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#249 ~ Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Published by:

Published on:

Page Count:

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.

My Review

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.

P.S.

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…

17 Comments

  • At 2010.04.21 10:08, Alison's Book Marks said:

    I too loved this book and is one of my favorites. I read it before I saw the movie, literally turning the last pages in the parking lot before heading into the theatre. April and Frank are two of my favorite literary characters – they were so brutally honest and complex. As well developed as April was in the book, and as different as she was in the movie, I didn’t complain of Kate Winslet’s approach to the character.

    Whenever I see someone review this book, I get this pulling feeling in my gut making me want to read Revolutionary Road all over again.

    Great review!

    • At 2010.04.21 11:21, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      I’ve avoided this book and the movie because I thought they looked awfully depressing. I’m so glad to see you loved it so much. I’m adding it to my wish list.

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      • At 2010.04.21 11:55, Jo-Jo said:

        After watching this movie I thought since it was so dreadfully depressing there is no way that I wanted to read this book. After reading your review I may have to change my mind. And don’t worry, I always get Revolutionary Road and Reservation Road mixed up also! lol

        • At 2010.04.21 12:21, Sandy said:

          It is weird, because I have specifically AVOIDED the book and the movie. Why is that? Yes I know it is dark, but dark doesn’t necessarily bother me. I love that you have compared it to Gatsby. That helps me put it in perspective. I may give this a try at some point. Great review, by the way!

          • At 2010.04.21 12:33, Ti said:

            I haven’t read this one yet. I got turned off when the movie came out. When a book goes to movie I see it as “commercial” and I get instantly turned off to it. Weird, huh?

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            • At 2010.04.21 13:09, Lisa said:

              You are much more sympathetic to these characters than I was. I wanted to slap both of them repeatedly. That’s probably why you liked the book so much more than I did!

              • At 2010.04.21 14:24, Meghan said:

                I liked this book too – I perhaps wasn’t as fond of the characters, but it all made me think quite a bit. Great review!

                • At 2010.04.21 16:56, carol said:

                  Sounds too heavy and depressing for me still. Good review though.

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                  • At 2010.04.21 20:27, Vasilly said:

                    You wrote a great review. I’ve read so many reviews that stated how depressing this novel is, but after reading your review I understand how realistic the book is.I’m, definitely adding this to my TBR pile.

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                    • At 2010.04.21 20:37, Karen @ Planet Books said:

                      I’m glad you “had” to read this book. I read the book after learning about the movie but before seeing it. I LOVED the book and read it in less than a week. It helped to envision Kate and Leo from the film in the roles of April and Frank though. I ordered the movie on Netflix and am sure glad I read the book first. Kate was amazing but the rest of the movie fell a little flat for me.

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                      • At 2010.04.21 21:22, Nicole said:

                        I enjoyed the movie as well, though I saw it as very grim and depressing. I wanted to get deeper into the characters heads after seeing it, but you are right that I wasn’t eager to read it. It was languishing on my shelf as well.

                        • At 2010.04.21 22:38, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                          Thank you thank you for this review! I really wanted to read and love this book but after seeing the movie I didn’t know if I would be able to get through it. Now I know I have to.

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                          • At 2010.04.22 02:07, Alyce said:

                            I’ll have to remember to read the book and not watch the movie, because this is one my husband and I have considered watching.

                            Also, I’ve been intending to read The Boy in Striped Pajamas, and watched the movie spur-of-the-moment yesterday. It was so depressing that I don’t want to read the book now, so I could really relate to your reasoning behind not picking up this book.

                            • At 2010.04.22 11:05, Melissa said:

                              What a fantastic review. I felt the same way about this book. I was completely entranced by it, while at the same time being frustrated by the characters.

                              • At 2010.04.26 08:49, Sheila (Bookjourney) said:

                                I agree with you on writing your own summaries…. I love to read blogs that do that and strive to do it myself. Like you, I also have found in order to get the reviews up – many times I have to forgo this practice.

                                I loved your review and would be interested in reading this book.

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                                • At 2010.04.26 15:06, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

                                  I was shocked at how much I loved this book too, even though Rebecca and Kristina Riggle told me I would. The movie looked totally unappealing to me (although that may be because I haven’t been a fan of ‘Leo’ for a long, long time) and so was disappointed when you chose this for your That’s How I Blog book, but now I’m so glad you did, because I loved it too!

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                                  • At 2010.04.28 18:06, sugar said:

                                    I loved this book also. It was so real, so honest, so heartbreaking. I can feel April’s pain. Her utter longing for a fantasy life. It was truly a great book. Thanks for reminding me. I should read it again 🙂

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