Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Review copy sent to me by a publicist
Availability: paperback, eBook, and audio book
Note from LH: I normally write my own summaries. Although I don’t think it’s a big deal one way or the other, I do prefer to write my own. I think that the way in which a reviewer summarizes a book can shed a lot of light on what he or she found interesting, important, or disconcerting. With my huge (to me) backlog of reviews, I’ve found that just the idea of composing summaries is chasing me away from my computer. In an attempt to alleviate this problem, I’ve decided to use publisher’s summaries or what I can find on-line for the time being. I plan on writing my own summaries again, but I don’t feel that they are important enough to halt production. LOL!
Summary from Barnes & Noble
In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank’s job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.
Before I learned about the then upcoming movie, I’d never heard of Revolutionary Road. My plan at the time had been to read the book and then see the movie. In reality, it seemed that the movie wouldn’t be coming to my area any time soon. When I went to Las Vegas on a business trip and saw that it was showing there, I decided to see the movie even though I hadn’t read the book yet. I left the movie extremely depressed. It was not the kind of movie I should have seen alone when my spouse was hundreds of miles away. As a result, I had absolutely no desire to ever read the book. I didn’t pick the book up until I was scheduled to be on Nicole from Linus’ Blanket‘s Blog Talk Radio show, That’s How I Blog. Revolutionary Road was a review copy I specifically requested and, being prone to much guilt, I selected it for our 20 minute book club anyway when I noticed that it was on Nicole’s TBR. After having read it, I’m sad that the movie kept me away from such a lovely book.
No one is more shocked that I loved this novel than I am. I’ve had difficulty reading novels with women suffering from Post-Partum Depression since suffering it myself. Reading about it brings those overwhelming and nearly unbearable days back to me. My chest tightens and I feel anxious just reading about it. If it cuts too close to home, I have to stop reading. I anticipated as much with Revolutionary Road. While the details of our experiences were much different, I saw myself in April. When she was convincing Frank to move to France, I could smell her despair and I could feel the manic waves rushing through her blood. She wanted to be someone else and do something else because she was certain that those things would rescue her from her own private hell.
Despite the connection I had with April, her issues went much deeper than struggling with motherhood. She’s not ever satisfied with reality. Whatever her dreams may be, having them come to fruition is sure to destroy them. As much as I empathized with Frank (hate the flaws, love the flawed character), he really was a coward parading as a man of ideas and ideals. He is a scared little boy lacking the confidence to be somebody. Instead he has built a wall of cynicism around himself. How much easier – not to mention safer – is it to wax eloquent about how boring a job is than making an honest effort at building a career and a life of which he can be proud?
Richard Yates was an undeniably talented writer. Despite the depressing content, I was entranced by his use of language. Frank and April’s arguments were painful and I felt as though I was with them through it all because they were so alive. Even though I was all too aware of the train wreck that was coming, I just could not put the book down. Revolutionary Road reminded me a great deal of The Great Gatsby. Both novels are beautifully written, are fascinating looks into the human condition, and bring their time periods to life like nothing else I’ve read. While noting some difficult subject matter, I would recommend Revolutionary Road just as highly.
For some reason I cannot explain, I call this novel “Reservation Road” all the time. I have to actually think to talk about Revolutionary Road. Hopefully I’ve not messed that up in my review. I’ve proofread it, but proofreading your own writing is tricky. I know what I meant to write, but when what I meant to write might be wrong…