Saturday, December 27, 2008

Good Read: 'Revolutionary Road'

I just read "Revolutionary Road," (1961) which is as beautifully written as it is draining. In other words, very. Richard Yates' novel about a young married couple in the 1950s is difficult stuff, and anyone who has been married for a few years will find some of his themes uncomfortably close to home. Even if your marriage is good, it probably requires far more compromise and work than you imagined - especially if you have children. There's a reason that this book holds up almost 50 years later.

April and Frank Wheeler are not sympathetic characters, and yet, I felt great compassion for both of them at certain times. Trapped by circumstances and limited (by 2008 standards) options, they're both struggling with the disconnect between the life they imagined and the one they actually have. Suffice to say that they do not handle the creeping despair well. Grasping at a vague idea of manhood, Frank indulges in alcohol and young women in the office typing pool. April is either emotionally distant or radioactive with contempt. The ending? Crushing. When I finished the book on the way back from Atlanta, the look on my face prompted my husband to say, "That bad?"

The above may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but "Revolutionary Road" is a lyrical masterpiece - that rare book that I want to re-read. As soon as I recover.

No comments: