Monday, February 16, 2009

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road is another book upon which an acclaimed movie has been based this year. It is beautifully written, tho honest and disturbing. It chronicles the suburban life of Frank and April Wheeler in the 1950s. They are supposedly living the American dream, but they perceive their life is seriously lacking meaning. Frank is an account sales manager, April, a housewife and mother. His job is to bring home the bacon and wear the pants in the family and hers is to run the household. But neither is satisfied and so they decide to leave their Connecticut home and take up residence in France. She will work while he reflects on his life and tries to decide what he wants to be. This all seems well and good until circumstances arise that cause them to take pause and rethink the decision.

Throughout the book the tension is taut and emotional. Frank and April engage in frequent and violent arguments. Their battle stems from who is in control and how much control can be exerted. It is a brutally honest snapshot of life in the 50s. Yates' mastery of dialogue brings this book to life. His portrayal of Frank and April is a well-developed character study. The minor characters - Milly and Shep Campbell, John, Howard, and Mrs. Givings - add to the insight into Frank and April and provide a more intimate revelation of the interrelationships.

The ending, shocking as it were, had to happen. And life goes on, witnessed by the willingness of the Campbells to put their friendship out their minds and Howard turning his hearing aid off. A definite contemporary masterpiece.

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