Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle The Grand Tour Prize Draw Learn more Shop Women's Shop Men's

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
The Easter Parade
Format: Paperback|Change
Price:£9.99+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on 8 August 2004
"Easter Parade" follows American sisters, Emily and Sarah Grimes, over forty years. They enter adulthood during WWII, and their lives follow tremendously different trajectories. Sarah is the traditional one: she marries early, has three children, and settles into a seemingly idyllic life in the countryside. Emily is more independent, and she experiences a series of unsatisfying intimate relationships and drifts through life. The novel chiefly concerns the relationship, or lack thereof, between the sisters and their family. The story climaxes in the 1960's with mild invocations of the women's liberation movement, and Yates draws clear parallels between the sisters and their times. Although the time period is specific, the characters remain amazingly relatable and universal.

The most exceptional aspect of Yates's writing is the effortlessness with which he encapsulates life: "The Easter Parade" is a relatively short novel - yet it's remarkably complete due to Yates's talent in creating scenes that so clearly recapitulate a particular period in the sisters' lives. Yates is best-known for his brilliant debut, "Revolutionary Road." His subsequent novels have received considerably less acclaim - an untenable situation considering the quality and exquisiteness of his writing. With "The Easter Parade" the story is simple but heart-breaking; the characters are unforgettable; the final epiphany is indisputable. Most highly recommended.
22 Comments| 54 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 18 July 2017
quite a good read even though it was a sad story
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 9 June 2009
Inspired by the brilliant Revolutionary Road, I looked forward to this book. Compared to that classic, it falls short; viewed on its own merits, it's a good but untidy and uneven book. The sense of period, and the sharp attention to detail are both reminiscent of Yates' other work. His dialogue works well, and the gaps and silences in dialogue also work. Yates understands the reluctance characters might feel to confront, to push, to ask the awkward but necessary question. The relationships he draws feel vivid and lifelike.

The reasons this falls short of Revolutionary Road are twofold. Firstly, the main character (Emily) never quite gets an effective foil. She herself is a strong and colourful character, but she is allowed to drift because she never meets a worthy adversary or partner. This drift is accentuated by the lack of a strong trajectory to the plot - it moves along, but lacks the clarity of purpose that Frank and April Wheeler had - even if this was always downwards.

If you are new to Yates, this gives an idea of how he can draw character and conversation. Revolutionary Road remains, for me, the better book.
0Comment| 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 July 2011
Raw emotion gushes from the pages of this book. All Yates' powers of merciless observation are in evidence here. As you would expect, Yates' writing is exemplary and his characters compelling. Much of the material for the story is 'autobiographical' (Yates has said that he iis Emily in the book) and this is generally the case for all his stories, most especially Cold Spring Harbor. Easter Parade details the lives of the Grimes sisters and follows the differing trajectories these lives take. Sarah's choice is a married suburban existence whilst her younger sister, Emily, goes to college, and has a series of troubled relationships. Emily's early jealousy of her sister soon evapourates as revelations about her home life are manifested, as well as Sarah's battle with drink (a battle she will ultimately lose). The closing stages of the book, so full of loathing and rage are like nothing I've read before.

Successful relationships are not possible in Yates' stories. Each one begins with a compelling physical attraction and goes through all the stages of boredom, bitterness and hatred, all the time fuelled by a constant flow of alcohol (Yates' descrptions of drunkeness are reminiscent of Fitzgerald, who Yates was embarrased about being so in awe of).

The book is both beautiful and pessimistic. The characters try their best to control their words and behaviour, but the pressure builds and builds till finally those permanently damaging words inevitably come pouring out, wrecking everything.

