July 05, 2009

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates


Wow! This is pretty much the reaction I had after finishing Revolutionary Road – I am still thinking about it and the impact it has had – because if this book has anything it is definitely impact!
Is the book depressing – kind of – but in a hopeful way if that can make any sense? Reading about the lives of the characters April and Frank Wheeler I actually feel pretty hopeful for my own life – things certainly aren’t as bad as they got for them!
This book is extremely powerful – the language, the scenes, the relationships and the choices the characters make, even the moments of silence and contemplation all hold you – you aren’t going anywhere once you have started this book.
Frank and April Wheeler have been married for 6 years after meeting at a party in New York shortly after the end of WW2. They are now living in the suburbs with 2 young children – Frank commuting into the city everyday to attend an office job he couldn’t really care less about (and only took in the first place because April fell pregnant) and April stays at the home and cares for the children, having dinner on the table and a martini in hand when Frank returns home at the end of the day.
The Wheeler’s despise the conformity that they see surrounding them in 1950’s America and they dream of a life in Europe where they can be free to explore “who it is they really are”. Or, at least April is dreaming of this for Frank – she feels that they have become trapped in an existence that neither one of them has asked for but she seems overly concerned with the impact this life is having on Frank – her extraordinary husband. It is only towards the end of the book that April begins to realise the impact their way of life is having on her – and it is then that choices have to be made.
Themes of identity, choices, conformity and isolation are all explored in Revolutionary Road – how do we know we are living our lives the way they were meant to be lived? Is this all there is? Should all of our expectations and dreams be met?
For me the book highlighted some of the dangers of indulging in too much introspection – I felt some of the challenges faced by the characters in this book were because they over thought things! Now I am normally quite a thinking and reflective person but I think at some stage you just have to go with the flow! Does that mean blind acceptance and taking what life hands out – maybe a little?
As you can tell – this book (despite what I have said just above) has me thinking – one thing I am definitely sure of is that Yates is an amazing and incredible writer and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of his work.

17 comments:

claire said...

My, that was fast! Lol. What's next?? Glad you loved it.

Paperback Reader said...

I haven't read the book yet but I saw the film and found its overall pessimism to be uplifting as it reinforces that we should follow our dreams and fulfill ourselves by doing what we ultimately want.

Karen said...

Hi Claire - I know! I have been sick this weekend so have not felt up to doing anything more than lying around and reading. I feel a reading restlessness coming on though - not sure what to follow this up with. Any suggestions?

Hi Paperback Reader - that's exactly how I felt about the book. I might give myself a bit of a break before seeing the movie though!

savidgereads said...

I almost got the DVD of this and then thought 'no I must read the book instead first' so once I have in the not too distant future I will watch it on the screen too.

farmlanebooks said...

I have a copy of this but thought it looked a bit dull. I think I'll give it a try now I've read your review though. Thanks!

jspeyton said...

I hadn't intended to read this book, but you're review has really intrigued me! Have you seen the movie? If so, how do you think it compares?

www.whosabiblioaddict.com

Danielle said...

I really must dig out my copy now I have read your post! Somehow it seems like a book I could relate to about now!

Steph said...

I have this book (though not the pretty copy you have) but haven't read it yet. I'm really looking forward to it (although I'm not really into depressing reads at the moment, so I'm holding off), since I've only heard marvelous things about it. So glad you loved it! Your review was so lovely and makes me all the more excited to get to it one of these days.

Nadia said...

Sounds like such an interesting read. Great post! Must definitely put Revolutionary Road on my Books to Buy list. Cheers!

Iliana said...

Wonderful review. I love it when a book makes you say "wow" :)

I keep thinking I need to read the book before I watch the movie but we'll see what happens. I don't know if I can hold out. haha.

Trish said...

I'm not sure what to think about this one. Everything that you describe about the book is definitely what grabs me when reading, but the movie previews I think ruined it for me. I saw too many of them and they were just soooooo depressing. And yikes--too much introspection? I'm definitely guilty of that!

Jo said...

Timely review! I only bought this yesterday but thanks to this review I think it will find a place near the top of the pile.

vvb32 reads said...

I was going to watch the movie first. But now I want to read it first. Love the cover!

Lisa said...

I have read so much about this book, but I wasn't sure I wanted to read it. Your review has changed my mind. I love books that make you think about the choices we make in life. Thanks for a great review. I'm adding this to my tbr list.

JoAnn said...

What an excellent review! I found this book incredibly absorbing when I listened to it earlier this year....and agree that too much introspection can be dangerous.

Karen said...

Hi Savidgereads - I would definitely read the book first - not that I have seen the movie yet to compare the two but I would imagine the book would be able to cover so much more.

Hi farmlanebooks - I guess in some ways the book could be seen as "boring" in terms of setting - but is going on within the characters is the really interesting thing. I say give it a go!

Hi jspeyton - I haven't seen the movie but I do intend to watch it. I'm just going to give myself a little bit of time between book and movie to recover I think!

Hi Danielle - I think it's a book that many people could relate to at many different times in their lives. It seems pretty timeless in that respect.

Hi Steph - I have to confess that my copy of the book is actually the one with Kate and Leo from the movie on the cover. I would have much preferred this gorgeous vintage cover but I couldn't find it anywhere in shops!

Hi Nadia - this is definitely an interesting and thought provoking read.

Hi Iliana - I love books that make me go Wow too!! The only problem is what to read after them...

Hi Trish - I know what you mean. In some ways I am greatful for the movie because before it (I am ashamed to say) I had never even heard of the book - but it does influence your reading knowing it exists.

Hi Jo - looking forward to hearing what you think!

Hi vvb32reads - It's a tough choice! I would always read a book first if I could but I know some people who prefer the other way around.

Hi Lisa - I hope you enjoy it when you get to it.

Hi JoAnn - yes - I have been trying to cut back on my own introspection!

mattviews said...

I underestimate the pwer of his contemplative language when I was reading it. The slow action, sort of like a camera panning across the scene, culminates in a very shocking resolution. I didn't see that coming and was in awe of the drastic turn of events.