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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "No-one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying."
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,...
Published 16 months ago by FictionFan

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I seem blind to what excites at least some readers.
I came to this novel after reading the author’s earlier work, “Disturbing the Peace” which I found a good deal less than enthralling. However, assured that “Revolutionary Road” was a work of altogether higher standing, I took it on in a spirit of optimism. Again I’m sorry to say I felt disappointed. At no point did the book catch fire...
Published 11 months ago by Bluecashmere.


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "No-one forgets the truth; they just get better at lying.", 19 Feb. 2014
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (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. Each attracted to the other's projected image rather than to the underlying person, they seemed an ideal glittering match, until the reality of pregnancy forced them down the path of conventionality towards earning a living and making a home.

Now they are trapped - by their children, by society, but mostly by each other. As they fail to be what they anticipated they see their failure reflected back to them from the other's eyes. It is only when April comes up with a radical plan to allow them to regain their lost glamour as free-wheeling intellectuals that Frank begins to realise he may no longer have the courage to pursue this dream - to risk discovering that he lacks the intellectual wherewithal, the belief in which has been the foundation of his sense of snobbish superiority over his neighbours and colleagues. When April reveals that she is once again pregnant, for Frank it is an excuse to retreat back to the safety of his conventional life. But to April it's another trap - to keep her in a lifestyle she never wanted and to prevent Frank from becoming the man she thought she was marrying. For April, the coming child is her prison - for Frank, it is his escape.

Yates is brutal to his characters, shining a light so bright there's nowhere for them to hide. And through them, shining a light on this '50s society, perhaps the last generation where women were still so irrevocably defined by motherhood and the men they married; and perhaps the first generation where men were beginning to question the role of masculinity in an increasingly white-collar world. Frank's ambivalence towards his father is based on a mixture of intellectual condescension together with an unacknowledged jealousy of his physical skills, embodied in the recurring image of his father's powerful hands.

Post-war, we see a generation of ordinary men who had access to higher education, often as the first in their family to do so. Where for Gatsby the American Dream was about money, birth and beauty, Yates shows the '50s as a time of two dreams in conflict - the security of middle-class suburbia and the excitement of intellectual escape - with his characters caught between them. And yet Yates also seems to suggest that neither dream is worthy of pursuit - that somewhere along the way the lofty aspirations of previous generations have narrowed and shrunk down to this.

The '50s were a time of huge change - the beginning of the decade still reflecting pre-war values and conventions, and the end looking forward to the surge of youth culture, sexual freedom and social upheaval that typified the '60s. Yates brings the period brilliantly to life in this shortish novel that nevertheless has space to look not just at the characters as individuals but also at the society and culture they inhabit. His depiction of Frank's workplace as a soulless maze of pointless paper-shuffling is superb, reflecting the growing struggle, for men in particular, to find some sense of fulfilment and worth when there is no physical input and no visible end result.

Yates captures the language of the time so well that I could hear the dialogue being spoken in my head. These words could have been spoken at no other time and in no other place. And yet for all the talking in the book, there's no sense of communication - each character is ultimately alone, desperately trying to hide behind the image they project. There are moments of quiet beauty in the writing, and an integrity in the characterisation that leads the reader to empathise even when we see them stripped down to their worst flaws and insecurities. And perhaps we empathise most because he makes us fear that we recognise ourselves in there somewhere. A masterpiece.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How come I only just heard about this fantastic book?, 27 Jun. 2008
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars How easily those who fail to conform are labelled 'insane', 25 Nov. 2004
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars When a novel reveals social truths, 26 Jun. 2012
By 
Christopher H (Keilor, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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 The Feminine Mystique) has kicked in and, trapped in the role of homemaker, April is undergoing a crisis. She doesn't know who to blame: the community, Frank, herself? Her self-esteem is non-existent.

The entire book may be focussed on Frank, but it charts April's floundering and self-destructive depression. (It makes a strong contrast with George Johnston's My Brother Jack where the male character has the nervous breakdown, and his social climbing wife makes things much worse.) Indeed, the problems are all there are the start when April feels publicly humiliated, and instead of comforting her, Frank himself feels humiliated. His self-absorption, and feeling he is always the suffering victim, is the problem all along.

It's a tragic book, a truthful book, very much a document of the flawed aspirations of its times. Frank probably gets what he deserves; April gets what she doesn't deserve, but circumstances always dish out for people in this dependent position.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Universally Poignant, 20 July 2009
By 
Mr. P. G. Mccarthy (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
Review by Cathy McCarthy age 20

Revolutionary Road is the story of April and Frank Wheeler, a couple trapped in sub-urban life in post-war America. Frank has gone from being a bright young man with endless possibilities to a father of two, in a job that doesn't interest him and married to a woman who doesn't really love him. April, it seems, is a woman who could never be happy and will ultimately always be living a lie.

With the constant intervention of both past and present influences, this mis-matched couple is destined to end in tragedy.

Richard Yates has somehow managed to take what could be an incredibly dull and unimportant story and turn it into a masterpiece. With perfect execution he has brought a rather grim story to life where many other authors would have killed it cold.

