I begin this Revolutionary Road review by noting that Richard Yates’s novel is a remarkable reflection on American society. Frank and April Wheeler, two souls pickled in liquor, float around the dream-home heartaches of Revolutionary Estates. The two become exceptionally alive when plotting and planning their escape to Bohemian Paris.
Yates fills the hot air balloon of their lives with hope, only to subtly prick it whilst it is high in the sky. The descent starts off surreptitiously but soon plummets to the catastrophic denouement. The symphony of life cannot be composed without the odd minor chord and it is a master craftsman who can articulate this with honesty and compassion.
American literature swims in alcohol. You are intoxicated off the fumes that seem to seep from the pages. Yet Richard Yates, a chronic alcoholic, does in no way glamorise drink. He shows how the blindfold of liquor can block and detract from reality. And that ain’t a hangover to have at all!
This novel reminds me of a drink that has been poured into a fine cocktail glass and left overnight. It looked elegant and sophisticated but by the end of the novel it is stale and – to coin a Liverpudlian term – rank (translates as foul).
Revolutionary Road is an exceptional piece of literature that will linger long after it’s been read.
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