Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is an easy book to read, but a difficult book to review. With effortlessly beautiful writing and incredibly vividRevolutionary Road by Richard Yates is an easy book to read, but a difficult book to review. With effortlessly beautiful writing and incredibly vivid characters, this book sucks you into the world of 1960s suburbia with all of its subtleties and quiet dramas. It is, in fact, the skill with which Yates develops his characters that makes this book so difficult to review and to completely enjoy.
Honestly, that GoodReads summary doesn't do the book justice at all. Revolutionary Road is the picture of perfect character-building. From the very first chapter, the use of dialogue and short, clear passages of description give the reader an incredibly strong sense of who Frank and April Wheeler really are. Right away, I felt like I knew these characters, like I had met them a thousand times before. While this is itself a rare accomplishment, Yates takes this book to the next level by subverting the reader's first perceptions of the characters. By slowly adding chapters from the perspective of characters other than Frank, Yates gives the reader a different angle on Frank's character, his marriage to April, and his relationship with his neighbors and friends. Slowly, the reader discovers more depth to both April and Frank's already round characters, and not everything that is discovered is flattering.
It is this evolution of the reader's perception of the characters that makes this book so difficult to review or even completely enjoy. The truth is that there is one character who I absolutely hated more than I have hated any other character in any book, and possibly more than I've hated anyone in real life. I spent the whole book torn between wanting to know what happened next and wanting to throw the book across the room out of sheer anger and frustration with that character. In short, I wanted him to die in a fire. While I'll admit that it takes incredible skill to make a character so believably unlikable, and while I understand that the absolute horribleness of that character was crucial to the theme and plot, it also makes the book difficult to enjoy, or at least it did for me. I'm usually ok with unlikable characters, but this one hurt and frightened me on a deep emotional level, possibly because he was so real. Maybe I'm particularly sensitive to portrayals of spousal abuse and manipulation, but there were times when I considered just not finishing it, even though the writing was incredible. If it hadn't been required reading for a class, I might not have. That has never happened to me before, and I honestly don't know what to make of it.
To be honest with you, I still don't know how I feel about this book. The writing was beautiful, easy to read, and incredibly enjoyable. The characterization was among the best I've ever seen. But, despite those two amazing qualities, that one character and all the horrible things he did to another character made reading this book difficult. Because of that difficulty, I cannot recommend this book to wholeheartedly. While I think that a lot of people would greatly enjoy it, there are people I know who would find this book too disturbing and emotionally intense, and because of that I cannot recommend it to everyone. If you don't mind reading a book that has abuse, manipulation, and a seriously messed up character in it, then I would recommend this book as one of the best examples of writing and characterization I have ever read. If you think reading about those things would bother you, then you should definitely skip Revolutionary Road.
Rating: ? Trigger warning for domestic abuse and emotional manipulation....more
The tale immigrant workers in Canada, laced with a strange mix of real events and magical realism, this book has an almost hallucinatory quality at tiThe tale immigrant workers in Canada, laced with a strange mix of real events and magical realism, this book has an almost hallucinatory quality at times. Told mostly from the point of view of a distant main character, with bits and pieces from other characters whose relationships are gradually revealed, this book sometimes bypasses emotional impact for clarity of theme, poetic language, and metafictional elements. The language is at times painfully beautiful, but it is also very self-conscious and obvious, in a way that sometimes bothered me. If you like lyrical and poetic novels, then this might just be the book for you. If self-conscious and occasionally purple prose is a pet peeve of yours, I suggest you stay away from this one....more
On the surface, Mrs. Bridge doesn't sound like the kind of book you'd want to pick up. The story of a typical 1950s housewife, it seems from the blurbOn the surface, Mrs. Bridge doesn't sound like the kind of book you'd want to pick up. The story of a typical 1950s housewife, it seems from the blurb on the back to be way too boring to even merit consideration. I am glad, then, that I was made to read this book for a class. With its interesting structure and realistic characters, Mrs. Bridge is an incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable piece of literature.
Mrs. Bridge tells the story of Mrs. India Bridge, from the time she gets married until the end of her life. Set in suburban America around the 1950s, her life as a housewife is understandably not terribly eventful. Still, there is something compelling about her, something real and honest about her character that made me want to keep reading. The reality of the novel made me wish that she would improve, do more in life, be a better person. I celebrated her small triumphs, and was disappointed at her inevitable failures. Even though she was silly and superficial at times, even occasionally racist and sexist in a way that only middle-class white women in the 1950s could be, I still cared for her. This isn't something I say about many novels, but I swear I know Mrs. Bridge.