Yates' prose is undeniably skilled, so much so that although he has chosen to write in the third-person he has mastered the illusion of being inside any character's head at any given time. Without the complication of switching from one character's narrative to another's, the text has a very clean feeling, even on the subject of dirty things.

The novel opens on the rehearsal of a somewhat precarious play, then leads on to the opening night. In this relatively short chapter Yates has the reader feeling the emotions of everyone in the theatre, the initial hope, nerves and cringing disappointment. Though perhaps a little emotionally exhausted, he has you (for want of a better word) hooked.

Revolutionary Road's main theme of helplessness in the face of wanting more runs flawlessly throughout the novel giving it a grim and dark and wholly gritty feel. That natural desire to be more than we are is something any reader can relate to, making the book universally poignant. It is a pumped body-builder of a book and should not be missed.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply, one of the best American novels of the 20th century, 16 May 2008
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
An astoundingly well told tale of a couple trying to live happy lives in 50s America. Devastatingly accurate its portrayals of vanity, manhood and ambition as well as deceit, depression and the absurd faces we put on situations attributed to being part of 'normal life'. This is one of the best, most potent American books I've read and it's not hard to see why it was regarded as a classic from the moment it was published.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Novel, a Great Writer..., 4 Feb. 2007
By 
Heather "star_reader" (Leeds, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I first came across this novel on my English Lit degree course, on a module on alienation and having read some of the other required reading, i had a 'feeling' i would enjoy this novel. Well... i was not disappointed. It really is one of the best novels i have ever read. I have read it twice now and know i will come back to it again in the future.

It is beautifully crafted, sometimes touching, dark, occasionally funny but incredibly sad. The final chapters are some of the best i have read.

Yates is a great but undervalued writer... more people should read this amazing book.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criminally under-rated, 14 April 2002
By A Customer
A lyric and intensely moving evocation of the cracks behind the white picket fences of suburban America. Yates's writing is understated yet at times breathtaking, and his satire is never less than razor sharp. Above all, though, his characters really do come alive. In fact, Revolutionary Road could easily give The Great Gatsby a run for its money for greatest American novel of the twentieth century, and as a diehard Fitzgerald fan that is saying something. Please buy this book - it deserves to be so much more than a cult classic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bitter Sweet, 11 July 2009
By 
Catherine Murphy "drcath" (Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Revolutionary Road (Paperback)
"...from the moment they stepped off the train, as she had later told her husband, she had recognised them as the kind of couple one did take a little trouble with, even in the low price bracket."

Frank and April Wheeler live on Revolutionary Road, a train ride away from the city, where Frank is a junior executive for Knox Business Machines. They have two children, friends. April is involved in the local theatre company. Theirs is an ordinary life.

But Frank and April don't want to be ordinary. Unlike his father, who worked for Knox all his life, Frank sees his job as an ironic gesture, a short term fix until he figures out what he really wants to do. April too seeks fulfilment in her theatre project and when that ends badly, throws herself into a plan for the family to move abroad, where she will support them while Frank discovers himself. Faced with having to finally live up to his dreams, Frank does what he can to stop April, blind to how far her desperation to change their lives will make her go.

When Richard Yates died of emphysema in a rented Boston apartment in 1992, all his books were out of print. As a young man, he spent a year in Paris doing nothing but write short stories. By the end of this time, his wife left him, taking their young daughter with her. Not one of the stories was published.

It's a story of quiet failure and it's not hard to see Frank - restless, immature, a compulsive self deceiver - as self portrait rather than fiction. And Yates is merciless, not just to himself as Frank, but also to his cast of minor characters, his precise, unfussy prose exposing every weakness, every sin of omission. He treats only one character with any tenderness and understanding, and that is April, who commits the single generous act in the book - of absolving Frank of any blame when her actions lead to disaster.

It's a small book, set on a small scene, but its message is dark and universal: according to Richard Yates, we are far less than the sum of our parts.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High quality and attention to detail..., 17 Feb. 2009
By 
bloodsimple (nottingham, uk) - See all my reviews
Like many others I presume, I was introduced to this book by the publicity surrounding the film. And what a delight it is to find it.

It would have been very easy for this book to be drab, flawed, repetitious and dull. The only reason it is not is the skill of the author. There is not a single lovely or charismatic character in this book, yet practically all of them are eminently watchable. Yates has a good ear for dialogue, and a good eye for where the gaps in dialogue should come. The couple's angst never veers over the line into self-absorbed trash; it is always refocusing their relationship, redefining it, and delicately drawing them towards their end.

Yates' skill also shines in the details - Frank Wheeler's `speaking of' pamphlets; the emotions he experiences in an affair; and the undermining of the couple's smug view of their neighbourhood. Frank and April are the arguing, decaying, simmering couple we have all seen somewhere, brought to vivid life.

For me there are echoes of Fitzgerald in the way the decay is described. This is a high quality novel where the attention to detail has paid off.
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Revolutionary Road (Vintage Classics)
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