March 18, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
1961 Vintage Contempories
Finished on 3/10/09
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Product Description

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.


  1. I finished the audio version last week and, while I thought it was VERY dated, I enjoyed it a great deal. It's always difficult for me to comment on a audiobook. The reader can make or break the experience (this one was very well done), and it's hard to say what my reaction to reading the text would have been. None of these characters were likeable, but I still plan to see the movie.

    A post about your book club meeting would be great...I'll take their opinions into consideration before recommending it to my own group!

  2. Geez, I have this book on my bookshelf....I'll still read it sometime but I won't bother to rush through something else just to get to it. Even though you didn't like it I have to tell you that I enjoyed your review. I want to hear what people honestly think about a book they read and I applaud you!! I do the same thing...I really only review in the sense that I like to let others know what I thought about the book or how it made me feel.

    I'll still watch the movie only because I really like Kate Winslet!!

  3. I think I can skip this one without qualms. I really like to be able to at least sympathize with one or more characters.

  4. Anonymous3:55 PM

    This is one book (and movie) that I really have no interest in reading.

  5. It's always good to read a review that doesn't send me scrambling for my TBR list to chalk up another one. Thanks for the warning.

  6. Wow! I can't wait to talk about this one in book club. I acutally LOVED it. I totally agree that both main characters were totally unsympathetic . . . but oddly (and disconcertingly) relatable. That's why I thought it was so interesting. Ooh, this will be a good discussion!

  7. JoAnn - I'm glad to hear that the audio is so well done. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more, had I listened rather than read the book.

    I'll keep you posted on the book club discussion.

    Staci - You never know, you may love this one. I know there are a few people who enjoyed it a lot more than I did!

    Jenclair - I'm the same way. I honestly don't think you're missing much if you skip this one.

    Stephanie - I probably wouldn't have considered reading it had it not been a group read.

    Framed - You're welcome! :)

    Mary Kate - Now, how did I know you were going to wind up loving this book??!! I can't wait for our discussion! I'm eager to hear why you loved it. Maybe you can write a guest post here... ;)

  8. this is the second review I've read of the book where it wasn't well liked. I'm trying desperately to remember whose blog I saw the other review on! gah! I hate middle-age memory fog....anyway, I really enjoyed your review, and this has made me realize I might give this book a try one day out of curiosity, but I'm in no hurry to get it. It doesn't sound pleasant (not that stories have to be pleasant) but the other reviewer was disappointed that the reader only gets into April's head at the end, and so there is no real understanding about what makes her do what she does.
    Thank you!

  9. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Les, I am always so grateful for your blog. I trust your taste in books and now think I will remove "Revolutionary Road" from my wishlist and see if I can pick it up cheap at a rummage sale book sale...maybe even our library sale may have it this year.

    Beautiful job on the review.

  10. i just bought this in paperback, along iwth In The Woods (thanks to you!), and I'm sad to hear you don't like it. I'll get back to you when I finish it, begin it ;), but I have to read In The Woods first, which my book club accepted as my nomination for April's choice.

  11. I really haven't felt any desire to either read this book, or see the movie. Maybe you can do a follow-up post after the book club. It would be interesting to hear what other people thought of it.

  12. Susan - You might actually wind up enjoying it. I agree, it's not a pleasant story, but it's quite thought-provoking. I'm still thinking about it! And, I'm really looking forward to my book group discussion tonight.

    Anonymous - If you can't find it cheap at a rummage sale, I'm sure you can get a copy at the library. I don't think it'll be in high demand once the movie's been out for a while.

    Bellezza - Well, you know, we don't always like the same books, so this might be something you enjoy. I am glad you're enjoying In the Woods, though!! Your book group will have a good time discussing that one!

    Nat - I plan to write a little follow-up after our book group discussion. I hope a lot of the members finished the book!

  13. Oh, that sure doesn't sound good LOL And I have to read it for two separate discussions...

  14. Kathrin - Oh, but it's a great book to discuss! Especially if you have at least one or two members who really liked it. Have fun!

  15. It is at our little town theatre tonight, and I'll spend today deciding whether or not to go. :<) Tom is the volunteer projectionist on Wednesdays for the 5:30 two-for-one show. I'm leaning toward going after reading Roger Ebert's review.

    Interesting that you found it 'dated.' I'm not quite sure what this means, because aren't all books written in the past, dated? I was amazed to see it was written in 1961. To me, that would give an authenticity which wouldn't be achieved in a book written in 2001 about the fifties. Tom grew up in those days, in that place so it will be interesting to see how he views it. The marriages were just as Ebert described - the men would go off to NYC for their jobs and the women were home with the kids. Evenings were cocktail parties. The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit depicts the period utterly perfectly. Have you seen that movie? John Cheever is the master of describing the suburban life of those days. I think small town life during that time was much different. Our fathers worked in town and either walked or drove a short distance to work. Mothers were home but they weren't like the suburban mothers I have read about. Anyhow, this long winded note will end with my thought that I probably will go tonight. :<) I'll let you know. Maybe I'll even write about it.

  16. Nan - Good point! Any book written in the past is obviously dated. Since I didn't care for the book, I guess what I was saying was that the dialogue sounded dated, but the truth is that I simply didn't like the slang. Not sure if I'm making sense.

    As you know, I read your marvelous review and am now anxious to see the movie. I hope the book arrives quickly and that you enjoy it as well as the movie!


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