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Old 4th Apr 2006, 10:24   #4
John Self
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Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
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Default Re: Book 23: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

At the risk of shocking the Palimpopulace to its core, I too am giving Revolutionary Road short of five stars. This might be because since I first read it, I have read four more Yates novels and his short stories, and some of those are more polished and mature than Revolutionary Road (as well they might be, RR being his first novel). Either that or his particular world view seems less remarkable on a second reading. It remains, of course, a superb novel and well worth anyone's - everyone's - attention. Specifically, too, I felt I could have done with a little more subtlety this time around. Yates never ever passes up the opportunity to spell out precisely what a character is thinking, usually about another character, and sometimes I would like to work it out for myself.

The particular strengths of Revolutionary Road are that it has a stronger plot, or at least a more complete storyline, than some of his other novels, which are more scenes-from-a-(rotten)-life; the wit, such as the last scene with Mr Givings's hearing aid, which is less on display elsewhere in his work; and the beautifully worked opening descriptions in many of the chapters in the second part of the book, such as the band led by its drummer, who doesn't realise how bad he is. (Though this too sometimes felt like a violation, or description too far, as it was never clear whether the assessment of the drummer's skills was being done by one of Yates's characters, which is fair enough, or by Yates himself, which isn't.)

So I would say that Revolutionary Road is best judged as a gateway drug to the world of Yates, which contains work no less great such as Cold Spring Harbor and Young Hearts Crying - and indeed many of his stories - rather than some stand-along masterpiece without equal or sequel.

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