Monday, March 8, 2010

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yate

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
346 pages
Published February 2001 by Methuen Publishing
Source: borrowed from a friend

Frank and April Wheeler and two young people who fancy themselves to be a cut above average in the brains department. But when April becomes pregnant, they begin to find themselves on a different track than they had planned. Frank takes a job to make ends met but purposely chooses one that he envisions himself looking down his nose at for the few years he plans to be there. When their second child is born, they soon find themselves in the worst place they can imagine--the suburbs. Even then they don't imagine themselves being stuck.

Yates writing is dead on in exploring the interaction between Frank and April.
"Then the fight went out of control. It quivered their arms and legs and wrenched their faces into shapes of hatred, it urged them harder and deeper into each other's weakest points, showing them cunning ways around each other's strongholds and quick chances to switch tactics, feint, and strike again. In the space of a gasp for breath it sent their memories racing back over the years for old weapons to rip the scabs off old wounds: it went on and on."
When April strikes upon a way they might be able to manage moving to Europe, Frank first throws up all kinds of obstacles and the reader begins to realize that Frank has, without being aware of it, become the man for whom the nine-to-five job in the city and home in the suburbs fits. Frank has spent years doing as little as possible at work. One day, though, in an attempt to clear up a mess and dispose of as much paperwork as possible, Frank does something that the "big" boss is really impressed with. He wines and dines Frank, talks about including him in a new venture and dangles more money in Frank's face. Then Frank begins to think about a life built around Knox Business Machines without acknowledging to himself that Europe is really no longer what he wants out of life.

As progressive as she likes to imagine herself, April finds herself apologizing for taking control of the planning of the move, even though she found her busy day "invigorating":
"It's like when I mow the lawn, or something. I knew I should've left the passports and the travel agent for you to handle, but I was right there in the neighborhood and it seemed silly not to stop in. Oh, but I am sorry."
Once April has sold Frank on how the move to Europe will be possible, their lives seem to improve. But as more and more things come up, the marriage begins to spiral out of control. Time spent with the disturbed son of the realtor only serves to exacerbate the distance that has grown between Frank and April.

I did sometimes feel as though things dragged on a bit (such a fairly lengthy explorations into some secondary characters) and I felt like the part that the disturbed son played in Frank and April's lives might have been handled in a way that would have worked better for me.

Compromise, marriage, infidelity, life fulfillment--there is much here to be discussed. Revolutionary Road is a well-written book that left me disturbed and sad.


  1. It's very sad. I thought it was superb though, I wanted to read it again as soon as I'd finished it.

  2. I don't think I can read this book. I saw the movie and I was so upset over the ending, I just wouldn't be able to take it again in the book. Very good review!

  3. I saw the movie and found it very long and somewhat dark and depressing. However, it does seem like it would be a much better book. The things I loved about the movie was the acting and the sets and scenery. I don't think I could read it as I know how it's going to end...

  4. I'm with you on the last paragraph. I didn't read the book, and I didn't see the movie. I only saw the *previews* to the movie, and even *that* left me disturbed and sad!

  5. I read this last year... I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie and I was surpised to find the book so depressing.

    I appreciate the book, I enjoyed reading it but I do like dark/sad novels that are well written.

    Did not like the movie... not one bit.

  6. I think I'll have to pass on this one. Sometimes I just can't take a well-written yet sad book...sigh. I like my happy endings! Great review as always. Did you see the movie?

  7. Disturbed and sad? I may have to pick it up. I love to read a book and be disturbed by it. I know that sounds twisted but these books stretch the mind and make you think.

  8. Sign me up for disturbed and sad...I bought this one last year and haven't read it yet! I really need to read my own books one of these months!

  9. This is one of those books that I have been wanting to read for a LONG time! I really need to get to it!

  10. I have this and am looking forward to reading it. I do know too much but hope to distance myself. Ask me in 10 years if I ever get to it?!