Review: Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road
By Richard Yates
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307454621, November 2008, 368pp.)

“I’m only interested in stories that are about the crushing of the human heart.”
― Richard Yates

The Short of It:

An intimate glimpse of a marriage in ruin.

The Rest of It:

Sounds appealing, doesn’t? I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book.  I ate it up and although far from being a happy tale, it was satisfying in ways that I may have trouble describing here.

Although it was originally published in 1961, this story has timeless elements that appealed to me. Frank and April Wheeler are young and in love. Caught-up with one another and their mutual quest to live the American dream, they marry and buy a house on Revolutionary Road. Not just any house. A perfect house in the middle of suburban splendor. The story alternates between the present and the past and it becomes apparent to the reader very early on, that the marriage is falling apart. As Yates takes us through their years together, we begin to see the decline that they see, but choose to ignore until it’s too late.

The writing blew me away. It was poetic without going over your head and Yates somehow manages to deliver characters that you can’t stand, yet can ultimately relate to. I did not like these people. They were selfish and blind to what was in front of them, and they were miserable  and suffering (often from their own doing) yet… there was something about them that I loved. It was if I knew these people personally.

Every time I opened the book, I was like a voyeur, pushing the curtains aside to get a peek at this disastrous couple. It felt wrong, but it also felt so right.  It was tragic and honest and unflinchingly real. I absolutely loved it.

I know there is a movie tie-in, as evidenced by the cover photo, but I haven’t seen the movie yet. Have you?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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40 Responses

  1. Wow. This is the second positive review I’ve seen of this book. I saw the movie and hated it. I think maybe I should have read the book.

    • Frank and April are too complex to be portrayed on screen. At least, that’s my opinion. In the book, you really feel as if are ARE them which is what made it so good.

  2. What a fantastic review. You really convinced me! I have never seen the movie, and this appears to be a good position to be in. I’ll definitely make a note of this one.

  3. I saw the movie too and didn’t really like it. My husband hated it. But I think maybe a lot goes on in their heads and that is hard to translate to the screen. I think I might have to read the book. I’m sure it will make better sense if I read it.

    • So much of it goes on in their heads. I seriously don’t see how they would translate it to film, but I still plan to check it out.

  4. I haven’t read Revolutionary Road but I have read a couple of Yate’s novels, they’re good although most of them follow similar themes.

    You’re totally right, his work is “unflinchingly real” and tragic but it never becomes maudlin and Yate’s does offer a little glimpse of hope.

    http://damnedconjuror.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/review-the-easter-parade/

    http://damnedconjuror.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/review-young-hearts-crying/

  5. Hmm sounds good. You did a great job reviewing it!

  6. I read this one a few years ago, and felt much the same as you did about it. It was an incredibly written and sometimes painful reflection upon a marriage gone bad, and it made me want to read everything Yates has ever written. This was a wonderful review, Ti, and I am so glad that you loved this book. I saw the movie as well, and while it was really well done, it wasn’t as good as the book.

    • I had no idea Yates had written so many books. I am a book lover, reader, and blogger and it took me this long to read him! I’ve added his other titles to my Goodreads list.

  7. Tragic, honest and real sound too raw and painful to me!

  8. As usual, the book is better but the movie is definitely worth watching!

    • I definitely want to see the movie. I like both of the actors and am interested to see how it comes across since so much of the book is what they are thinking at the time.

  9. I haven’t seen the movie, but the book sounds really good.

  10. It was written in 61?! That’s a surprise, because I saw the movie, really loved it and the story felt so contemporary that without thinking I assumed it was a modern novel set in the 60s. Interesting!

  11. I discovered Yates last year after reading The Easter Parade, which I loved. There is such a real and earnest quality to his writing that made it hard for me to put it down. I’m hoping to read all of his novels so maybe this one would be a good one to read next.

    • Yates has written so many books. I had no idea how many until I added them all to my Goodreads list. I plan to read most of them. A few didn’t appeal to me and are probably out of print anyway.

