Saturday, 24 October 2015

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Alas! When passion is both meek and wild! - JOHN KEATS

Rating: 10/10

Frank and Alice Wheeler live a typical 50s American suburban life in Revolutionary Road. In reality this life leaves both of them dissatisfied. Being in my early 20s, I am starting to appreciate the themes in Yates’ Revolutionary Road. The prospects of job that doesn’t excite you, of still being in a ‘stop gap’ years later and of feeling like life is mundane. I really enjoyed reading Revolutionary Road. It has definitely made a lasting impression on me.

The realist writing style was well written. Even though Yates is writing about the ordinary without any embellishments the story wasn’t boring. I found it easy to connect to the situation and the characters. They are everyday people with hopes and disappointments. Yates’ characters are exquisitely crafted as well. The characters are full of desires, contradictions and flaws so much so they could be genuine people. You can never quite predict how the character is feeling or what they will do either. It’s a very emotionally honest and direct story.

“I think it’s unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working like a dog year after year at a job he can’t stand, coming home to a house he can’t stand in a place he can’t stand either, to a wife who’s equally unable to stand the same things…”

The main stand out are the themes I've already mentioned. Throughout the story I was constantly thinking about the situation Yates is describing. I was constantly asking myself ‘What is wrong?’ and ‘Where does the fault lie?’ Is it the situation that is wrong or is the dissatisfaction connected to Frank and Alice Wheeler as people... would they ever be happy for instance?

This novel isn’t even questioning whether the American Dream is possible. It is a more basic question of satisfaction. There is no one-size fits all lifestyle that will make everyone happy; sometimes we can feel trapped in by the bleak future full of routine with no scope for adventure. Is it acceptable to survive, perhaps not financially, but just by getting by emotionally? Are the Wheeler’s demanding too much of life by having unrealistic expectations? What is it exactly they are demanding... happiness all the time (i.e. a perfect life) or the prospect of adventure?

“That’s how we both got committed to this enormous delusion— because that’s what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion— this idea that people have to resign from real life and ‘settle down’ when they have families. It’s the great sentimental lie of the suburbs, and I’ve been making you subscribe to it all this time. I’ve been making you live by it!”

I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I did having watched the film not long ago. (The film had excellent casting and visuals so if you are ever wondering what to watch then you have a free recommendation.) I thought the book would be repetitive and possibly dry because I didn’t really enjoy Yates’ Easter Parade. I found the book even more enjoyable than the film; I really enjoyed the interior view to the characters and their backstories. I saw new things coming to the story a second time too, especially with the opening scenes. Interestingly, this is Yates’ debut novel (and was published the same year Heller’s Catch-22).

I used the audiobook and the narrator was great. He really brought it to life and created distinct voices for each of the characters. Overall I really connected with these themes and it’s probably why I enjoyed this book so much but I’d highly recommend it.

Original Publication: 1961
Pages: 337
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Production Date: 2008
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Length: 11 hours 24 minutes

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Book cover for book review. Audiobook cover.

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  1. Rarely do I read a book after having seen the movie. But I must never forget visuals speak to the mortal view but a book to the minds eye (antithesis). Gone with the Wind was a classic example (un cas d'├ęcole).
    I have seen it hyperbole) 1 million times! Yet in the book Mitchell vividly describes the red soils and surroundings (alliteration) of northern Georgia that you only see in the movie. RR road looks like a book with my name on it ( idiom) ! Thanks for the review and analysis.

    1. I completely agree with you RE films. Yes, they are often about the same thing but the whole experience/feel is completely different because of the difference in what is emphasised. I hope you do like it, it gives you a great insight into their feelings and thoughts :-)


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