The novel itself has a very interesting structure. Instead of going straight through every event in her life, the novel is made up of about 130 short chapters, each averaging a few pages in length. Each chapter is an episode, a single event or occurrence in Mrs. Bridge's life. The episodes move in chronological order, so despite the strange structure the book is not at all confusing, and is actually a very quick and easy read. All these little episodes come together to form a sort of pointillist painting of Mrs. Bridge's life and of the suburban middle-class that she is a part of. Ranging from the silly to the sad, these little pictures show her attempts at growth and understanding in a world whose conveniences have made her life so easy as to be useless. Though very often silly and shallow, Mrs. Bridge is a tragic character.
Though I wasn't expecting to at first, I really loved Mrs. Bridge. I loved the crazy short chapters that I read like I eat potato chips, promising "just one more, and then I'm done." I loved the language, which was simple and readable without being dumbed-down or simplistic. The mix of mocking irony and gentle affection made the tone of this novel seem honest, and closely matched my own feelings toward the characters. Some of the chapters cut right to my heart, hitting home in a way that I never really expected a story about an aging housewife would. Though I never would have picked it up on my own, I can honestly say that I am glad I read Mrs. Bridge.
I read this book for my Contemporary Novel class, and I really enjoyed it. It is a quiet novel, telling the story of an English professor, detailing hI read this book for my Contemporary Novel class, and I really enjoyed it. It is a quiet novel, telling the story of an English professor, detailing his work, his marriage, and his hidden inner life. While it could be argued that not much happens in the book, it still stays interesting and readable throughout. This is a book driven by character, and shows that even someone who seems uninteresting and passive on the surface can have a vivid and complex inner life and a story to tell. This book made me care about and identify with the characters in a strong and visceral way that both surprised and pleased me. While it certainly has its flaws, and while it might not be the most memorable book I've ever read, I would still recommend Stoner to anyone with a love of reading....more
Tinkers is a book that I went into without any expectations. I read it for my Contemporary Novel class, as the last book of the semester. If that clasTinkers is a book that I went into without any expectations. I read it for my Contemporary Novel class, as the last book of the semester. If that class has taught me anything, it's that my expectations for books based on the cover or the blurb on the back tend to be pretty far off. If you saw this book on the shelf, you might be tempted to pass it by. It's small, a short little paperback that looks like it might take only a few hours to read and forget. If you decided to grab it, you'd find that despite it's little size, this book is filled with worlds of imagery and language. It is a book that stretches time. Though it's dense and takes a little longer to read than you would expect based on its length, while you're reading it you feel almost as if time has stopped, as if you have been reading this book for an indeterminable period that could be minutes or days. This book is, to put it simply, something else.
An old man lies dying. Confined to bed in his living room... he is now finally released from the usual constraints of time and memory to rejoin his father, an epileptic, itinerant peddler, whom he had lost 7 decades before. In his return to the wonder and pain of his impoverished childhood in the backwoods of Maine, he recovers a natural world that is at once indifferent to man and inseparable from him, menacing and awe inspiring. Tinkers is about the legacy of consciousness and the porousness of identity from one generation the next. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, it is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature. (Goodreads)
Tinkers can be a little disorienting. Told at least partially (and perhaps totally) from the perspective of George, a man hallucinating on his death bed, it jumps back and forth in time and space without much warning or explanation. Through these jumps the reader learns of George's childhood, of his father's life and childhood, and the ways in which they are different and the same. Always enclosed in a Maine landscape that is described with ecstatic hallucinatory clarity and brilliance, the lives of fathers and sons, of families and generations, unfolds in a strange non-linear and sometimes circular narrative. The prose is lyrical. I hate the overuse of that word, but there really is no other way to describe the rhythm and sound of this writing. The descriptions are poetic in their beauty, and the meditations on time are at once direct, in that they are clearly talked about in the text, and subtle, in the way those meditations are mirrored and confirmed in the structure of the novel itself. The quality of the writing and the high level of craft are self-evident. No matter how enjoyable you find the book, it is impossible to walk away from it not thinking that Paul Harding is a gifted writer.
You all know that I have a history of being disappointed by prize-winners (see: Wolf Hall, A Visit from the Goon Squad, The Road, etc) but I honestly think that Tinkers deserved to win the Pulitzer. I am still shocked that this was Harding's first novel. It's a beautiful book. It's not always the most enjoyable read, in fact at times it's downright frustrating, but it is definitely an experience worth having.
Rating: 4 stars Recommendations: It's confusing and jumps around a lot, but just stick with it. It's ok if you get the characters confused or don't know where you are. That's part of the point. Just enjoy the prose, and it will all make sense eventually....more