Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

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.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.