiness and decay; and that it's a writer's novel, the unofficial progenitor of Richard Ford and Rick Moody. True, and true. If you haven't read it, do; but I wouldn't exactly say rush to do it. Yates hasn't aged all that well; there's an Elia Kazan feel throughout, of exaggeration verging on melodrama, and while Yates is sometimes capable of superb observation, he seems devoid of genuine sympathy. April Wheeler is better than her husband --more vital, more perceptive --but beyond that, emotionally damaged and corrosive. Many of the characters verge on being, though brilliantly drawn, typological cartoons. Nonetheless, there's a certain inexorable fascination in watching Yates send these people lurching into tragedy; and this book is very influential: given the durability of the suburbs, there will always be "suburban prose-poets," and they will always do well to study Yates before plunking away.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars advertisement for religion July 7 2000
By A Customer
I had heard Revolutionary Road described as "satirical", but I think the tone is realistic. In any case, this is a very well written novel about narcissists who have no love or affection for anyone in their lives: not their parents, not their spouses, not their friends. Most startling is their indifference toward their own children. These characters look at their small children and, even as they go through the motions of parenthood, don't even see them as anything other than burdens. As I read Revolutionary Road, I kept thinking, what kind of people don't love their own children? I think it is significant that none of these characters gives a thought to God or religion of any kind: no church on Sunday, no wondering what God wants from all of them. Actually, this book is a good advertisement for fostering religiosity or spirituality of some kind in one's life. Solipsistic angst may be inevitable for people who don't, in the parlance of 2000, "get over themselves". The writing warrants three stars for this novel, but I can't really recommend Revolutionary Road. Better that readers go back to Steinbeck or even Fitzgerald and read about existential problems in a moral context.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A life saver, if you look that way
This movie is down-right depressive. The book, according to some reviews, is a bore. I'd say when it is super depressive, squabbling from beginning to end, with everyone showing no... Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2010 by BeijingEr
5.0 out of 5 stars Fashioning Himself a Hero: Death of Another Salesman
The Laurel Players is an amateur theater group with high hopes of establishing a loftier cultural standard in their Connecticut suburb, but their short-lived attempt to put on a... Read more
Published on Sept. 30 2010 by Leslie Carmichael
5.0 out of 5 stars Ode to Middle-class Failure
Here is novel that ambitiously sets out to describe the essence of the American Dream as it impacts the lives of a very aspiring young couple who want to chart their own course... Read more
Published on Aug. 8 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars "OUR kind of people..."
Frank and April Wheeler are a young couple who have a comfortable life in a lovely suburb. They go about their business - Frank hating his job in the city and April wishing she had... Read more
Published on March 7 2009 by Kona
5.0 out of 5 stars Lying and Loathing in Suburbia...
It is a period in the middle of the twentieth century - the hopeful 1950s - and a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler, begin their marriage in New York. Read more
Published on Dec 30 2008 by Laurel-Rain Snow "Rain"
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliance to Banality
Yates is brilliant in the first two sections of this book. In these sections, some of my marginalia reads: "A terrific description of a tender memory experienced through the hazy... Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by Ethan Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Classic
This story knocked me off my feet - I've read it three times. The quality of writing is so skilled, so perfect, that you just gape in awe at the page infront of you. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2004 by Kate Smart
5.0 out of 5 stars Revolutionary Novel
Devestating drama of marriage going bad in the suburbs, years before Updike and Cheever got to the same level of social criticism. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2004 by readercrazy
1.0 out of 5 stars shallow, selfish, predictable
So disappointed in this 50s story. Was motivatedd to finish, thinking the rave reviews had to make it worth it. It was not. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a truly great book
Most of the other reviewers on this site have written good reviews of this book. I can only add that everyone should read this book now! It will change your life. Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by T. Baughman
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