Dec 23, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

My rating: 3 stars

Quick overview: April and Frank Wheeler are a young, ostensibly thriving couple living with their two children in a prosperous Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. However, like the characters in John Updike's similarly themed Couples, the self-assured exterior masks a creeping frustration at their inability to feel fulfilled in their relationships or careers. Frank is mired in a well-paying but boring office job and April is a housewife still mourning the demise of her hoped-for acting career. Determined to identify themselves as superior to the mediocre sprawl of suburbanites who surround them, they decide to move to France where they will be better able to develop their true artistic sensibilities, free of the consumerist demands of capitalist America. As their relationship deteriorates into an endless cycle of squabbling, jealousy and recriminations, their trip and their dreams of self-fulfillment are thrown into jeopardy. (from

Ehh. That was my overall reaction to this novel. It's a good story, but I thought it was slow to get into, and had a hard time keeping my attention even once the plot picked up. I definitely was expecting something different. I knew it wouldn't be an upbeat story, but I didn't expect it to be quite so...broken.

It does offer insight into the 1950s era that I thought was interesting. But for some reason I kept forgetting the time frame it was set in, which made me think some things in the story were blown out of proportion.

However, there was a quote that April (the main female character) that I thought still applies today:

"...Because that's what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion - this idea that people have to resign from real life and 'settle down' when they have families." (Pg. 153)

Some food for thought, no? Even with people raising kids in cities or tiny apartments, I still think there's some kind of stigma that having a family is "settling down." Although not nearly as much as there was in the '50s.

What do you think readers? Have you read Revolutionary Road? What did you think? Do you think having a family is settling down?

(Photo: A BookLover's Diary)


Lucy The Valiant said...

I haven't read Revolutionary Road, but I think there is still kind of a 'settling down' stigma. For me, it was mostly in my head... I'm a mom now? I have to wear mom clothes and say mom things and only think about mom things? It was a whole little identity crisis! I seem to be over it, though!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I liked Revolutionary Road. It was depressing, and it wasn't an 'easy' read, but I thought some of the passages were really well written.

Everytime someone reads this, I have to ask them this random question. Do you think the plant (I think it was a fern) that the realtor gave them was symobolic of their relationship? At the end of the book, the realtor goes to their house & finds the plant in the basement and says somethign about how they didn't take care of it. Am I just really reaching here or did that strike you as something Yates intentionally threw in there as a symbol of their relationship?

While the book isn't something I would recommend to alot of people, I think it does spark some interesting conversations about marriage, having familes, 'settling down', and life in suburbia.

If you are interested, you can read my review of the book from almost a year ago here:

Happy Holidays, my dear!

Gracie said...

Planning on reading it as soon as my decrepit library purchases it (books budget is a little low here in New Orleans...perhaps it's due to the rampant illiteracy?!).
Did you see the movie first? My hubby wanted to see it, but I prefer to read the book first. I find that seeing the movie first alters my impression of the book.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I started it and then got busy and read another book.. So I need to read it still... It was a little slow moving but I liked the little I did read.. :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't read Revolutionary Road, but I have seen the movie. (Ack, I know, not exactly the same thing.) I DO think that there are certain expectations to settle down once you have a family. Families are group units where the welfare of the group unit is taken into consideration over the welfare of the individual. Perhaps, parents "settle" because they cannot necessarily do the same things they did before. Parents have more than just themselves to think about. Wine and salsa dancing are great, but who's going to watch Suzie?

Also, Parents often make decisions that benefit their children. Your example of urban parents is a good one. Parents who live in the city decide to move to the suburbs for better schools and a place for their children to play. Is that "settling" or just embracing opportunity?

Anyway, I just found your blog!

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