- File Size: 616 KB
- Print Length: 370 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (July 8, 2008)
- Publication Date: July 8, 2008
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B001CBMX9C
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,140 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Revolutionary Road Kindle Edition
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From the Trade Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
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The main characters, April and Frank, are somewhat anti-heroes who do some loathsome things but end up being extremely relatable and well-liked. The plot itself is slow but the read is quick and I found myself reading big chunks at a time.
The movie is much slower because it doesn't have the benefit of the characters' inner thoughts. And, though Winslet and DiCaprio do an amazing job of breathing life into some of the tamer written scenes, the movie fails to give a nuanced insight into the characters' motives. Indeed, the narrator is third person omniscient so the reader can see into the hearts and minds of all the characters throughout the story.
This is a story about an average American family in 1955. Mommy, Daddy, two children. She is home with the kids. He works in New York City in a job that absolutely bores him. He takes the commuter train to work from suburban Connecticut where they live in an average home—but at least it's not one of those cookie-cutter, identical houses in a brand-new development. They are bored. Oh, so bored! They are utterly alarmed at who they are becoming and get a wild—really wild!—idea to fix it all. It's a way to end the "hopeless emptiness" they say they feel. But life intervenes, and with boredom and emptiness still rampant, they both do things that have the potential to destroy all they have built.
Instead of contributing to the myth of the 1950s, Richard Yates brilliantly and oh-so-subtlety excoriates that decade by profiling one man, one woman, one couple, one marriage, one family and showing how they tragically betray who they are simply because they can't stand who they have become.
This may be about life in the '50s, but this masterful, imaginative novel is truly about the human psyche in any era. And that is what makes it timeless—and a classic.
Frank Wheeler commutes from suburban southwestern Connecticut into NYC every day to put in his time (certainly not to actually “work”) at a job he knows is meaningless. This was initially a desirable but temporary feature of the job that he allowed to become a permanent part of his life. April, his wife, does the 50s homemaker thing, staying home and looking after two small children.
Their best friends are the Campbells, who they socialize with regularly, and seem to like. Privately, however, they look upon the Campbells (and actually, everyone else around them) as silly, while showing no self-awareness that they are exactly the same.
In a material sense, there is nothing wrong with their lives, yet they seem unable to count their blessings or find a positive vision for how they might exist and progress. In struggling for an adjective, “despair” seems to glorify something more pathetic, and is too grand a word. The picture Yates paints is seriously depressing--something obviously is missing in their lives. They sense this themselves, and April is foolish enough to believe that a mere change of venue will flush out everything that they feel is wrong with their lives. (I’ve met people like this.)
Frank and April occasionally have a falling-out. (Once or twice, it appears that Frank may have even struck her, but it doesn’t happen in the book). The kids, although they seem to care about them (because they are supposed to?) nevertheless seem pretty much like nonessential appendages if not actual nuisances or sources of guilt. Even though they are not treated overtly bad, the few sentiments that are expressed about them seem negative. For example:
- "... the forlorn, grubby little heap of toys that might have been steeped in ammonia, so quick was their power to attack the eyes and throat with an acrid pain of guilt and self-reproach ('But I don't think we were ever meant to be parents. We're not even adequate as parents...')"
Or a peek into a child’s head after one of their arguments:
- "It had become increasingly hard, lately, for either of them to know what was expected."
Some have labeled this story uninteresting and dull, and in a purely objective sense, perhaps this perspective is understandable. But that is part of the message and mood of the story. The reader keeps waiting for something to take a turn for the better, by chance or by virtue of a move toward positive action. But it just never happens, and one is supposed to ask why.
I did not find this a difficult read. Although there is plenty to think about, nothing needs to be decoded—the narrative flows smoothly.
Top international reviews
April is a failed actress, or rather an actress that never really tried because she became pregnant with Frank's child. Her initial panicked desire to abort is never consummated and therefore she and Frank become a couple they never wanted to be. Pretentious, consumerist saddled with two children they don't seem to understand. The children are as confused as the parents; seeking to please but somehow destined to fail.
A lot of reviewers seem to state Yates as being humourless, but what is more darkly humorous than Mrs Givings, the quintessence of middle American 'niceness' who drags her unattractive and bluntly raving mad son into the midst of the Wheeler's parlour games.Possibly schizophrenic, Givings junior detests his mother and is a loose cannon in her presence...
He is the lone voice that calls the Wheelers out on their hypocrisy and pretensions, but he is also mad, bad and dangerous.
Themes of adultery, domestic violence and duplicity ripple through the pages and just as we think April has calmed down, she starts to peel apart like an onion. Even the Wheelers' staid friends are as phony as they are. Bull headed Shep who is secretly disgusted by his wife's very odour, who lusts after April and his gossipy terrified wife whom he has abused during a drunken episode. One of the few early books where the C word appears and it gives jolt here. Good old Shep is actually lusting after his best friend's wife.
We soon see she has no feeling for Frank, or very little. She plays a charade of being a good girl on a daily basis. Efficient and cool, she cuts a beautiful and desirable figure in the book. Some critics have found her unlikable but the clue to her psychology is only explored later in the last few chapters, a past which Frank has skimmed over as willfully as he skims over everything in his customary half-arsed manner.