  12. I thought I would love this movie as I think Kate and Leo are wonderful together…but I did not enjoy it at all! I probably should have read the book first, because I just can’t seem to read a book after I’ve seen the movie.

    • I can’t imagine it being a movie anyone would enjoy…maybe appreciate but enjoy would be stretching it. I like Leo and Kate too. I’ll let you know what I think after I’ve seen it.

  13. I haven’t seen the movie, but I heard it was good. I’d like to read the book as well, even though it’s rather sad.

  14. I also read the book a couple of years ago and loved it. Your review really hit the nail on the head.

  15. I have seen the movie. I haven’t read the book. The dialogue between the couple was intense when they realized things had become broken.

  16. Loved the book; loved the movie! You need to read more Yates Ti, I know you will loved his books. The Easter Parade and Disturbing the Peace were very good. They are pretty short in length as well.

    • I added all of them to my Goodreads list and noticed while there, that you have read pretty much all of them!

  17. I have not seen the movie but I had a feeling the book would be this way…

  18. I also thought this book was terrific. His writing blew me away. The movie failed to capture all those layers that his writing added, so instead of identifying with the characters, it’s just depressing.

  19. I think the only lucid character in the book is John Givings, the mental patient. Just like you, I found Yates’ writing poetic, but very intense. It’s my first Yates books. There are role changes in the movie such that there’s a subtle reversal of responsibility and ‘blame’. Just in case you’re interested, here’s my review of Revolutionary Road: Book and Movie.

  20. I haven’t seen the movie, but loved the book. Have become a big fan of Richard Yates’s short stories and novels (you MUST read The Easter Parade), but they are brutally honest and real. It’s sad to know how much of his fiction is autobiographical. Blake Bailey wrote an excellent biography called A Tragic Honesty: The Life and Work of Richard Yates. It is the best literary bio I have ever read! Wish I could direct you to my reviews, but all my Yates-related reading took place during my blogging drought last spring.

  21. I own this book but have been avoiding it. Wanted to read before seeing the movie and now wonder if I ever want to read/see. I’ve skipped your review. :) I just might read it, who knows?!

    FYI, our Model Home book club discussion was interesting. A few of us actually appreciated it. :)

  22. I thought you would like this book and I’m so glad you did. Yates writing is beautiful, poetc as you said and simple which I love. His characters are great, too.
    Your description of being a ‘voyeur’ is great, totally on point!

    I read (and reviewed) The Easter Parade a few months ago and it, too, has terrific flawed and dysfunctional characters who aren’t happy with life but try to convince themselves they are.

  23. I’m in the middle of reading this RIGHT NOW!! It is making me want to see the movie … I can’t quite imagine Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank. But even at this point, I can tell they are headed to disaster!

  24. I couldn’t figure out who I liked less in this book, Frank or April! Such a depressing story but really it is so wonderfully written!

    • I sort of felt the same way. I felt that Frank was the more agreeable one. The one who was willing to overlook stuff for the sake of the family, but really…is that helpful? To overlook stuff to keep the peace? Not really. I could not stand April, yet I could see why she was the way she was.

  25. I absolutely love this book Ti. I read it last year and fell in love with it. I then watch the film and it was just as good… it was so sad. But it’s true they can’t possibly get all the dialogues in their heads on the movie. So read the book, it’s a must. Watch the movie, to solidify the stories.. but the movie made Frank in a better light. In the book, he was a jerk.

    • I could see Frank being portrayed slightly better in the movie. Even in the book, depending on how you read it, he didn’t seem nearly as horrid as April. She seemed more like a creature to me… backed into a corner, gnashing her teeth, etc. I can’t wait to see the movie.

  26. [...] Eugenides 5. The Technologists by Matthew Pearl 6. Then Again (audio) by Diane Keaton 7. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates 8. Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan 9. The Quickening Maze by Adam [...]

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