©2000 Richard Yates; (P)2008 Random House Audio
"The Great Gatsby of my time...one of the best books by a member of my generation." (Kurt Vonnegut)
"Beautifully crafted...a remarkable and deeply troubling book." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
"A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic." (William Styron)
"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." --Lemony Snicket
Yeah, yeah Kate and Leo reunited on the big screen for the adaptation of Revolutionary Road, and while I enjoyed the movie, please don’t let it put you off or replace your reading of Richard Yates’ tremendous novel. Sure it’s depressing – it’s about realizing your life has become everything you never wanted it to be – but in Yates’ words, in Mark Bramhall’s narration, this is a powerful depressing: the kind of thought-provoking, heart-wrenching literature that we all need every once in a while.
I love reading reviews. No plot spoilers please. These are not book reports!
This is the perfect example for me of the importance of reading the book before I see the movie. I think if I had read the book first many subtle but important points missed in the movie would have made the story much better. The movie stressed odd scenes and omitted powerful details that developed the characters and their predicaments to a tee. Plus the way a reader pictures the settings and the people never seems remotely the way a casting team will set things up. That said--I liked the book. It depicted a slice of life from that odd time period of the 50's beautifully. It is a sad book but the characters are fully human and the story engages throughout.
These characters are so fragile and damaged. It was painful at times.....so close to home! This 1960's "perfect" suburbia family crumbles right before your eyes. Each one is as "dysfuntional" as the other. I didn't like the ending but sadly it is very real and believable.
This is a poignant, intense novel. Yates's characterizations are spot-on and his prose immaculate.
He tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple who long to be special but who are trapped in the conventions of their middle class, middle of the road and mediocre marital existence.
Yates has created a harsh but perceptive criticism of the superficial American society of the time that rings true to the present day. The narrator does a fine job with the clearly distinguishable voices.
This is certainly not a light listen but it is a devastating one that you shouldn't miss.
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...
Yates was doing suburban malaise decades before people were talking about the latest Mad Men episode (not to bash Mad Men... love that, too). His characters and dialogue are sharp and drip with subtext.
Excellent book and reader.
Book Lover and Knitter
This is the story of a couple, tragically trapped in their facade of being 'perfect'. The time is the early 1960's and the 'traditional' values of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman are still held over from the 50's.
They are pent up and repressed. Once they are able to see what is truly happening in their lives, things explode. Ironically, it is a man who is mentally ill who is able to make the most telling and accurate observations of what is occurring interpersonally.
This is a captivating audiobook and it is very well narrated.
Beautifully written and exquisitely narrated, this book is captivating. Though the story is not uplifting, the characters are real and their plight is familiar nearly 50 years after the story was written. While it would be easy for the listener to judge the Wheelers and the Campbells harshly, to do so would be to fall into the same trap that captured them.
Yates is a beautiful writer--descriptive in a way that deeply involves the reader. One of the things I appreciated most about this book, a runner-up for the National Book award in 1962, is the accuracy with which he represents the 1950s, everything from work cublicles, the dawning age of computers, suburban life, the rise of psychotherapy (and its oppressive authority) and of course the pressure to conform and the difficulty of taking a different path (a "revolutionary road"). A major theme of this book, which I think is surprising for its era, is the nature of masculinity and its perils--how very hard it was to be a "real" man in the 50s. Yates has great skill at using metaphor and does a wonderful job with character development. This book is also beautifully narrated. Not only is the narrator's voice a pleasure to listen to, but his representation of each character very talented. Yates's depiction of the 50s gives great insight about why the 1960s became "revolutionary."
I hated this. It maybe an accurate social critique of post-war middle class America, but if so, how depressing. It was harder to listen to than read, because of the harsh voice of the reader - again, maybe realistic but unpleasant. In the end I gave up, and will be returning it, hopefully for something more enjoyable.
"wonderfully observed characters"
I think that Richard Yates must be the reincarnation of Edith Wharton! The same sharp knowledge of human nature, personality and the claustrophobic influence of the social milieu, wonderfully observed.
?He closed the door and started toward her with the corners of his mouth stretched tight in a look that he hoped would be full of love and humor and compassion; what he planned to do was bend down and kiss her and say 'Listen: you were wonderful.' But an almost imperceptible recoil of her shoulders told him that she didn't want to be touched, which left him uncertain what to do with his hands, and that was when it occurred to him that 'You were wonderful' might be exactly the wrong thing to say ? condescending, or at the very least naive and sentimental, and much too serious.
'Well,' he said instead. 'I guess it wasn't exactly a triumph or anything, was it?' And he stuck a cigarette jauntily in his lips and lit it with a flourish of his clicking Zippo.
'I guess not,' she said. 'I'll be ready in a minute.'
'No, that's okay, take your time.'
He pocketed both hands and curled the tired toes inside his shoes, looking down at them. Would 'You were wonderful' have been a better thing to say, after all? Almost anything, it now seemed, would have been a better thing to say than what he'd said. But he would have to think of better things to say later; right now it was all he could do to stand here and think about the double bourbon he would have when they stopped on the way home with the Campbells. He looked at himself in the mirror, tightening his jaw and turning his head a little to one side to give it a leaner, more commanding look, the face he had given himself in mirrors since boyhood and which no photograph had ever quite achieved, until with a start he found that she was watching him. Her own eyes were there in the mirror, trained on his for an uncomfortable moment before she lowered them to stare at the middle button of his coat.?
"50's american suburbia"
About the superficiality of people's lives and dreams quite slow moving but thoughtful and not overly exciting.
"Nightmare in a town with no Air Conditioning"
The forthcoming film adaptation by Sam Mendes starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo Leonardo DiCaprio seemed an intriguing substantial follow up to his earlier American Beauty ? so a good starting off point to read the book before seeing the film. The previously unknown Richard Yates is a welcome addition to the cannon of American baby boom angst-generation. This territory has in recent years has been wrestled from the New Yorker writers and East Coast sensitivities of John Updike to become almost the domain of the TV writer and slightly off the wall film makers ? like David Lynch, who relocated the action to the West Coast - or the late Southern Gothics like Tracey Letts who gave us a freaked-out speed-addled version of Tennessee Williams.
Here the action is plainly suburban, Connecticut compliance and Eisenhower domesticity ? and the great escape of this 1950s world is a relocatoin to post war Paris.
There are so many contemporary parallels and yet it seems a different world. The male-bonded corporate boys club in which Frank Wheeler is ensconced just about still exists in our Finance sector. We are now just about ten years too late to see it in the American Corporations who have now outsourced their bonhomie and business lunches ? but it was there and Yates? un-air conditioned mid-town lunch with Bart Pollack is as close as contemporary fiction gets.
April Wheeler?s 1950s housewife is now a dream ? but all the more powerful in our popular contemporary property, cookery, celebrity driven representations and probably more real than ever. But the inter-dependence of the married couple has now gone and we have become atomised beyond consideration of the single young man ? John Givings ? who provides the touchstone of this novel.
Our relationships are what define us and good writing is what defines a good novel. Yates? observations are accurate, there is insight and terror in what he sees and, yes, this is a great book.
I found his book terminally boring and impossible to relate to the characters who seemed to simply be caricatures of themselves.
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