The Vintage Yates collection are especially good. I love the ironic 'American Dream' covers.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 29 June 2007
The Easter Parade can be seen as a bleak novel in that great swathes of sadness, loneliness and ugliness permeate through the protagonists' lives. Much of this is due to Yates's simple, matter-of-fact style. He relates the story in a no-frills way, so that the utter pointlessness of life pokes through like a bony white toe through a threadbare sock. He rarely dwells on events and in many ways skims over the joys - motherhood, aunthood, love, friendship - that punctuate life. Seen from this vantage point, any life might appear bleak: the bitter-sweetness of childhood, the disappointment of finding that noone is perfect, the vileness of physically and emotionally cruel people, serial monogamy which, if a person ends up single, can be seen pessimistically as a series of failures, the ant-like way we live, scurry around and then die. That Yates manages to make the novel not only readable but also mesmerising is testament to his powers as a story teller. In Yates's hands, less does mean more, his pared-down style and conscious absence of literary gymnastics resulting in story-telling that is simultaneously easy to digest and hugely satisfying.

The story follows the lives of two sisters, Sarah and Emily Grimes, daughters of divorced parents, born in 1921 and 1925 respectively. Growing up with their flighty mother with occasional visits to their idealised father, they are very different. Sarah embraces conventionality and settles down early for what she hopes is an idyllic life with English public school-educated Tony who, to her infatuated eyes, looks like a young Laurence Olivier. Emily is spikier and more independant; she samples sex before marriage and decides she rather likes it, so she follows a more (for the time) daring route in life, working and having serial relationships with men. But long-term happiness is elusive for both sisters. Throughout their lives, they keep in touch, and their sisterly relationship is as complex as sibling relationships can be, their undoubted mutual love coloured with swirls of jealousy (Emily milks her sister for stories of Sarah's relationship with her father but simmers with envy and rage at their exclusive affection) and intolerance (Emily knows she should offer her sister sanctuary from her SPOILER: violent marriage , but when it comes to the crunch, she doesn't want her current relationship threatened by Sarah's presence.

The simplicity of Yates's style is in many ways deceptive - huge themes are tackled, but with a touch so light that the ensuing thought-process is largely the reader's. This works well - rather than being force-fed processed emotions like a foie gras goose with purreed nutrients , the reader bites the crisp, uncluttered text and thinks for themselves. When Yates writes of Emily meeting her father for lunch 'she thought he looked surprisingly old as he came down the steps, wearing a raincoat that wasn't quite clean', he encapsulates succinctly the shock many people feel when they first become conscious of their ageing parents' impending mortality and their fallibility.

Of particular understated power are Emily's attempts to find love. At one point she says she doesn't know what love is, but, like most people, she keeps looking. Any person's serial relationships would appear depressing when viewed in retrospect; the hopes with which one embarks on each relationship being dashed by either one's own disillusionment or the other person's.

Perhaps the book's blackness is in part due to Yates's refusal to give in to sentimentality - he doesn't describe the little joys that characterise the good parts in a relationship or life, so that the reader is left with a skeletal sketch of the failures of each. But peering through the dark, I did catch glimpses of hope. For all Tony's grim, bigoted, veiled thuggishness and the joylessness of two of his sons, his and Sarah's middle son Peter is a ray of light, a kind, sensitive person who responds to Emily's reaching out. Even at the end, after Emily's bitter outburst, he is willing to welcome her into his home - the book's first suggestion of unconditional affection for a long time.

Powerful and understated, this is a novel that will make you think for long after you've finished.
0Comment| 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 April 2016
"Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life, and looking back it always seemed that the trouble began with their parents' divorce."

Sarah and Emily Grimes have a disrupted childhood, moving from place to place as their feckless, alcoholic mother struggles to settle anywhere. Their father, who loves them, is mainly absent from their lives and they give him a kind of mythic quality, believing him to be a more important man than the reality suggests. The girls come to adulthood around the time of WW2, and their lives diverge. Sarah follows the conventional route of marriage and motherhood, while Emily has a succession of sexual relationships of varying depth and intensity, but never lasting long. In a sense, there's a sibling rivalry going on, with each of the women somewhat envying the lifestyle of the other. But as the first line, quoted above, makes clear, both are destined to miserable existences.

I loved Revolutionary Road, declaring it almost the equal of Gatsby for what it had to say about the American Dream. That book was certainly not a happy one, but Yates' insight into his characters and their society, combined with his starkly beautiful prose, made it a profoundly emotional and intelligent read. I came to this one, then, with high hopes and expectations.

