After reading Yates's Revolutionary Road i was keen to explore his other novels and Young Hearts Crying did not disappoint. This was Yates's penultimate novel but returns to the post war period to explore the failings and breakdown of another young couple's marriage. It is not suprising then that Young Hearts Crying has received much comparison to Revolutionary Road.
While many critics and readers (and even Yates's himself) acknowledged that he suffered from having written his best novel first (Revolutionary Road)his later work remains extremely impressive.
Young Hearts Crying tells the story of Michael and Lucy Davenport. Michael is a struggling writer who refuses to accept financial support from Lucy's sizable fortune and so the couple struggle financially while Michael desperately tries to establish himself and become a published poet.
What i love most about Yates is the way in which he creates characters who are lonely and vunerable and does not hesitate to spare the reader from confronting their lives. In Young Hearts Crying, Michael and Lucy try desperately to fit in with their 'arty' friends but despite their dogged efforts they remain on the fringes of these groups and never feel fully comfortable around them. The manner in which Yates portrays their desperation makes the reader cringe and you want badly for them to suceed but in Yates's fiction this is just not an option.
Yes... Yates can be bleak, and his characters can be desperately sad but he is a fantastic writer and one you will not regret exploring.
on 12 August 2005
Yates could take a relationship apart with a flick of his pen. there's nothing more brutal in literature than a moment of truth in Yates's best work. it shatters your beliefs. it makes you wince.
Young Hearts Crying is a good novel, in three parts. everything needs to be there. Yates's incredible short stories will tell you that he didn't waste words. but yet, it feels too long. perhaps the problem is that there are too many relationships. I believe that Yates's power is felt best when there are fewer characters, fewer relationships, like in Revolutionary Road or his short stories, or even Easter Parade. but, on the other hand, this book will constantly rip you up because of the digs at human nature. the search for individuality is madness.
In recent years doyens of the literary scene from Julian Barnes to Richard Ford and Nick Hornby have been proudly proclaiming their discovery of, and admiration for, Richard Yates. Lest you should be wary of the hype, be assured that here is writing of the highest quality.
Young Hearts Crying like so many of Yates' books is set in the decades immediately proceeding the Second World War and its cast of characters is drawn from the classes which people so much of his work-the young, college educated professionals who are distinguished from their peers not by their houses or jobs but their artistic and romantic idealism; their determination to be creative and to seek the society of like-minded souls who populate the lounges of genteel American suburbia. Yet just like another very different American master David Lynch, Yates discovers the material for high tragedy behind the most innocuous settings: seemingly perfect relationships are revealed as battlegrounds where individuals are more interested in self-discovery than each other, the promising young writer becomes yesterday's man, enduring friendships are revealed as tottering structures mounted on the twin pillars of mutual mistrust and thinly disguised contempt. In the wrong hands, such subject matter could become mere caricature, but Yates is a writer of the greatest perception who records the travails of his heroes and heroines with neither sentimentality nor indifference chronicling their lives as they unravel with a kind of undisputable logic so that events unfold with the inevitability of a Greek tragedy.
Despite being set in a very distinct historical time and place, the book transcends its context by focussing on the emotional struggles of its protagonists which have a timeless resonance. The character of Michael Davenport is a memorable creation of Yates' acerbic pen: the archetypal struggling writer who eschews his wife's vast fortune to maintain his artistic integrity whilst lacking the self confidence to achieve the recognition and independence he craves. The devastating portrayal of a man whose marriage and friendships are largely vehicles for exploring his own insecurities will be all too familiar to those who have entertained similar ambitions as will the figure of his wife Lucy, who starts her married life in the role of cheerleader but who grows in the book to discover her own needs and the disappointments in store as she tries to satisfy them. These figures are afforded complexity, vulnerability and humour and the supporting cast of friends, lovers and family are each worthy of attention in their own right.
