By Nyambura Mutanyi
Yates paints a picture of the middle-class family in the 50s that we have come to recognise from watching ‘Mad Men’, the TV series. Frank and April Wheeler (played by DiCaprio and Winslet in the eponymous film) are a couple that is sure that they are on to something. To achieve it, they need to leave their fairly normal (some would say boring) suburban life and head out to the continent that is the stuff of American idealism and dreams-Europe.
And so the roller coaster begins. During the ride, we meet their friends, their families, their pasts. Their loves, the lust pulsing through their veins and in all that; striving, striving. A story so beautiful, so alive. The episodes that, in isolation, make for delightful reading but whose cumulative effect is unsettling. Nothing is as it seems, no one who they say they are….and oh, what a ride! Everyone in this book seems, in all honesty, dissatisfied with their lot. This is the human condition, it could be said. Or maybe what Yates did was capture the period’s Zeitgeist.
The imagery in this book is excellent. One does not have to stretch one’s imagination to see the lives of the Wheelers, Campbells and Givingses. All the characters come alive as you read about them. Half of you is convinced you know them from somewhere. The other half is teetering on the edge of curiosity from all the suspense (resist the urge to skip to the end!)
I could call this book bleak but that would be an oversimplification. The forays the reader makes into the minds of the characters are enlightening and speak to the enduring nature of this book that turns 51 this year. The aspirations of men, and women, have not changed-to be happy, fulfilled-but the context has changed. This book so clearly shows us how humanity is an unbroken line.
The anticipation created by the author around the planned move is delectable and it makes the subsequent events a lesson in just what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men.
A key feature of an enduring book-some would say a classic-is its ability to ring true to a reader many years later. To say the same thing over the years and for you, the reader, to think of it every time you read it: I see how that would be.
Grab a copy of ‘Revolutionary Road’; it’s one of those books.
Book title: Revolutionary Road
Author: Richard Yates