To be honest, I'm not sure what Yates is trying to say in this one at all. Simplistically, the message seems to be that children from broken homes are doomed to misery, doomed to repeat the failures of their parents. He seems to be doing a compare and contrast exercise, conventional versus unconventional lifestyle, and concluding that whatever choices the sisters made, the end result would be the same - to die unhappy and unloved.

The writing is fine, plain and with no stylistic flourishes, but somehow I felt it lacked the penetrating beauty of the prose in Revolutionary Road. When reading a paper copy for review, I stick little post-it notes at passages I may want to quote, usually because I think they're either beautiful or profound or, with luck, both. To my own surprise, when I finished this book, I found I hadn't marked a single passage. The problem is not that it's in any way badly written, it's just rather unremarkable.

I also struggled to accept the characterisation. The main viewpoint is Emily's, the unconventional sister. We follow her as she fails at one relationship after another, always because she seems to pair off with damaged men – the failed poet, the man who still loves his ex-wife, the man who has issues with his own sexual performance, etc. But I found that rather annoying and, dare I say it, a little misogynistic. Emily is intelligent, educated and successful in her career, but Yates makes it clear that this isn't what a woman needs. She needs a relationship with a man, otherwise she will go to drink and the devil, probably ending up mad. Emily is doomed, however, never to find a decent man, though why this should be so is entirely unclear.

But meantime Sarah, who has gone the conventional route by marrying, has a husband who beats her – so she spirals into drink and despair, ending up in a psychiatric home. The same home as their mother – abandoned by her man – ended up in when she spiralled into drink and despair. (One wonders if they got a discount for quantity.) I'm pretty sure that Yates didn't mean to imply that the only hope for women to escape the clutches of insanity is to marry well, but that leaves me wondering just exactly what he was trying to say.

I suspect the book may have been written at the height of the great 'it's all the parents' fault' craze, which people used as a method of absolving themselves of responsibility for their own actions; and, of course, at the height of the great psychiatry phase, when going to a 'shrink' was seen as the fashionable norm, rather than the exception, for the richer portion of society (a particularly American craze, that one – never took off to quite the same degree over here). In that sense, perhaps it does say something insightful about the time of writing, but it never felt wholly authentic to me.

I did find it very readable – the quality and flow of Yates' writing ensured that. But when I got to the end, I felt I had simply spent time watching two sad and failed lives spelled out in great detail for no particular purpose, and without that sense of truth and insight that raised Revolutionary Road from commonplace misery to devastating tragedy. 3½ stars for me, so rounded up.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 10 February 2014
Yates' 'Revolutionary Road' is rightly regarded as a 20th Century classic. Sadly, 'Easter Parade', though far greater in scope, is much slighter and scanter and just doesn't pack quite the same punch.

The story of the two Grimes sisters growing up in '30s and '40s New York, then meeting men - the older, Sarah, sticking with an ordinary, wife-beating type; the younger, Emily, the 'intellectual', meandering through numerous superficial flings - is necessarily told in sweeping expositions (to move the years along), punctuated by brief, dramatised events, usually involving Emily's grubby liaisons.

In the Grimes' world men appear self-serving, self-pitying types - any hint of depth quickly unmasked as pretension or illusion obscuring dire neediness. The women seem more open, capricious, and yet thwarted. Thwarted by men or booze or both. I make this rather generic assessment because the novel itself feels somewhat like a critique of the sexes, hovering above it's protagonists in wise, transcendent detachment. I never felt quite with the characters.

It is nevertheless a shrewd, if depressing, study of relationships: filial, sibling, sexual. The acuity of Yates' insight into the most meagre remark or gesture is, quite often, profound and telling. However, because of the duty to narrative there's not much time to linger in the long grass of the mundane and domestic - instead Yates' offers us a scythed back panorama of thirty years of deterioration in the Grimes family.

The deft touches, in my opinion, owe more to Yates' gift as a short story writer than a novelist. Blocks of exposition are often the simplest tool to inject background and meaning/ accelerate the dramatic moment - which he achieves commendably, if rather too often. However, it's those wonderful moments of illumination and poignancy triggered by the merest object or comment which, for me, characterise the finest short fiction - and there's certainly at least one such moment here, when many years on, Emily comes across a photo of her sister and husband taken at the Easter Parade in their youth, before they were married - "The camera had caught Sarah and Tony smiling at each other like the very soul of romance in the April sunshine, with massed trees and a high corner of the Plaza hotel just visible behind them."

