Revolutionary Road (Vintage Classics) Paperback – 7 Apr 2011
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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.
"The literary discovery of the year... It's as brilliantly nuanced as Updike's Rabbit sequence, and as sad as anything by Fitzgerald" (Nick Hornby Guardian Books of the Year)
"Here is more than fine writing; here is what, added to fine writing, makes a book come immediately, intensely and brilliantly alive...a masterpiece" (Tennesse Williams)
"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 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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.
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.Read more ›
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'.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
our characteristics of Yates’s work make Revolutionary Road one of the best books I have ever read.
• The subtlety of what is written on the page prompts what is left... Read more
LATEST REVIEW: John Maguire surveys the stale cocktails of Revolutionary Road: Richard Yates [...]Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I always like to be pleasantly surprised when I read a book. This book is not the sort of book I would usually read, I have a funny feeling I picked it up in a 3-4-2 at some point,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by FlamingKaty
An incredibly profound novel which is also an easy and fluid read. The major theme is of mediocre, boring, entrapping, stifling suburbia in the 1950s. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Cara Bennett
In context, a revolutionary book which perhaps doesn't get the credit it deserves.Published 8 months ago by Yvonne
Grew on me and I still keep thinking about aspects of this book. Just don't read it when you are feeling a bit down. Not exactly uplifting!Published 11 months ago by Olive
Not the sort of book I generally read or like.
Heavy on relationships and the American Dream.
Reminds me of the Rabbit series of books in some ways. Read more
Revolutionary Road is as bleak a novel about the mismatch between the hopes and dreams of youth, and the realities of maturity, as any I have read. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Lady Fancifull