Ultimately, much of the power of the book lies not in `the dissection of the American Dream' but in the exploration of worlds full of shattered idealism and romantic delusion where it takes people half a lifetime to learn that real life never quite matches up to the fantasy. No one traces this most prescient of journeys or its consequences as well as Yates: his lucid, economical prose and painfully honest dialogue live on in the memory long after the last page has been turned. Indeed, many may feel on finishing the book that they have read some extracts from their own lives. Yates is one of the genuinely important figures of post-war literature who merits the widest possible readership.
on 29 February 2008
First published in 1984, this masterpiece tracks the dreams and disappointments of Michael Davenport who marries Lucy Blaine. They have a daughter and move to the suburbs. Like all of Yates's young people, Michael and Lucy are full of longing yet passive, almost paralyzed by their tentativeness; they don't know how to live adult lives and can only imitate the models around them. The country cottage they end up living in looks "like something drawn by a child with an uncertain sense of the way a house ought to be".
Petty resentments a la Revolutionary Road soon set in. Davenport achieves no sucess with his poetry. This novel offers a chilling portrait of a young man destroyed by his dreams.
` ... Everybody's essentially alone,' she'd told him, and he was beginning to see a lot of truth in that. Besides: now that he was older, and now that he was home, it might not even matter how the story turned out in the end.
on 6 June 2016
'Young, newly married and intensely ambitious, Michael Davenport is trying to make a living as a writer. His adoring wife, Lucy, has a private fortune that he won't touch in case it compromises his art. She in turn is never quite certain of what is expected of her. All she knows is that everyone else seems, somehow, happier' and it is this search for happiness that Yates explores in Young Hearts Crying. We follow the lives of Michael and Lucy, together and apart, over more than two decades as they strive to find their niches in life.
The first part of Young Hearts Crying is strongly reminiscent of Revolutionary Road. We have a similar chauvinistic male character, Michael, determined to be an author, but settling for a commercial writing job in the meantime and we see him and his wife meeting, dreaming, marrying and setting up their first home. The couple consider themselves perhaps a cut above their contemporaries and seek out cultured arty people to be their friends. Where this book differs though is that our female protagonist, Lucy, is a remarkably strong woman who doesn't end up being the destroyer.
I didn't like Michael at all, although reading about him was enjoyably compulsive. His arrogance blended with his alcoholic self-destructive streak make him a fascinating character and his I was frequently shocked not only by his attitude towards women, but also the steady stream of women prepared to put up with him. The gender differences in this novel certainly make me glad to be of a later generation! I found I could more easily identify with Lucy's search for her life role, despite lacking any proportion of her wealth. I squirmed at her creative writing class experience and found myself completely in agreement with her opinions of Bob Dylan!
Reading Young Hearts Crying for me was a similar experience to reading Kent Haruf or Anne Tyler novels. I liked seeing Michael and Lucy's lives develop over an extended period of time and found this book to be a real page-turner.
on 17 September 2014
A few years ago, after being electrified by Revolutionary Road, and proceeding to rave about it to everyone I knew, a colleague told me (warned me?) that that, Yates' first novel, is "positively cheery" compared to his other works. Though he was wrong in his estimation (Revolutionary Road is every bit as depressing!), there is no hiding the pervading sense of desolation that seeps through each story that Yates tells.
The recurring theme of futile dreams, shattered expectations and the loneliness of the human condition may not be the kind of stuff you want to revisit too often, yet this is what I have wanted to do, time and again. Young Hearts Crying is the fifth of Yates' books I have read this year. He has pulled me in in a way that few authors have, and infected my thoughts long after the books have been put down.
Similarly to his first novel, Young Hearts Crying centres around a young New England couple over the course of two decades as they strive for the happy existence they once dreamed of. Michael, a poet, and Lucy, his shy wife sitting on a fortune that he vows they will not touch, both long for creative authenticity and recognition from their peers. They find themselves constantly captivated by others, only for their illusions to be dashed, continuously.
Yates understands people, and it is people that he writes about. He sees the tragedies in the smallest moments and communication in the tiniest of gestures. His dialogue is infinitely readable and never cliche, and he can conjure up a scene in the briefest of details. It is hard to see why he was never fully appreciated during his lifetime, as I think he stands up there with the best of the best in American fiction.
on 16 April 2012
This is certainly a good novel, although it's not quite up to the standards of Revolutionary Road (a comparison that's unavoidable and one that every Richard Yates fan will make, unconsciously or not). The craft of the prose is practically perfect. Every sentence is clear and concise, every word is well chosen and propels the book steadily forwards... but, ultimately, I came away from the closing pages wondering where exactly this polished prose had taken me.
