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Richard Yates: Revolutionary Road (1961)

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I have to confess here that perhaps I’m a little late with this one. It re-emerged from the realm of once written fabulous novels in 2008 when it was turned into a film featuring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (another confession here – I wanted to read the book first, so I haven’t actually seen the movie). As things go, it got pushed back on my reading list until I finally bought it in one of my two-hour bookshop freakouts when I was in Oxford last November.

From the first line, Revolutionary Road captures you with its incisiveness. Yates draws you into the narrow-minded suburban world of a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler, with a tone that exposes their pathetic existence from the very beginning. Before even knowing it, they have arrived where they never wanted to be: the dull, narrow-minded world of suburbia. And now they’re unhappy and trying to get out. The book traces their fight against the monotonous normality around them in a way that sits so awkwardly with the reader it almost hurts. You just know that their endeavours to turn their lives around aren’t going to end well (which is why it’s ok for me to tell you here that there’s no happy ending).

For me personally, the best (or should I say the hardest?) thing about Revolutionary Road was the way it made me reconsider my own life. Am I not in danger of falling into the same daily-life trap as Frank and April? This question uncomfortably nudged itself deeper and deeper into my mind as the book went on. But having given it some thought, I’ve come to believe that we are all sort of trapped in something of an everyday existence, that Revolutionary Road would make most people feel awkward in the same way, and that achieving this is what makes Yates a great writer and his book a masterpiece of contemporary literature.

Evaluation: 9/10 (one point off for the scalpel-like clarity of Yates’s writing that sometimes makes the book a little less than enjoyable – nobody enjoys being exposed too much)

German Title: Zeiten des Aufruhrs
Spanish Title: Via Revolucionaria

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Author: bettinathenomad

Nomadic fan of books, food, the outdoors, and water. International Relations geek. Chlorine is my perfume.

4 thoughts on “Richard Yates: Revolutionary Road (1961)

  1. This thoughtful write up makes me want to read the book. I saw the movie soon after it was released and it also had the little-less-than-enjoyable feel.

  2. Thanks, Dottie! I really want to see the movie now that I’ve read the book – time for a trip to the DVD rental place methinks 🙂

  3. If a book makes someone to feel awkward after reading I think it should be a good book.

  4. Great review! I checked this book out of my local library, but never got around to reading it because of how difficult the movie was for me to watch. For some reason, I handle emotionally-challenging books much better than I do films. I might have to give this one another try.

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