Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates

I have been extremely negative with some of my reviews. What can I say except for either evoking Sturgeon’s law or simply saying ‘there isn’t much I like’. The so called ‘classics’ seems to get most of my ire, but this has little to do with some kind of deep-rooted internal hatred for them. It largely has to do with the fact. It largely has to do with the fact that other people really, really build up high expectations for these books, and they often can’t live up to them (though, to be clear, many have!). I should thus come out loud and proud when I find that one of them does seem worthy of its merits.

Revolutionary Road is worth it. Incredibly so.

The story would seem cliche at first glance, as it is that of the typical suburban rut. The protagonists, Frank and April Wheeler, both hate the typical American suburban life they have found themselves in, and are at a point where they are questioning why they are there to begin with, and how it is that they can escape from it. Ultimately, they fail to do so. I can’t imagine that is much of a spoiler considering how depressing Yates is famed for being.

What worked really well for me was how the characters are built. Yates transfers your sympathy as the novel progresses from one Wheeler to the other. While we are convinced the marriage is doomed from the very start of the book, we don’t seem to understand why, and the book builds that tension very well.

The story was also very well executed for my taste. Not so much that I found myself quoting from it constantly, but I fell pretty hard into the narrative sweep, which is all I really want from a story anyway. As I settle into adulthood, that has consistently gotten harder and harder. Call me grateful that this one succeeded.

Nothing is ever perfect, and in retrospect I was a little bothered by the fact that there was a mouth-piece character in the novel, and that the character was institutionalized as well. That felt a little to ‘persecution complex’ for my taste, but it wasn’t poorly done at the very least.

There were several personal reasons that this novel registered with me. I may never have been in a sort of love-locked marriage as the Wheeler’s are, but I did grow up with a parent who had a temperamental hatred for the ‘phoney-ness’ of the USA, the suburbs, and who at once gravitated towards all of it. He also seemed to have the same self-aggrandizing sense of himself.

My father, pretty much, is Frank Wheeler. Jokes aside, it is kind of illuminating to see opinions you have been hearing your whole life from one full generation before your birth.

I have recently felt like I have been nothing but negative on this blog, and I am glad this was around to prove that I still actually enjoy reading. We now return to our regularly scheduled kvetching.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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