Caution: some of the next comments might be deemed spoilers.
At the end of Part One, it feels like Yates made a fairly big decision re: his material. He was going to write about life after divorce, rather than life sustained in an unhappy marriage. Part Two is devoted to Lucy's post-divorce romps; Part Three is devoted to Michael's post-divorce romps. And this is all fine... but it soon begins to feel like these are a series of vignettes about different sexual partners, instead of meaningful episodes in a story that's actually heading somewhere. It seems like this novel could have been much more gutsy if it had focused on Michael and Lucy trying to save their marriage... and the subsequent fallout from that. Instead, it becomes a bit too obsessed with tales of sexual freedom and the overriding complaint that life is way too hard when you're an aspiring artist.
What I mostly took away from this book - and I wonder if Yates intended for this message to seep through - was how the true casualties in any broken marriage will always be the children. Michael and Lucy, on the face of it, aren't very good parents. Their daughter grows up into a depressed, drug-addled hippy and neither of them seems to realise it's their own fault. Perhaps this is a novel about the knock-on effects of selfishness, then... but this seems more like a side effect and not really the central theme that Yates was going for.
on 13 May 2016
RY gives the game away about this over-long, rambling non-event of a book when Lucy is reading boyfriend Carl's second novel in draft. "It was tame, bland boring stuff. Making her way through its technically perfect sentences, waiting and waiting for something to come alive on the page, she couldn't believe this was the same writer whose other book had enthralled her with its bite and power and swiftly gathering momentum, and the comparison made her feel betrayed." This is a confession of creative despair along the lines of Raymond Chandler's in The Long Goodbye when the narrator asks why he's going into such detail about mixing a man a drink, answering with some guff about how "the moment was so highly charged" blah, blah, but avoiding the awful truth that he didn't have a clue where to go next. It won't wash, guys, and RY also descends into mind-numbing details about kitchen fittings and the like as he flounders to find any narrative rope to haul himself out of the heaving plotless drink. The characters and their actions are described in terms of a school report - 'could do better' would be the gist of it - and what I'm going to say next is as tediously predictable as most of this so-called "novel" - Revolutionary Road it ain't.
on 14 March 2006
This is another reissued stunner from Richard Yates, whose Revolutionary Road has become one of the great word-of-mouth successes of the past few years (only fifty years after first publication, and ten after his death).
I liked Young Hearts Crying more than his other post-RR novels in print The Easter Parade or Cold Spring Harbor, mainly for its length - more than 400 pages of Yates to wallow in, what larks! Having said that, I can see how the third section of the book - which follows Michael Davenport - could be seen as a weaker link. Davenport is too obviously Yates and often he struggles to make him anything other than an autobiographical cipher: the alcoholism, the breakdowns and psychiatric admissions are all present. Nonetheless, every time I started to think along these lines, he would pull another great moment or entire scene out of the hat and all would be forgiven. The wide range of the book - covering parenthood, love, sex, art, and so on - made it special for me, even if that necessarily diluted the intensity of Easter Parade or Cold Spring Harbor. It even seems less bleak overall than some of his work - though that may just be me getting used to it...
Buy this book, along with all his other work - half a dozen novels and two collections of stories: not much for a life, you might think, but when they're this good, who's complaining?
on 28 September 2012
If you haven't read any of Yates' work, my advice would be don't read Revolutionary Road first. I did and enjoyed it so much I have the feeling it spoilt my opinion of this novel.
Don't get me wrong, I couldn't put it down (although I was getting a bit bored with Michael's sexual shenanigans post-separation and was relieved when the story moved on), but inevitably comparisons are made and this didn't quite hit the mark, hence 4 stars. I'm sure if I'd read this book first I'd have thought it was worthy of an extra star.
The background to the story: unattainable ideals together with ambitions that aren't practical in the real world. Something the main characters come to realise slowly as the years pass. It's not a happy tale by any means - don't expect a happy ever after because there isn't one. There's no cosy glow as I felt there were more questions than answers in the end.
My synopsis: Fantastic start, gratuitous drawn out middle, and very good ending. Worth a read, but as I say, not before Revolutionary Road.