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A Review of Revolutionary Road, The Book Not the Movie

Revolutionary Road's protagonists are Frank and April Wheeler, a husband and wife who came of age in bright bohemian post-war New York City, busily pursued their exalted dreams of theatre and intellectualism until life sneaks up on them and forces a sensible move to the suburbs. Yates' biographer Blake Bailey describes the precise agony of the Wheelers: & ldquo;Quite simply, Yates meant for the Wheelers to seem a little better than mediocre: not, that is, stoical mavericks out of Hemingway, or glamorous romantics out of Fitzgerald. Rather, the Wheelers are everyday people & mdash;you and me & mdash;who pretend to be something they're not because life is lonely and dull and disappointing. & rdquo; Ouch.

Revolutionary Road explores what happens when people show the world a face satisfied with their & ldquo;adult & rdquo; choices, while they are in fact deeply unhappy. Frank and April's acute mental desperation exhibits how insidious resentment can be, and how it mercilessly infects relationships. & The writing is simultaneously spare and vivid, painting an exceedingly accurate portrait of each and every character with a few well chosen words. The writing will make you uncomfortable -- it will feel as though there is a bony finger lodged between your shoulder blades.

Be forewarned--Yates doesn't specialize in happy endings. He is nothing if not a nihilist of the highest order. Yates' talent is the way that he writes about the bitter disappointments of life and makes his characters' struggles universal & mdash;you will feel their pain and disappointment-- and you will see your most painful warts reflected in the Wheelers. You may feel like you want to pack it in. But he's been called a writer's writer for a reason. Revolutionary Road is a book about grasping for beauty and meaning & mdash;but suffocated by societal expectations. It is about the lofty dreams of youth, once so close, suddenly slipping out of reach.

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