March 18, 2009
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
1961 Vintage Contempories
Finished on 3/10/09
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
In the hopeful 1950s, Frank and April Wheeler appear to be a model couple: bright, beautiful, talented, with two young children and a starter home in the suburbs. Perhaps they married too young and started a family too early. Maybe Frank's job is dull. And April never saw herself as a housewife. Yet they have always lived on the assumption that greatness is only just around the corner. But now that certainty is about to crumble.
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.
"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.
Had this not been a book group selection, I would have quit after the first 50 pages. I found the dialogue corny and dated (a bit reminiscent of Death of a Salesman, but without the tragic impact of that classic play) and didn't care for the straightforward, matter-of-fact narrative. I didn't feel an ounce of sympathy for April or Frank, or for any of the other characters, for that matter. They were nothing but a bunch of self-absorbed whiners; who could give a damn about people like that?
After the opening chapters, I quickly realized that the book would be one in which I'd have to rely on reading a fixed number of pages in order to finish before my book club meeting. And yet, in spite of the depressing plot, I have to admit I was curious to see how Yates would end this tragic tale, and was able to knock off three to four chapters in a single sitting. But I still didn't like it. And I can't begin to imagine how dreadful the movie might be. I certainly have no desire to watch it, now that I've read the book.
I'm looking forward to hearing my fellow book club members' reactions to this novel. Judging by the Amazon rating, it's apt to be split right down the middle between those who loved it and those who loathed it (if they even bothered to finish!). Should make for an interesting discussion.
No recommendation from me.