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Revolutionary Road Paperback – April 25, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 25, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375708448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375708442
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (373 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

617 of 630 people found the following review helpful By Gulley Jimson on October 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
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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85 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Bucherwurm on May 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
A good job, a pretty wife, nice kids, and a home in the suburbs. This novel, written in 1961, is about a couple that lives this American Dream. But this pre-yuppie pair leads a life of exquisite monotony. He hates his white-collar job; she stays home with the kids. One of their most frequent recreational activities is to visit with another similar couple, and spend a few hours shaking their heads and complaining about how unevolved everyone else is. We smile ruefully as we read about them, thinking how common these folks are. Or have we fallen into a trap by putting ourselves in the same place by looking down on Frank and April as they look down on others.
Frank and April Wheeler look forward to things: a part in a little theater play, a move to Paris, an affair, a promotion. It would seem, though, that for them happiness is only in the anticipation of events. The story's participants also are deeply into playing roles with their spouses, their co-workers, their friends, and above all with themselves. There is no one in this book that you want to identify with. Why? Is it because they are poor, hopelessly lost dullards, or is it because they represent us in too many unpleasant ways? It's a sad story, but one that makes you think about your own life, and the ultimate value of what you have accomplished. While some of our culture has changed since this book was written (we no longer sit in hospital waiting rooms smoking cigarettes), its theme is as modern as can be.
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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Ned K. Wynn on March 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
When you say the name Richard Yates today you usually get blank stares. If you say Bellow, Cheever, Updike, Roth or Styron you get knowing nods. Yet Yates, to my mind, is easily the equal to any of the aforementioned names and belongs on the same literary shelf. He failed to find a wide and general fame before he died in 1992 (though, I believe, this book was up for the National Book Award in 1961 alongside Catch-22), and it is only recently that his name is being revived. He is revered by writers such as Tobias Wolff and Andre Dubus (who was a student of Yates').

Without Yates there is no Raymond Carver; he was the natural heir to Fitzgerald and mentor to those writers willing to take up a dangerous literary thread: the exploration of the depths of our self-delusion, our virtually incessant need for self-validation, and most importantly, our progressive moral disintegration. Never flashy in his style, nor even particularly poetic or lyrical, spare in his descriptions which seem, in spite of their austere quality, to strike the mark with a terrible sharpness, Yates was a great genius of plain prose. His writing is like a bear trap, hidden in the leaves, waiting to slam shut and catch the reader completely unawares. This kind of writing should have gained a wider readership, but it did not. Perhaps because, like the bear trap, when it closes on you, it hurts.

I myself had not been aware of Yates at all (something a writer friend found incomprehensible) until it was suggested I read Revolutionary Road. I read it, and I still have not recovered. Revolutionary Road is considered by many to be Richard Yates' best work. I think it is probably that and a lot more.
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129 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Westley VINE VOICE on June 27, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Yates is not as well known as many other mid-20th century novelists, but he certainly should be. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is as well written and intriguing a book as you're ever likely to read - a true modern classic. The plot concerns the increasingly unhappy marriage between surbanites Frank and April Wheeler. Many other authors have explored similar territory, notably John Updike (e.g., "Couples"). However, no one has done so with such deft and beautiful writing. The plot is ultimately somewhat incidental, and you'll likely figure out the resolution quite early. However, the brilliantly realized characters, including friends and neighbors of the Wheelers, make the book so worthwhile.

The meaning of the book is likely to vary for different readers; for example, many people may see a scathing yet subtle indictment of suburban life and values. However, I read it more as as screed against the dangers of being unnecessarily dissatisfied with your life, particularly expecting brilliance where none exists. Whatever meaning you attribute to the novel, it's extraordinary. Most highly recommended!!!
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