TITLE: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
AUTHOR: Richard Yates
DATE PUBLISHED: 1961
DATE READ: June 2008
NOTES: How come I only just heard about this fantastic book? Set in 1950s suburban Connecticut, it tells the story of the less than idyllic relationship of Frank and April Wheeler. Although an onlooker may see them as an ideal couple in an ideal situation they both have layers and layers of dissatisfaction which come to the surface as their marriage crumbles.
The book was written in 1961 and seems to encapsulate all that we have come to associate with that time. April appears willing to give up any pretence of a career to look after house and children while Frank goes each day to his “boring” office job (but he manages to find time for an affair with a secretary). Everyone drinks and smokes to excess – even in pregnancy. Frank’s boss declares electronic computers to be the coming thing…..
Although both Frank and his neighbour Shep sometimes reflect on their time in the army during the war very little of the wider outside world creeps into the empty surburban world of Frank and April and their small circle of acquaintances. April comes up with a plan to move the family to France believing this will give Frank a fresh impetus to “find himself” but from the start you wonder if this will never happen.
Revolutionary Road is powerfully written and draws you into the lives of the Wheelers and their neighbours the Campbells and the Givings. It has some darkly comic moments and many flashes of brilliance. Yes, an American classic.
Did the creators of Mad Men (US TV series) get some of their inspiration from this book?
-constant drinking and smoking
-coercing unhappy wife into seeing a psychiatrist
-coping with unwanted pregnancy