Revolutionary Road

Richard Yates

 
Revolutionary Road
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Revolutionary Road

Richard Yates

Hailed as a masterpiece from the moment of its first publication, Revolutionary Road is the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a bright, beautiful, and talented couple whose empty suburban life is held together by the dream that greatness is only just round the corner. With heartbreaking compassion and clarity, Richard Yates shows how Frank and April mortgage their hopes and ideals, betraying in the end not only each other, but their own best selves.

Review

American novelist and short-story writer Richard Yates passed away in 1992 (aged 66) all but forgotten, with most of his works languishing out-of-print. He has retained a small but utterly devoted following, which has slowly expanded through the sterling efforts of high profile admirers like David Sedaris, Richard Ford and Nick Hornby.

His ‘neglected’ status looks set to change this summer, with a Hollywood film adaptation by Sam Mendes (of American Beauty fame) of Yates’s debut novel, Revolutionary Road. It’s the story of a young couple trying to live out the dream so many of us have – a good job, a nice house, prospects … you detect my irony, of course.

The nightmare that suburbia can become is now a familiar fictional trope. But remember, this was written towards the end of the 1950s, when this way of life was rarely questioned. April and Frank Wheeler both dream of escape from their humdrum lives – in particular, to follow their perceived artistic callings, symbolised by their refrain ‘why don’t we move to Paris?’ – but their quest for fulfilment becomes all the more elusive as their relationship continues to degenerate (over who has thwarted whom).

It is a very poignant book, but also a mordantly funny one, acutely observed – and, as in Fitzgerald (whom Yates revered), utter stylistic mastery is on display in the choice of every word and phrase. No doubt a fine film as well; don’t miss this sensational book!

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