The image resonates, thrusts the reader right back to those hopeful beginnings - to those early wishful gambles the sisters both took. By the end, it's clear, there is no firm ground, no basis for presumptions of success or happiness, whoever you are. It is here, in this panoramic viewpoint, as the novel shakily concludes, Yates' grim vision is illuminated.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 1 September 2010
The sheer brevity of this near perfect novel underlines the magical way in which Mr Yates, with miraculous economy, manages to encapsulate many lifetimes of the characters' experiences into the most humble of spaces. That encapsulation both enriches and heightens those experiences.
The book feels as if it has not come from an author's pen, but simply IS.
The best novel I have read in years and I feel so lucky to have discovered Richard Yates.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 3 February 2003
It's slightly cheeky of Richard Yates's publishers to put out The Easter Parade like a new book, in large format. He's been dead ten years of course, and just didn't have that Calvino-Cookson foresight to plug his drawers with half-baked doodlings on which his family could keep themselves in the manner etc. etc. after his death - what an idiot! - so The Easter Parade is actually an old novel, first published in 1976 and reissued now to cash in on the sleeper success of, well, his last reissue, Revolutionary Road.
Yates is no sentimentalist, and anyone who liked Revolutionary Road will not be expecting a laugh riot, but even so The Easter Parade is remarkably cruel and bleak. He puts his cards on the table in the opening sentence: "Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life..." and the following 220 pages pore over their unhappiness in forensic detail. If this was on TV it would be called When Lives Collapse! or possibly just Endurance.
The sisters are Sarah and Emily Grimes (note Dickensian naming: grim, grime). Their parents divorce and they live with their mother, who likes them to call her Pookie. Their father has a great job in a great newspaper - or so they think, until he tells them how he's really nothing more than a low-status hack. And then dies. Sarah gets married to a grunt called Tony and quickly gets a few kids under her belt. Emily meanwhile, who is really the centre of the book, goes through a string of unsuitable relationships, all of which end badly when he leaves her (because he's impotent) or she leaves him (because he's a bore) or he leaves her (because he's bisexual and wants to explore other avenues, so to speak) or she leaves him, and so on... Meanwhile Tony is beating Sarah about, and the one time that she rings Emily wanting to leave him and move in with her, Emily puts her off because for once she's in a good relationship and doesn't want her sister cramping her brief happiness. Which doesn't last anyway, of course.
Ultimately hardly anyone gets out of the book alive, and I'm not sure if there is a tiny chink of light at the end or if I just imagined it, desperate for relief. I kept reading partly because it's brilliantly written and partly out of morbid curiosity to see what Yates would do to his little laboratory mice next. And it's not only the things that happen to the characters that is cruel, but also Yates's obvious contempt for them.
So it's hard to know what the message is in The Easter Parade (perhaps Yates would have balked at the suggestion, as Douglas Adams did: "No message. If I'd wanted to write a message I'd have written a message. I wrote a book"): that life is hard and then you die? That whatever you throw at them, people will keep coming back for more? That, to quote Kurt Vonnegut, the majority of lives simply aren't worth living? The only thing it told me for sure is that yes, there is a book out there that makes Revolutionary Road look like Hi-de-Hi. (You know: the bit in chapter 4 where Frank Wheeler won the knobbly knees contest.)
11 Comment| 23 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 5 August 2017
I hate really, but didn't like to say as author has such a good reputation. Clunky story. Predictable. Nothing 'clever' about it. No sparkling dialogue or humour, not even irony. Just boring.

It did make me realise, though, how good Anne Tyler, Richard Ford, Michael Chabon and John Updike (et al) are.

I read Revolutionary Road, too, and did not enjoy. I should have known better. Must have been that niggling feeling that I might have been wrong. Now I know for sure: no more Richard Yates. Think I'll re-re-read William Boyd's Any Human Heart.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse