Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road

Audio CD(Unabridged)

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"A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." —William Styron

From the moment of its publication in 1961, Revolutionary Road was hailed as a masterpiece of realistic fiction and as the most evocative portrayal of the opulent desolation of the American suburbs. It's the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple who have lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and remorseless clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their spiritual birthright, betraying not only each other, but their best selves.

In his introduction to this edition, novelist Richard Ford pays homage to the lasting influence and enduring power of Revolutionary Road.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739359372
Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/25/2008
Edition description: Unabridged
Pages: 9
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

RICHARD YATES was born in 1926 in New York and lived in California. His prize-winning stories began to appear in 1953 and his first novel, Revolutionary Road, was nominated for the National Book Award in 1961. He is the author of eight other works, including the novels A Good School, The Easter Parade, and Disturbing the Peace, and two collections of short stories, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and Liars in Love. He died in 1992.

Read an Excerpt


The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium. They hardly dared to breathe as the short, solemn figure of their director emerged from the naked seats to join them on stage, as he pulled a stepladder raspingly from the wings and climbed halfway up its rungs to turn and tell them, with several clearings of his throat, that they were a damned talented group of people and a wonderful group of people to work with.

"It hasn't been an easy job," he said, his glasses glinting soberly around the stage. "We've had a lot of problems here, and quite frankly I'd more or less resigned myself not to expect too much. Well, listen. Maybe this sounds corny, but something happened up here tonight. Sitting out there tonight I suddenly knew, deep down, that you were all putting your hearts into your work for the first time." He let the fingers of one hand splay out across the pocket of his shirt to show what a simple, physical thing the heart was; then he made the same hand into a fist, which he shook slowly and wordlessly in a long dramatic pause, closing one eye and allowing his moist lower lip to curl out in a grimace of triumph and pride. "Do that again tomorrow night," he said, "and we'll have one hell of a show."

They could have wept with relief. Instead, trembling, they cheered and laughed and shook hands and kissed one another, and somebody went out for a case of beer and they all sang songs around the auditorium piano until the time came to agree, unanimously, that they'd better knock it off and get a good night's sleep.

"See you tomorrow!" they called, as happy as children, and riding home under the moon they found they could roll down the windows of their cars and let the air in, with its health-giving smells of loam and young flowers. It was the first time many of the Laurel Players had allowed themselves to acknowledge the coming of spring.

The year was 1955 and the place was a part of western Connecticut where three swollen villages had lately been merged by a wide and clamorous highway called Route Twelve. The Laurel Players were an amateur company, but a costly and very serious one, carefully recruited from among the younger adults of all three towns, and this was to be their maiden production. All winter, gathering in one anther's living rooms for excited talks about Ibsen and Shaw and O'Neill, and then for the show of hands in which a common-sense majority chose The Petrified Forest, and then for preliminary casting, they had felt their dedication growing stronger every week. They might privately consider their director a funny little man (and he was, in a way: he seemed incapable of any but a very earnest manner of speaking, and would often conclude his remarks with a little shake of the head that caused his cheeks to wobble) but they liked and respected him, and they fully believed in most of the things he said. "Any play deserves the best that any actor has to give," he'd told them once, and another time: "Remember this. We're not just putting on a play here. We're establishing a community theater, and that's a pretty important thing to be doing."

The trouble was that from the very beginning they had been afraid they would end by making fools of themselves, and they had compounded that fear by being afraid to admit it. At first their rehearsals had been held on Saturdays—always, it seemed, on the kind of windless February or March afternoon when the sky is white, the trees are black, and the brown fields and hummocks of the earth lie naked and tender between curds of shriveled snow. The Players, coming out of their various kitchen doors and hesitating for a minute to button their coats or pull on their gloves, would see a landscape in which only a few very old, weathered houses seemed to belong; it made their own homes look as weightless and impermanent, as foolishly misplaced as a great many bright new toys that had been left outdoors overnight and rained on. Their automobiles didn't look right either—unnecessarily wide and gleaming in the colors of candy and ice cream, seeming to wince at each splatter of mud, they crawled apologetically down the broken roads that led from all directions to the deep, level slab of Route Twelve. Once there the cars seemed able to relax in an environment all their own, a long bright valley of colored plastic and plate glass and stainless steel—KING KONE, MOBILGAS, SHOPORAMA, EAT—but eventually they had to turn off, one by one, and make their way up the winding country road that led to the central high school; they had to pull up and stop in the quiet parking lot outside the high-school auditorium.

"Hi!" the Players would shyly call to one another.

"Hi! . . ." "Hi! . . ." And they'd go reluctantly inside.

Clumping their heavy galoshes around the stage, blotting at their noses with Kleenex and frowning at the unsteady print of their scripts, they would disarm each other at last with peals of forgiving laughter, and they would agree, over and over, that there was plenty of time to smooth the thing out. But there wasn't plenty of time, and they all knew it, and a doubling and redoubling of their rehearshal schedule seemed only to make matters worse. Long after the time had come for what the director called "really getting this thing off the ground; really making it happen," it remained a static, shapeless, inhumanly heavy weight; time and again they read the promise of failure in each other's eyes, in the apologetic nods and smiles of their parting and the spastic haste with which they broke for their cars and drove home to whatever older, less explicit promises of failure might lie in wait for them there.

And now tonight, with twenty-four hours to go, they had somehow managed to bring it off. Giddy in the unfamiliar feel of make-up and costumes on this first warm evening of the year, they had forgotten to be afraid: they had let the movement of the play come and carry them and break like a wave; and maybe it sounded corny (and what if it did?) but they had all put their hearts into their work. Could anyone ever ask for more than that?

The audience, arriving in a long clean serpent of cars the following night, were very serious too. Like the Players, they were mostly on the young side of middle age, and they were attractively dressed in what the New York clothing stores describe as Country Casuals. Anyone could see they were a better than average crowd, in terms of education and employment and good health, and it was clear too that they considered this a significant evening. They all knew, of course, and said so again and again as they filed inside and took their seats, that The Petrified Forest was hardly one of the world's great plays. But it was, after all, a fine theater piece with a basic point of view that was every bit as valid today as in the thirties ("Even more valid," one man kept telling his wife, who chewed her lips and nodded, seeing what he meant; "even more valid, when you think about it"). The main thing, though, was not the play itself but the company—the brave idea of it, the healthy, hopeful sound of it: the birth of a really good community theater right here, among themselves. This was what had drawn them, enough of them to fill more than half the auditorium, and it was what held them hushed and tense in readiness for pleasure as the house lights dimmed.

The curtain went up on a set whose rear wall was still shaking with the impact of a stagehand's last-minute escape, and the first few lines of dialogue were blurred by the scrape and bang of accidental offstage noises. These small disorders were signs of a mounting hysteria among the Laurel Players, but across the foot-lights they seemed only to add to a sense of impending excellence. They seemed to say, engagingly: Wait a minute; it hasn't really started yet. We're all a little nervous here, but please bear with us. And soon there was no further need for apologies, for the audience was watching the girl who played the heroine, Gabrielle.

Her name was April Wheeler, and she caused the whispered word "lovely" to roll out over the auditorium the first time she walked across the stage. A little later there were hopeful nudges and whispers of "She's good," and there were stately nods of pride among the several people who happened to know that she had attended one of the leading dramatic schools of New York less than ten years before. She was twenty-nine, a tall ash blonde with a patrician kind of beauty that no amount of amateur lighting could distort, and she seemed ideally cast in the role. It didn't even matter that bearing two children had left her a shade too heavy in the hips and thighs, for she moved with the shyly sensual grace of maidenhood; anyone happening to glance at Frank Wheeler, the round-faced, intelligent-looking young man who sat biting his fist in the last row of the audience, would have said he looked more like her suitor than her husband.

"Sometimes I can feel as if I were sparkling all over," she was saying, "and I want to go out and do something that's absolutely crazy, and marvelous . . ."

Backstage, huddled and listening, the other actors suddenly loved her. Or at least they were prepared to love her, even those who had resented her occasional lack of humility at rehearsals, for she was suddenly the only hope they had.

The leading man had come down with a kind of intestinal flu that morning. He had arrived at the theater in a high fever, insisting that he felt well enough to go on, but five minutes before curtain time he had begun to vomit in his dressing room, and there had been nothing for the director to do but send him home and take over the role himself. The thing happened so quickly that nobody had time to think of going out front to announce the substitution; a few of the minor actors didn't even know about it until they heard the director's voice out there in the lights, speaking the familiar words they'd expected to hear from the other man. He was doing his fervent best and delivering each line with a high semi-professional finish, but there was no denying that he looked all wrong in the part of Alan Squiers—squat and partly bald and all but unable to see without his glasses, which he'd refused to wear on stage. From the moment of his entrance he had caused the supporting actors to interrupt each other and forget where to stand, and now in the middle of his important first-act speech about his own futility—"Yes, brains without purpose; noise without sound; shape without substance—" one of his gesturing hands upset a glass of water that flooded the table. He tried to cover it with a giggle and a series of improvised lines—"You see? That's how useless I am. Here, let me help you wipe it up—" but the rest of the speech was ruined. The virus of calamity, dormant and threatening all these weeks, had erupted now and spread from the helplessly vomiting man until it infected everyone in the cast but April Wheeler.

"Wouldn't you like to be loved by me?" she was saying.

"Yes, Gabrielle," said the director, gleaming with sweat. "I should like to be loved by you."

"You think I'm attractive?"

Under the table the director's leg began to jiggle up and down on the spring of its flexed foot. "There are better words than that for what you are."

"Then why don't we at least make a start at it?"

She was working alone, and visibly weakening with every line. Before the end of the first act the audience could tell as well as the Players that she'd lost her grip, and soon they were all embarrassed for her. She had begun to alternate between false theatrical gestures and a white-knuckled immobility; she was carrying her shoulders high and square, and despite her heavy make-up you could see the warmth of humiliation rising in her face and neck.

Then came the bouncing entrance of Shep Campbell, the burly young red-haired engineer who played the gangster, Duke Mantee. The whole company had worried about Shep from the beginning, but he and his wife Milly, who had helped with the props and the publicity, were such enthusiastic and friendly people that nobody'd had the heart to suggest replacing him. The result of this indulgence now, and of Campbell's own nervous guilt about it, was that he forgot one of his key lines, said others in a voice so quick and faint that it couldn't be heard beyond the sixth row, and handled himself less like an outlaw than an obliging grocery clerk, bobbing head, rolled-up sleeves and all.

At intermission the audience straggled out to smoke and wander in uncomfortable groups around the high-school corridor, examining the high-school bulletin board and wiping damp palms down their slim-cut trousers and their graceful cotton skirts. None of them wanted to go back and go through with the second and final act, but they all did.

And so did the Players, whose one thought now, as plain as the sweat on their faces, was to put the whole sorry business behind them as fast as possible. It seemed to go on for hours, a cruel and protracted endurance test in which April Wheeler's performance was as bad as the others, if not worse. At the climax, where the stage directions call for the poignance of the death scene to be punctuated with shots from outside and bursts from duke's Tommy gun, Shep Campbell timed his bursts so sloppily, and the answering off-stage gunfire was so much too loud, that all the lovers' words were lost in a deafening smoky shambles. When the curtain fell at last it was an act of mercy.

The applause, not loud, was conscientiously long enough to permit two curtain calls, one that caught all the Players in motion as they walked to the wings, turned back and collided with one another, and another that revealed the three principals in a brief tableau of human desolation: the director blinking myopically, Shep Campbell looking appropriately fierce for the first time all evening, April Wheeler paralyzed in a formal smile.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"The Great Gatsby of my of the best books by a member of my generation." —Kurt Vonnegut

"Beautifully crafted...a remarkable and deeply troubling book." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Reading Group Guide

“A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic.”
—William Styron

The introduction, questions, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group's discussion of Richard Yates's acclaimed 1961 novel, Revolutionary Road.

1. What is the significance of the novel's title, Revolutionary Road? In what ways might it be read as an ironic commentary on mid-twentieth century American values?

2. Why does Yates begin the novel with the story of the play? In what ways does it set up some of the themes—disillusionment, self-deception, play-acting, etc.—that are developed throughout the novel?

3. Frank rails about the middle-class complacency of his neighbors in the Revolutionary Hill Estates. “It's as if everybody'd made this tacit agreement to live in a state of total self-deception. The hell with reality! Let's have a whole bunch of cute little winding roads and cute little houses painted white and pink and baby blue; let's all be good consumers and have a lot of Togetherness and bring our children up in a bath of sentimentality . . . and if old reality ever does pop out and say Boo we'll all get busy and pretend it never happened” [pp. 68-69]. Is Frank's critique of suburbia accurate? In what ways does Frank himself live in a state of self-deception? Why can he see so clearly the self-deception of others but not his own?

4. What ironies are involved in Frank going to work for the same firm his father worked for? What is Frank's attitude toward his job and the fact that he's walking in his father's footsteps?

5. Describing a Negro couple holding hands at the mental hospital where John Givings has been confined, the narrator writes that “it wasn't easy to identify the man as a patient until you noticed that his other hand was holding the chromium leg of the table in a yellow-knuckled grip of desperation, as if it were the rail of a heaving ship” [p. 296]. What do such precise and vivid physical descriptions—often highly metaphorical—add to the texture of the novel? Where else does Yates use such descriptions to reveal a character's emotional state?

6. Revolutionary Road frequently—and seamlessly—moves between past and present, as characters drift in and out of reveries. (April's childhood memory [pp. 321-326] is a good example). What narrative purpose do these reveries serve? How do they deepen the reader's understanding of the inner lives of the main characters?

7. What roles do Frank's affair with Maureen and April's sexual encounter with Shep play in the outcome of the novel? Are they equivalent? What different motivations draw Frank and April to commit adultery?

8. Twice Frank talks April out of an abortion, and both times he later regrets having done so, admitting that he didn't want the children any more than she did. What motivates him to argue so passionately against April aborting her pregnancies? What methods does he use to persuade her? Is John Givings right in suggesting that it's the only way he can prove his manhood?

9. What role does John Givings play in the novel? Why is he such an important character, even though he appears in only two scenes? How does he move the action along?

10. How do Frank and April feel about Shep and Milly Campbell? What do they reveal about themselves in their attitudes toward their closest friends?

11. Before she gives herself a miscarriage, April leaves a note telling Frank not to blame himself if anything should happen to her. But is he to blame for April's death? Why, and to what extent, might he be responsible?

12. The narrator writes, after April's death, that “The Revolutionary Hill Estates had not been designed to accommodate a tragedy” [p. 339]. In what ways is the novel tragic? What tragic flaws might be ascribed to both Frank and April? Why are the Revolutionary Hill Estates ill-suited to tragedy?

13. What is Yates suggesting by the fact that the only character in the novel who sees and speaks the truth has been confined to an insane asylum? Does John Givings's‚ outsider status give him the freedom to speak the truth, or has his natural tendency toward telling the truth, however unpleasant it might be, landed him in a mental hospital?

14. Near the end of the novel, the narrator says of Nancy Brace, as she listens to Milly's retelling of April's death: “She liked her stories neat, with points, and she clearly felt there were too many loose ends in this one” [p. 345]. What is the problem with wanting stories to be “neat”? In what ways does Revolutionary Road circumvent this kind of overly tidy or moralistic reading? Does the novel itself present too many “loose ends”?

15. The novel ends with Mrs. Givings chattering on to her husband about how “irresponsible” and “unwholesome” the Wheelers were. What is the significance, for the novel as a whole, of the final sentences: “But from there on Howard Givings heard only a welcome, thunderous sea of silence. He had turned off his hearing aid”? [p. 355]. What symbolic value might be assigned to the plant that Mrs. Givings mentions at the end of the novel?

16. Revolutionary Road was first published in 1961. In what ways does it reflect the social and psychological realities of that period? In what ways does it anticipate and illuminate our own time?

