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Revolutionary Road Paperback – Apr 25 2000
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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, Amazon.co.uk
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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Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
Bore. But I felt it. It's telling us what to do. I hesitated long in the same situation. Now I see my future clearly. I am in the same rut they were struggling in, hopeless. When everything seemed right, everything was actually wrong. It takes true courage to do everything wrong, just to set things right again.
The rut we are in is: me and my wife both have to work to keep the house. No matter how comfy the house may be, that's not right. After 40 hours' work, all we are capable of feeling is tiredness and bore; all we have time for is replenishing the refrigerator and attack some long procrastinated chore. In the meantime, all money is pouring into the bills: big leaking holes never got patched up. Where do we see ourselves in 10 years' time? Same old s*** and nothing gets improved.
My happiest time in life was when I was renting a small room and working casually. There were no bills. $300 rent includes everything from internet to parking space, and every half a year, car insurance, that's it. I had plenty of time, leisurely hobbies and sense of freedom.Read more ›
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.
Despite the book's obvious attack on various institutions and conventions of the time that contribute to the Wheelers' disintegration, Yates' most poignant focus is on individual morality and choice: Frank and April Wheeler are clearly products of their own grim, misguided and abortive motivations, rather than victims of their repressive, tacky, dead-end suburban existence.
Despite the author's rather vicious, excessively lurid character development, despite his emphasis to the point of overkill how poorly adjusted Connecticut suburbanites were in the '50s, despite the sometimes preachiness of the narrative, this is nevertheless a "lost" classic, very much worthy of being compared to "The Great Gatsby."
While the general tone of "Revolutionary Road" is one of hard-nosed realism, it is at some points remarkably touching, an aspect of the novel about which I've yet read little.
There's even a little supernatural intimation toward the end that -- out of place in this stark book as it may seem -- is further indicative of how complex, contemplative a work this is.
Most recent customer reviews
Wonderfully written book that examines the ennui of modern life. The writing was concise, sharp and the story told was enthralling.Published 14 months ago by Jessica Davies
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 morePublished on Sept. 30 2010 by Leslie Carmichael
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 morePublished on Aug. 8 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
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 morePublished on March 7 2009 by Kona
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 morePublished on Dec 30 2008 by Laurel-Rain Snow
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 morePublished on June 1 2004 by Ethan Cooper
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 morePublished on Feb. 22 2004 by Kate Smart
Devestating drama of marriage going bad in the suburbs, years before Updike and Cheever got to the same level of social criticism. Read morePublished on Feb. 2 2004 by readercrazy
So disappointed in this 50s story. Was motivatedd to finish, thinking the rave reviews had to make it worth it. It was not. Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2004