I think the comparisons to DeLillo do Yates a disservice. Yates is far more coherent.
Revolutionary Road is a well written book about the evidently soul crushing nature of life in the suburbs (as if being the barely employable, non-French speaking, ugly Americans in Paris -- which was the plan -- wouldn't also be soul crushing). Nothing new about the topic.
It's interesting, however, to so acutely experience the world view of the 40's and 50's (the least of which is April's smoking and drinking throughout her pregnancy and the practice of self abortion). Some aspects are the same as ever; the petty manipulations of dysfunctional couples and their susceptibility to such manipulations .
In Yates' omniscient view, each person's motivations are painfully apparent. Where the women are concerned, I couldn't help but think of the everlastingly horrible work of misogyny, "Fascinating Womanhood". Each of the women are different caricatures of mid-50's femininity. In defense of April and Frank, it's interesting to see how important emotional honesty is to them.
While excellent reading, this isn't a place I want to visit again. In fact, I'm going to floss my brain with some science fiction for a while...
This novel is a masterpiece. The writing, the characters, the plot . . . everything. Is it heavy? Yes, it's very heavy. Is it depressing? Is tragedy depressing? Get ready for a good old fashioned catharsis! In parts it's funny and moving as well as serving as a stinging, unflinching criticism of American culture. The prose at points approaches poetry. The narrator is excellent. It takes place in the 50s but it hasn't lost anything in timeliness. The issues confronted are equally relevant today, perhaps more so. You won't be sorry if you give this a go.
This was my first audible download. Oh, I loved it so. Mark Bramhall's narration is pitch perfect, and gives texture and shade to the novel and energy and life to the characters. The novel itself is utterly compelling in it's incisive and sometimes disturbing bisection of the melancholies and discontents of suburban life. Download it if you love Mad Men! But also if you're a fan of mid-centuty American fiction (one of my favourite novels is the far more forgiving Man in the Grey Flannel Suit).
This book was very difficult to listen to, both due to its dire characters and circumstances as well as a very slow plot encumbered by excessive amounts of background information throughout. For me, this was a literature "assignment" as opposed to a thought-provoking novel; I did not enjoy it and would not recommend it to anyone reading for interest or pleasure.
Although the plot is captivating and despite the fact the fine writing makes the book easily accessible - Revolutinary Road is not an "easy listen".
The book provides a painful "picture window" to the human soul trpped in it's search of normalcy and safety, while yearning for something different, and while alienating it's true needs and emotions.
From a literary point of view, this book is actually a modern, readable, American version of Decadence Movement literature, only less moralizing and much more reliable and touching.
It's not only thought provoking and highly relevant to the age of middle class to me it was and exciting read/listen.
Highly recommended along with "Things" (by Georges Perec), "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" (C.McCullers), Motion Picture: "Splendor in the Grass" and "American Pastoral" (by Philip Roth).
One master-passion in the br east, like Aaron's serpent, swallows all the rest. A. Pope
Richard Yates' debut novel, published in 1961 and set in mid-1950s suburban Connecticut, especially stands out for its stark portrayal of infidelity to, and an act of revolution against, the flock mentality of 1950s America. Yates said after the novel's publication that he meant it as an indictment of the era's "general lust for conformity all over...--a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price." The book shows the authentic underside of family life in suburban American life contrasted with the glittery smiles on the dial in the weekly shows of TV's golden age. See, e.g., Ozzie and Harriet, and the Cleavers.
The story begins with Frank and April Wheeler, early 30s, married with 2 young children, engaged in a heated marital spat, brought on by melancholy, malaise and perhaps a bit of mental illness suffered by one or both. Shortly thereafter, April comes up with the "brilliant idea" to uproot and move the family to Paris, where she would be the breadwinner and thereby allow Frank to discover his true talents after being stifled for years as a salesman for a business machine company. They both agree, proceed accordingly, and their marital distress is eased. A kink arises however in their grand plans; the neighbors visit with their son, a mental ward patient who stirs things up (with unspoken truths); and, both spouses stray, all of which leads to an explosive argument and tragic consequences.
It's generally recognized that Yates' novels expertly examine the "tattered remnants of the American dream." I'd say these are more like the "shattered shards" of the suburban male's "self-myths": his personalized legend made up, subconsciously or not, during his teenage years, in which:
He meets and marries a beautiful, dutiful wife, who bears him perfect children to live in a happy home, then departs on a journey to conquer all in his path and take tons of treasure, and on his return, maybe he's forced to stop at a place where he's seduced by a gorgeous goddess that goes by Circe after which he's shipwrecked on an island where he's enslaved for a time to service the sensual needs of a nymph named Calypso; once back on course though, he's admirably withstands the many songs of several Sirens and escapes sea monsters, before arriving back to his college-age children, reared by his wife, just in time to slay her numerous suitors, and live happily ever after.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is a blunt and, frankly, VERY depressing look at an act of rebellion in post WWII suburban America.
Poor, poor Frank regrets telling his unhappy and pregnant wife those headline words. This book was written in the 50's, yet I can identify with it in the context of marriage today. I felt that oppressive and trapped feeling when I was pregnant with our third child. I didn't have an abortion, but I fantasied about it. My sister felt it too...this was in the 80's. My grandmother had abortions in the late 20's and so did her sisters. Of course they were illegal and very expensive, requiring some travel. It was talked about "back then" but not at parties or in church. Frank and April were trapped with fear of failure and boredom. Both were immature...a little. April goes full steam ahead on plans to a life in Paris where she will be the bread winner and Frank can find a vocation he enjoys. April's unexpected pregnancy and an accidental but impressive memo Frank writes at his job sets them on opposite paths. April sees a simple abortion performed before the 13th week will solve the problem. Frank gets the attention of an executive who wants to promote him to a job with more pay, responsibility and challenge. Frank sees this as his realistic chance to better living and perhaps vacations to Paris...he doesn't want to throw away this opportunity. April's mental health declines with the passing summer and seeing her dream vanish. Her cute suburban home is a prison and more children will add years to her sentence of a unfulfilled life. Their real-estate agent adds fuel to the fire by asking for invitations to bring her adult institutionalized son over for meals while he is out on weekend passes. He sees their departure to Paris as heroic. When Frank tells him later that summer the plan is canceled, this man turns vicious and blunt sparking a HUUGE fight between Frank and April. Things said that can't be taken back. April would rather die than face her version of hell. A quiet and desperate hell. Frank is left shattered and stuck in the past.