Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates

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.

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8 responses to “Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates

  1. Loved the book; avoided the movie….someone told me to painful to see on screen??

    • Diane – Wouldn’t that be a shame after such a wonderful book? I do wonder how easy it would be to transfer all the subtleties over to the big screen..

  2. Tracey, I’ve heard so much good stuff about this book lately that your post practically seals the deal for me. Hopefully, I can get to it later this year. My wife saw Rev Road on cable and loved it, but she hasn’t read the book (I don’t like Di Caprio very much, but I have a crush on Kate Winslet–so I guess I’ll be watching the movie, too, one of these days!).

    • Richard – I hope you do get to it.. I’d love to hear how you find it. That’s one of the wonderful things about the book blogging world for me, experiencing books all over again through our different thoughts.

      And good to know your wife loved the movie – Kate Winslet is one of my faves as well!

  3. I just wanted to say that I also loved Revolutionary Road. I thought it was one on the most understated, yet moving novels about relationships I have ever read. I would also thoroughly recommend the film. I thought they really captured the, unbroken on the surface, troubled underneath feeling that the book did so effortlessly.

    • The Book Shelf Project – Thanks so much for commenting and for recommending the film as well. I agree the book was very moving – I was blown away by it. I’m glad you loved it as well.

  4. I’m doing a Yates season on my blog at the moment and am currently rereading Revolutionary Road. I think Yates is criminally underrated -you should definitely read some more of his novels.

    The movie is SUPERBLY acted but very, very depressing and quite uncomfortable too. Sometimes a bit close to home.

  5. booksnob – A Yates season – what a great idea. I will definitely look out for more of his novels now. I know exactly what you mean about a bit close to home. I thought that when I was reading the book. Even if the circumstances aren’t mine, I can still relate to all those emotions. Quite a full on reading experience.

    Thank you for telling me about the movie. I think I will see it but will pick the right time.

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