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Revolutionary Road 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 271 reviews.
Ivy26 More than 1 year ago
This book caught my eye this past summer when I was browsing through B&N. At 15, a book about broken marriage is not exactly my usual cup of tea, yet there was something about the story that intrigued me. Well, that, and the fact that Leo DiCaprio was in the film version. (: I definitely did not go into reading this novel with high hopes. Hell, I wasn't even expecting to get through the whole thing. But man, was I wrong! Since buying it in August, I've read it three times - and I never re-read books! Ever. That, my friends, is how totally awesome it is. What was so completely fantastic about Revolutionary Road was the characters. Everything about them was so real - so scarily real, even, that I kind of felt like I was reading a book about myself...(Note to eye-rolling adults: Yeah, I may only be 15, but I could still relate to April and Frank in a surprising number of ways. So ha.) Anywho. The two main characters, Frank and April, aren't exactly likable folks. In fact, they're both pretty messed up and kind of annoying at times. And yet you couldn't help but feel bad for them, sympathize with them, and even root for their happiness as the novel went on. I know alot of people hated April, but I actually preferred her to Frank. In addition to the amazing characters, the writing is absolutely exquisite. Yates did a fantastic job with writing a natural dialogue and describing emotions and surroundings without whipping out some annoyingly impressive vocabulary. By the end of the novel, not only was I crying my eyes out, (Yeah, so there's a piece of advice for ya: Have tissues on hand.) but I was also wishing I could write something that touching and, well, freaking amazing. After reading it, I sprinted my butt off down to the Blockbuster to rent the film. Sadly, it was not nearly as good as the book - as is often times the case. The performances were great, but there was just something missing that I couldn't quite put my finger on. However, if you're lazy and aren't a fan of reading, I suggest you watch the movie. It's pretty much spot on plotwise, though not as nearly emotionally devastating. Or, at least, that's my opinion. So yeah, I'm going to stop blabbering now, as most people have probably already skipped to the next review anyways...All and all, Revolutionary Road is now one of my favorite books and has earned its own permanent spot on my bookshelf. I highly reccommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a very moving story that reflects the attitudes of the 'fifties' realistically but one that transends time and can be meaningful to anyone in today's world. The plot is powerful in that it deals with the economical, social and emotional impacts of the era from the point of view of both women and men. Its a wonderful read and hopefully will be a great movie with Winslett and DeCaprio playing April and Frank.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many critics believe Richard Yates to be one of the most overlooked--but best--author of the 20th century, and it's easy to see why in this well-written and perceptive study of a couple of intellectually snobbish New Yorkers who, for reasons not entirely of their own choosing, are forced to move into 'tickey tackey' conformist suburbia. The husband commutes and the wife stays home and keeps house; this was 1955, years before anyone thought of feminism as anything other than the suffragist movement. Most of the story takes place through husband Frank's perspective, and at age 30 he is proof that a man can have a midlife crisis at any age. He unwillingly takes a job with a large, IBM-like company to support the family and discovers, much to his horror and fascination, that he actually likes this work. But things are not going well at home. His wife April resents the time he spends in Manhattan, and not without reason. Yates doesn't often leave Frank's point-of-view but when he does, as when relating a fight between Richard and April, he cross-cuts so dextrously as to lend a whole new insight to the term 'battle of the sexes.' I reallly liked this book. I would hazard a guess that it appeared to be more existentially bleak when it was published in the early Sixties than it does today, when it can be put under a microscope and examined sociologically, warts and all. But it's a good read no matter what stance you take and you will, I bet, sympathize with at least one of the characters in it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written in 1961, Mr. Yate's book is a piercingly clear, honest look at the lives of a couple in suburban Connecticut who are so caught up in their selfishness and self-aggrandizing lifestyle, that they fail to see their life crumbling around them. The writing is so honest at times that one wonders why all authors can't write this way. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only is this book well-written and eye-catching, it explores in depth the relationship between a husband and wife, their roles in society, and the devastating effect of unfulfilled wishes. It is one of the most overlooked books of the 20th century.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the book but not a happy feel good novel if that is what you are looking for
Liz Gerding More than 1 year ago
This is not a feel good book, so keep moving if that's what you are looking for. It is a very dark, unforgiving reflection on life and marriage that speaks very honestly to the way we live. Yates makes no heros out of anyone, all the characters are flawed and so real. And the movie is the best film adaptation I've seen; Dicapprio and Winslet could not have delivered a better performance.
ChristineC3 More than 1 year ago
Richard Yates originally published this book in 1961. It was his first book and was a book award winner, for good reason. Revolutionary Road is poignant and relatable. The characters are well developed and human. It touches the heart and left me examining those times in my life when the mundane sets in and the draw of escape and adventure tugs so hard it can rip your life into unexpected dimensions...not all of which are as you imagined, as in this book. This book clearly showcases the thoughts and emotions that drive our critical moments of decision as we consider a change in direction. A great read for those interested in human nature and for those who are contemplating change. It may provide you with the impetus to jump or with renewed appreciation to remain where you are.
LauraReviews More than 1 year ago
I read this book a year before the movie came out and absolutely loved it. Classic in its descriptions, timeless in its content, Revolutionary Road is a suburban legend. While observing the lives of Frank and April Wheeler, Yates captures the essence of realism and hopefulness characteristic of the post World War II American flight to suburbia. Probably many of the themes and character dynamics could be applied to today as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book because the movie was coming out. I finished it in one sitting. It was so gripping, and the characters are so real you begin to think that you're one of them. I was worried that the movie wasn't going to be as good because how could anyone put this piece of art into film and retain all of its wonder? The movie was dead on the book, as if I was reading it all over again. Highly recommended!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The characters are well developed, and the plot is interesting and makes you step back and look at your life. For those that say that it is about shallow people, I have to disagree. The characters in this book are dynamic, and have understandable values. Yes, Frank needs to get a hold on his temper, and April needs to learn to talk about her feelings and not make such rash decisions, but that certainly doesn't make them shallow. This book was definetely riveting and definetely moving. Yes, it is depressing, so if you're looking for a bright, sunny, happy book, then you probably shouldn't read this. And, contrary to what some people are saying, this book is not boring. It is definetely worth your time to read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not usually my genre and not exactly a page turner, but still very well written. If you're a girl who either married or considers ever getting married, don't read this. Otherwise, sure.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've always had a great interest in the culture of 1950's & 1960's society, so naturally I was drawn to this novel's setting. It was until my roommate told me that I had to read the novel before we could rent the film featuring Leo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet. I was a little hesitant to read the novel, thinking it was going to be a melodrama about all the unrest among the beginnings of American suburbia. However, this book was absolutely remarkable. Though the protagonists, Frank & April, were riddled with discontent within the simple-minded people and society of suburbia and 1950's NYC workplace - contrary to society's "Cult of Domesticity." Yates, the author, lays underneath the story on the surface a deeper meaning that many people were yearning for at this time. Many taboo issues, such as abortion and adultery, are addressed in this novel. Overall, I am very happy that I had read this novel - well worth the $7.99 :)
Shannon520 More than 1 year ago
While Revolutionary Road wasn't a book that changed my life or altered my perception on it, it was a good read and a good alternative to the common view that the 50s were ultra-idyllic, happy nuclear family times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty anti-climatic. I felt like I knew what was going to happen a couple of chapters in. I thought it was a very mono-tone book. I did not care for the writing style. I recommend skipping the book and going directly to the theatre to see the movie.
amydross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At times it can be hard to process so much misery and self-delusion, but the characterizations here are impeccable, and the prose in places is achingly lovely. Also functions as an advertisement for legal abortion!
sharlene_w on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am always curious to read novels that are made into movies, but I always resist the urge to see the movie first despite how much time goes by. This book has been on my "to read" list for years! The various personalities and interplay between the couples were interesting. The portrayal of life and marriage in the 50s was phenomenal. Overall, a rather depressing book, but well written.
pdebolt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The sadness of this beautifully written book will stay with me for a long time. Frank and April Wheeler live the "American Dream" in a Connecticut suburb in 1955, a period of apparent optimism and striving for upward mobility in the United States. Although part of the community, they continue to denigrate it, seeing themselves as somehow apart from the cliched materialism and posturing of their neighbors. Sadly, their aspirations to set themselves apart are not compatible with their capabilities. Eventually their arguments escalate to an unbearable pitch, and the reader sees them plunge toward an inevitable disaster. I greatly admire Richard Yates' craftsmanship in this absorbing and sobering novel.
AuntJha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I felt sorry for April and Frank, also disgusted with them. If you want to be unique then be unique. Don't make the same choices everyone else makes and expect that somehow you are going to be different. Within the confines of the 1950s their choices make more sense then they do today, and Mr. Yates is brilliant when describing their inner feelings which would have been revolutionary at the time. I can understand Franks disinterest in his job and his reluctance to approach tasks at work. I found it interesting that April and Frank manage to bring out the best in each other and also the worst, only after April cooks up the scheme to move to Europe is he able to achieve some success at work. Unfortunately for Frank, April is not impressed with moving up the ladder, she wants excitement and passion. This book was a quick, sad read, not at all enjoyable but more educational then an episode of Mad Men.
jwcooper3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The current movie trailer shows a lot of emotive angst and anger. The book is incredibly subtle when it comes to that; the characters empty lives are reflected in cardboard suburban lifestyles. As close as possible to a five star rating save for a slowness in the books center section, but a necessary one nonetheless preparing the reader for a gut-wrenching conclusion. Yates is one of those authors I hate; he makes prose look so easy. This is an exceptionally well-written book.
Woodcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't expect to enjoy this book. I was persuaded to try it by an English teacher friend/colleague. I'm so glad she did. I loved it. It made me laugh out load in places, something that rarely happens as I get older and more critical. One phrase "inadequately married" will continue to amuse me. How true, how very well observed. Wonderful!
rodrichards on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fiction in the grand old tragic style. People with dreams, self-aware and aware of the compromises they "must" make, real dialogue, straighforward narrative...I loved this book! You can see where Russell Banks, Richard Ford, Richard Price (and many others, I'm sure) may have all been inspired by Richard Yates. It was so refreshing to read a book that wasn't meant to showcase the author's cleverness, but rather to truly capture a piece of real life.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Revolutionary Road, originally published in 1961, tells the story of suburban couple Frank and April Wheeler. Frank, a moderately self-obsessed businessman, works for an office equipment company and spends his days finding infinite ways to shirk his responsibilities while flirting and schmoozing his way around the office. April, a stay at home mother, spends her time taking care of her children and home while lamenting her dream, the acting career that never got off the ground. Most of their leisure time is spent in the company of a select couple, denigrating the bourgeoisie aspects of their neighbors' lives and wallowing in the apathy and detachment that, in their minds, places them so far above the rest of their population and community. Aside from all this, Frank and April have a turbulent and quarrelsome marriage, each acting as both the tormentor and the tormented. As April and Frank become ever more disenchanted with their lives, April suggests a move to France, where the family can have a chance to begin again. And although Frank is ostensibly happy about the move, his true feelings are harder to gauge. The decision, once made, begins to catapult their lives into confusion and uncertainty. From the viewpoint of other sideline characters a portrait of this dysfunctional nuclear family begins to develop and coalesce, and the reality of the Wheeler's marriage is one of bleakness infused with mere shreds of hope. As the move to France looms closer, Frank and April's bitterness and disillusionment over their existence begins to grow, and an unexpected event threatens their plan and pushes their marriage to the breaking point. Frank and April's lives, both anguishing and relentless, evinces their struggle for advancement while delineating the creeping boredom and unfulfillment that they both come to share.This book, while beautifully rendered, was at times painful to read. What emerged for me was a fierce portrayal of emotional upheaval between two people, both striving for control over the other. The sentiments of utter nastiness between Frank and April were both devastating to read and depressing to contemplate. Don't get me wrong though, this was an exceptional book. The ability of the author to make me wince in discomfort was amazing, and the larger issues housed within this close story were ones that we all chew on from time to time. The themes of cynicism and disappointment were thoroughly explored alongside the self-delusion that only the fortunate can seem to exhibit. The atmosphere that Yates created was one of stifling ambiguity, a desperate struggle for an unobtainable balance between two deeply unhappy people. Despite Frank's priggishness and April's cutting attitude, it was obvious that both these people were in pain, and that their lives were not the places they thought they would one day inhabit. Franks unlikablility and selfishness made me really feel for April at times, and at times I wondered how this unlikely pair ever came to be. And April was no peach either, believe me. She had a way of making me go cold, what with her lack of empathy and predilection for despondence.Although I could not connect with these people, I certainly felt for them. In a way it was like watching a train wreck, awful and ferocious, yet I couldn't look away. This, I think, is the brilliance of Yates, whose spare yet weighty prose told the story of two unlikable protagonists in a totally believable and urgent way. I wanted more, yet at the same time, I wanted less. I felt like I was watching two people undress: they were naked and vulnerable, while still being tough and unyielding. The couple's utter lack of pragmatism, indeed their whole concept of reality and acceptability, was skewed and slanted, not to mention their huge issues of accountability. Franks moral contortions were especially frustrating. The interesting part of these human complexities was the couple's total animosity toward the typical suburban life, when in reality
joellalibrarything on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this novel. Sharp, tragic, and a wonderful glimpse into a marriage in the days when men were men and women emptied the ashtrays. And what a different story it would have been if it had been set post Roe vs Wade...
angievc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have bit of a fascination with anything that expsoses the American dream - liberal, middle class aspiration is a veneer for the many that live a life of quiet desperation - ' the film 'American Beauty' is another example - (and of course is symptomatic of many advanced industrialised countires)! This book exposes this in a way I have not encountered before - the duplicty of Frank and April's lives and their profound unhappiness is revealed in such a heartfelt way it is difficult not to have some empathy for them both, particularly April who tries so hard to escape the doldrums.The character of John Givings ironically potrayed as mentally unstable is (for me) the objective observer who in a unique way narrates their downfall. I don't like to refer to film as we are on a book website but the role in the film is superbly played by Michael Shannon!The novel has the right balance of character and plot, with supporting characters beautifully drawn.Broken dreams, betrayal, deceit and tragedy are uniquely and expertly bound up in this book. Highly recommended!