On the strength of this first read, I am now an official fan of Richard Yates. Even if the rest of his books are terrible, it wouldn’t matter. I’m sure they won’t be though!
For those of us fortunate enough to have our more basic needs met and the luxury of being able to ponder it – the theme of Revolutionary Road may seem familiar. That of turning our thoughts to our level of satisfaction in life. Whether our inner perception of who we are and what we could be matches the outer reality. Richard Yates handles this in such a wonderful way. His story is tender, funny and heartbreaking and the writing is just so spot on… exquisite. Reading this was like being on an emotional rollercoaster – I would identify with one character, then another, and then another. In that way although there is a lot of conflict, it seems that none of the characters are in the wrong, just struggling to do the best they can and keep going.
April and Frank Wheeler have been married for a few years and have two children. We join them as they approach their 30th birthdays and notice immediately a sense of frustration and resentment with each other and their suburban lives. The setting is Connecticut in the 1950’s. April had dreams of being an actress, not realised and Frank works in what he considers the dullest office job in the world where he contributes as little as possible. Privately they each harbour dreams of being and doing more. The difference is that one of them is prepared to make serious sacrifices to make it happen and the other isn’t but doesn’t have the strength to admit it.
Revolutionary Road was nominated for the National Book Award in 1962. The winner that year was The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I haven’t heard of this before but would like to read it now – I’m expecting it to be something special! Interestingly, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller was also nominated that year. That is a book that I didn’t enjoy at all.
I’m wondering whether to look out for Revolutionary Road the movie and risk it not living up to the book – I think I will. I’m sure Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio will give it a good shot.