I felt wholly sorry for April, never understood, forever parrying against the attacks and manipulations of Frank. Her beauty gives her little hope, her neuroses are her undoing. She wants freedom but has no idea how to achieve it. The only control she is finally left with is that over her own body when she finally achieved what would have been done in the first place instead of being trapped in a marriage which is as co-dependent as they come.
April and Frank are middle-class, they live in the Connecticut suburbs, have two children, disposable income, friends...they should be happy. But they aren't. Frank feels like he's slaving away in a 9-5 job in the city that's beneath him and April has recently learned that she is not the fantastic actress she imagined she was.
Their marriage is a ball of bitterness, hatred, resentment, and spite, covered up with all the "American Dream" dressings of the 50's....They are living the American Dream and they make each other miserable. Revolutionary Road shows how horrific the hate in a marriage can be; It's personal and under the skin.
One thing I noticed that was different from the film, was that the book seemed to focus more on Frank's POV. Most of the time we're in his head and learning his life story, and so our view of April is biased.
Revolutionary Road is bleak and understated. It shows us the tiny world of one couple, and yet it could be any couple in 1950's America
From the title, I had the wrong idea about this book. Maybe the title was supposed to be ironic, but the early part of the book, about the failure, on its first night, of a local dramatic group, was unexpected.
As I read through the angry exchanges and sulks of the two main protagonists, I was reminded of watching the film ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, when I sat thinking, ‘Why am I listening to a slanging match between a warring married couple?’ And yet, I did get drawn in, and wanted to know how the couple in question - April and Frank Wheeler - would resolve their problems.
Other characters were the snobbish landlady, Mrs Givings, her deaf husband and her possibly autistic son, who had no inhibitions about saying what he thought, to everyone else’s embarrassment.
Also there were the family friends, Shep and Millie Campbell, who were helpful, but not quite intellectual enough for the main characters, who each felt that they were a cut above these friends - and therein lay their problems. Bogged down respectively, in domesticity and an unchallenging job - each was trapped in a life that they somehow thought they didn’t deserve and hadn’t anticipated.
Initially, I was on the side of the husband, who I saw as a Jack Lemmon type of man (when he’s a lowly clerk, in The Apartment.) He seems to adore his wife, who initially, seems a bit of a harridan. But in the latter part of the book, I see his transition to a manipulative bully, imposing his will upon her. His greater confidence was purely as a result of a possible promotion at work. If he had been in that position when he first met her, that is, being successful in his work, perhaps she would have disliked his arrogance and never married him. Instead of that, they were two dysfunctional unconfident people who found something in each other.
Withut revealing the climax, I would have liked to know, following her meticulous planning, did she mean to cause what eventually happened?
It was not a book that left you with good feelings at the end, and probably I would not read it a second time. But the dialogue between the characters, their awful truths, finally let out, and their internal thoughts that we had access to were very, very well done. I think 4 stars, or 7 or 8 out of 10 for sheer readability, though perhaps not empathy.
I hope you find my review helpful.
The main protagonists, April and Frank Wheeler, are outwardly living the American dream in the suburbs. They have a dread of suburban life, viewing most suburbanites as shallow, timid, conventional people but for them "the important thing was to keep from being contaminated". Despite their smug, snobbish sense of superiority over their neighbours, the reality is that they aren't really any different. There is a huge amount of self-deception going on, particularly on the part of Frank. In truth, for all his protestations, it is April who comes across as the more adventurous one: Frank seems to be entirely conventional, increasingly so as the book progresses. Ironically the one who sees best through the lies and hypocrisy is a minor character, the mentally unstable son of the real estate agent who sold them their house.
Few, if any, of the characters are likeable, but I thought Frank was particularly loathsome - his smug sense of being 'different', his ability to talk a good talk even though he can't or won't walk the talk, his skills in manipulation, his self-absorption.
I loved the writing style - quite cool and spare with convincing dialogue.
The writing is superb: a tension makes every sentence seem 3-D. You know that no happy ending awaits April and Frank but you are compelled to read on and accompany them to certain destruction. The 1950s setting is beautifully conveyed, from Frank's IBM-like corporation to the seedy dive with the has-been drummer.
The strength of "Revolutionary Road" lies also with the identification potential of the reader. Which bright young person has not imagined themself superior to the rest and surely destined for something greater than smug suburbia? Which corporate employee has not imagined that their dreary job is "only for the interim" before their real potential is discovered? And I'm sure I'm not the only middle-aged reader to think "there, but for the grace of God....."
I would like to say I learnt a lot on how to avoid similar problems from it, but other than trying to be more honest in inter personal relationships I`m not sure I did
The writing is brilliant, the observation of life and personality superb.
A lot of the issues are still relevant today and show that society moved on enormously in the first half of C20 but little since.
For once I agree with the label - it is a vintage classic, just don`t read it to cheer yourself up!
If you are thinking about just seeing the film - read the book first.
Both are worth it but in slightly different ways.