deLille's Reviews > Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
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Jan 17, 2009

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Read in January, 2009

Reading this book reminded me of a book I read my freshman year of high school, John Updike's "Rabbit, Run", which I gave one star to. I have to admit that I barely remember the Rabbit, Run plot given that it's been decades since I read it, but "Revolutionary Road" vividly brought back the feeling that book left me with: one of disgust that people can actually be so self-absorbed that they deliberately wreck what most people would think is a pretty good deal. I had just finished reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” when I picked up “Revolutionary Road”, and part of me wanted to say that Frank and April are the most ridiculous, whining spoiled brats I’ve encountered in fiction in a long time.

Don’t like living in the stifling, safe enclave of suburbia? Fine – I know some people in Afghanistan (or how about the Gaza strip) who would be happy as hell to trade places with you.

Don’t get me wrong, the suburban existence IS suffocating, but people who are affluent enough to live in a nice suburban neighborhood are also affluent enough to do something about it if that’s not their preference. There are so many people in this world who do not have the financial resources to do anything about their condition that I have no patience with people who DO have those resources, and yet would rather whine and moan -- and sabotage their families and marriages -- than do something constructive about it.

Now, why did I give this book at least three stars? Well, it is a very well-written book. I was truly amazed at Yates ability to capture the nuisances of the 1950’s landscape and the cultural peculiarities that existed then. "Revolutionary Road" is an historical novel in that it does a tremendous job at portraying the way things really were back in a time that most of us (born afterwards) were led to believe was a golden period of existence. Post-war peace and prosperity – what could be better? Well, all that glitters is not gold, and Revolutionary Road is quite powerful in conveying that feeling of entrapment many people may have felt during the 1950s. People were supposed to appreciate all the wonderful things that they had… instead of the Great Depression and “The War”, they now had split-level homes in the suburbs, cocktails for lunch, and job security for life. But what if you were one of those who didn’t appreciate it? What if you wanted a little drama in your life? Well, people considered you slightly nuts, and ungrateful.

Revolutionary Road is also masterful at illuminating certain personality traits that exist in many people, such as the way people tend to relish telling a story about a horrific event while feigning grand levels of sympathy. This book crystallizes the subtle impressions that we get from people but never raise to the forefront of our consciousness. Clearly, Yates was a deep observer of human behavior (and was probably one of those people who psychoanalyzed everyone to death).

Ultimately, Revolutionary Road left me with very mixed feelings. I loved the book, but hated the characters. It was hard for Frank and April to not trigger feelings I have towards certain modern day Franks and Aprils that I know… people who have an inflated sense of their own self-importance, and think that the most important thing in life is to pursue their own happiness regardless of what their pursuit of happiness does to their kids and spouse.
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message 1: by Joel (new)

Joel You make great points about Frank and April's selfishness. Our society seems to overly congratulate those who pursue their "dreams," despite the cost to other people.

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