Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, 368 pages.
It seemed right with the movie coming out to read the much acclaimed book and I moved it up the list. Revolutionary Road has been cited by Joshua Henkin, David Sedaris, and Stewart O'Nan as a modern classic by an underappreciated author.
Filtered through the diastrous community theatre performance - the failed dreams of the Wheelers come into view. April was trying to make it as an actress when she met Frank the armchair philosopher, when April got pregnant they married, and now find themselves in the 'burbs. But of course they don't belong there, amongst all the simpletons, so they make plans to move to France.
This story has a way of feeling both dated and modern at the same time (published in 1961). Dated particularly when set at Frank's job (which I imagined similar to the show "Mad Men"), and during the frequent cocktail hours that ended each work day. The idea that there's gotta be somethin' more than pushing paper (Frank) and housework (April) may have seemed radical at the time, but not so much today.
About the Wheelers - rarely have I been able to positively review a book where I disliked the characters so much. I am not sure if you are supposed to feel sympathy for their supposed suburban plight, but I found the Wheelers too self-absorbed and delusional to feel pity. April reminded me of Esther Greenwood (The Bell Jar) married with children, and you know that can't be good.
This novel is so magnificently crafted it would be a shame not to read it - intense, realistic, painful, and sarcastic. It is a fascinating character study (supporting characters too) and would make an excellent book club discussion. But it is not an enjoyable story, so be prepared. And if you can read it without picturing Kate and Leo as the Wheelers, you are one tough cookie.
Anyone seen the movie? Planning to?