Tuesday, Feb 3, 2009
Author: Richard Yates
Publisher: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.
ISBN #: 978-0-375-70844
Type: Fiction – Drama
Revolutionary Road is a story that brings forth the broken lives and deserted dreams of a “regular couple” living in the suburbs of America in mid-1950. April and Frank Wheeler have a marriage that is based on, what, exactly? Fear? Obligation? Duty? Or, was it love? Did they love one another in the way that a married couple should? I’m not sure.
This is the story of a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler, who move to “Suburbia” to live out the dream of the house, the kids, the yard, the neighbors. Frank commutes to the city via the train every day to work for a company that his father once worked for. He views the job as something much less than he ever wanted and has absolutely no passion for. Yet, like most parents whose choices are limited, he goes to work to collect that paycheck. April is a mother of two and a house maker, as were most in her day. April lands herself the lead in a local community theatre production of The Petrified Forest. Despite her good performance, the amateurish nature of the production (i.e. forgetting lines, sounds offstage, director stepping in for lead actor, etc.) left quite a bit to be desired. Frustrated and upset, April takes this “failure” too much to heart. As Frank takes her home, April displays the first of her emotional breakdowns that separate her from him. Frank does try hard to build the bridge back to her heart and April shuts him out.
The reader is introduced to their neighbors, who are their friends. Through get-togethers with one another, the reader is led further into the minds of Frank and April. It is after one such social evening that April apparently decides that a major life change is in order for them each to find true happiness in their world. She decides to lift herself from her brooding depression and tell Frank that they should sell everything and move to France. There, she rationalizes, she will work at the Embassy and Frank can spend time really deciding what he wants to do for a living and be in this lifetime. With nothing to lose, Frank agrees. After all, on that very day, his 30th birthday, he had “hit his bottom” in both his career and marriage after sleeping with one of the secretaries from the office.
Revolutionary Road is not only the name of the street they live on, but exactly what The Wheelers are on: a path of change. But, when the unexpected happens to them and dreams are once again shattered, events eclipse their renewed glimpse at happiness and closeness. It’s how we deal with difficulty that defines our character and certainly Frank and April are not role models for dealing with disappointment.
With Tennessee Williams being one of the “quoters” on the back cover, you know this book has some good substance to it. This book was first published in 1961 and was hailed to be a “modern American classic.” Considering the date, this book was ahead of its time. It is expertly and precisely written with outstanding character development. You know The Wheelers, how they think and why they are broken inside without it being spelled out for you. You find joy in yourself when they are in moments of closeness and you find yourself rooting for them throughout the book.
On Sher’s “Out of Ten Scale:”
I am glad that I read the book before I see the movie. I am a big fan of Kate Winslet’s. I have posted a preview of the movie for y’all to see. I’m really looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. I think that Kate and Leo will bring April and Frank even more alive for me. Listen, the book isn’t perfect and the story has considerable sadness to it, but it is a very good book despite all of that. I’m not making sense, I’m sure. This book is a tragedy, but one that is easily related to. For the genre Fiction: Drama, I’m giving Revolutionary Road an 8.5 out of 10 (not quite an eight… and, yet not quite strong enough for a 9).