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Revolutionary Road Paperback – 13 Dec 2007

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  • Click here for the Revolutionary Road reading guide. The guide includes a section on Revolutionary Road, an interview with author Richard Yates, a list of other works by Richard Yates, suggestions for further reading and suggested online resources.



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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (13 Dec. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099518627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099518624
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Originally published in 1961 to great critical acclaim, Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road subsequently fell into obscurity in the UK, only to be rediscovered in a new edition published in 2001. Its rejuvenation is due in large part to its continuing emotional and moral resonance for an early 21st-century readership. April and Frank Wheeler are a young, ostensibly thriving couple living with their two children in a prosperous Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. However, like the characters in John Updike's similarly themed Couples, the self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel fulfilled or happy in their relationships or careers. Frank is mired in a well-paid but boring office job and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. However, as their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfilment are thrown into jeopardy. Yates's incisive, moving and often very funny prose weaves a tale that is at once a fascinating period piece and a prescient anticipation of the way we live now. Many of the cultural motifs now seem quaintly dated--the early evening cocktails, Frank's illicit lunch breaks with his secretary, the way Frank isn't averse to knocking April around when she speaks out of turn all seem to belong to a different world--and yet the quiet desperation at thwarted dreams reverberates as much now as it did 40 years ago. Like F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, this novel conveys, with brilliant erudition, the poverty at the soul of many wealthy Americans and the exacting cost of chasing the American Dream. --Jane Morris --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"I hand out copies of Revolutionary Road to anyone who will take them...one of the most moving and exact portraits of suburbia in all of American literature"--David Hare, The Observer

"The Great Gatsby of my time... One of the best books by a member of my generation"--Kurt Vonnegut

"The best novel ever written about the death of the American dream"--Kate Atkinson, Daily Telegraph

"The excellence of Revolutionary Road lies in the integrity with which its author depicts the Wheelers' disintegrated marriage... [The characters reveal themselves] with an intensity that excited the reader's compassion as well as his interest."--The Times

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
Frank and April Wheeler have the perfect 1950s lifestyle - the nice house in suburbia, the two children; he with the daily commute to a good job in the city; she, a home-maker, beautiful and decorative - the middle-class, mid-20th century American Dream made real. But strip away the superficial and we find two people who have failed to be the people they expected to be, who are living every day with the disappointment of what they and each other has become. There is a desperation at the heart of this book - the desperation of rats caught in a laboratory maze.

Although Yates takes us into the minds of most of the characters at points, we mainly see the world through the eyes of Frank Wheeler. The book begins as April takes part in an amateur performance of The Petrified Forest - a play with the central theme of artistic and intellectual worth trapped in a loveless and humdrum existence, but where tragedy leads to escape. No coincidence that this should be the play that Yates chose, and no coincidence either that the performance should fail badly, leaving April publicly humiliated. Already in these early pages, Yates has signalled his major themes of intellectual elitism, entrapment and failure.

Frank once aspired to lead the life of an intellectual, perhaps to be a Hemingway, defying convention and rejecting the lifestyle of his parents. He was feted in his student days as one of the coming generation, a brilliant conversationalist who would (in some way that he never quite got around to pinning down) have an intellectual impact on the world. April - beautiful, cool, aloof - aspired to be a serious actress.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Jun. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How come I only just heard about this fantastic book? Set in 1950s suburban Connecticut, it tells the story of the less than idyllic relationship of Frank and April Wheeler. Although an onlooker may see them as an ideal couple in an ideal situation they both have layers and layers of dissatisfaction which come to the surface as their marriage crumbles.

The book was written in 1961 and seems to encapsulate all that we have come to associate with the previous decade. April appears willing to give up any pretence of a career to look after house and children while Frank goes each day to his "boring" office job (but he manages to find time for an affair with a secretary). Everyone drinks and smokes to excess - even in pregnancy. Frank's boss declares electronic computers to be the coming thing.....

Although both Frank and his neighbour Shep sometimes reflect on their time in the army during the war very little of the wider outside world creeps into the empty surburban world of Frank and April and their small circle of acquaintances. April comes up with a plan to move the family to France believing this will give Frank a fresh impetus to "find himself" but from the start you wonder if this will never happen.

Revolutionary Road is powerfully written and draws you into the lives of the Wheelers and their neighbours the Campbells and the Givings. It has some darkly comic moments and many flashes of brilliance. Yes, an American classic.

Did the creators of Mad Men (US TV series) get some of their inspiration from this book?
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By You caught me procrastinating again on 25 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Published in 1961, this tale of 1950s suburban despair focuses most squarely on its male protagonist, Frank Wheeler, but it's much more his wife, April's, story. Pregnancy trapped her in the life expected for her, while he looked for (and apparently found) an un-taxing job in a corporation too large and inefficient to see how little he does.
Yet with suburban liberals having grimly hushed conversations on the state of US politics over almost subversive cuttings from the Manchester Guardian and the Observer (I thought US reading of the Guardian was internet trend) and obsession with new technology (Frank sells 'counting machines' and, maybe soon, $2m computers) it's easy to forget that this is the 1950s. Nevertheless, while April's desire for abortion and to go out and work is less shocking to contemporary ears, it still reads as fantasy.
Unhappiness fuels great disdain for all of suburbia and its inhabitants. Rather than pretend to be happy and get on, April dreams of immigrating to Paris, where she images a life of freedom; a life where she'll be the breadwinner and he'll 'find himself'. And Frank allows her to believe they have what it takes... for a time.
Ultimately, Revolutionary Road's not just a tale of despair and isolation, written at a time when the idea of feeling alone in a city of millions was a foreign concept. Or of a woman fighting society's expectations, written pre-feminism. It's a story of conformity and how easily those who fail to conform are labelled 'insane'.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback
Richard Yates's first novel is about two members of that post-war "herd of independent minds" (to borrow a phrase of the cultural critic Harold Rosenberg). They are symptomatic of an emerging generation comprising individuals who each think they are special, talented, and intended for greater cultural or intellectual things. Indeed, I marvelled at the way Yates has encapsulated in his novel themes that were emerging in social psychology at the time - he diagnoses key problems of American post-war affluence.

Most readers of "Revolutionary Road" sympathise with the lead characters, and lament the tragedy that occurs. But something bad was bound to happen. It always was.

Frank is a jerk. He is depicted as a victim, although I have no sympathy for him. He likes to talk big, pretend he is superior; but he is all bravado. And he knows it. His own uniqueness falls into a pattern, a well rehearsed groove, because beneath his surface alienation, Frank is a corporation man (as defined by William Whyte a few years before in his book The Organization Man) who won't buck the system.

Unfortunately, Frank's wife April fell for his spin all along. April is a tragedy waiting to happen. Her problem, partly, is that she has never found meaningful work. The victim of an affectionless and unstable childhood, she was stuck in an acting course - a cut-price substitute for a finishing school - and raced into early marriage craving love. But a couple of years later "the feminine mystique" (as Betty Friedan defined it in her remarkable book
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