Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates Watch young Frank Wheeler, husband of April and father-of-two in his late 20s, work in the garden of the Wheeler's home in suburban Connecticut. He's breaking out stones in the backyard, dragging them to the front and using them to build a brand new path from his house down to the driveway. It's tough, sweaty work, the kids keep getting in the way and it's doubtful if he's ever going to finish it, but that's what it means to be a Man; you do the job, you support your family. Watch young April Wheeler, wife of Frank and mother-of-two in her late 20s, acting in the local community theatre's production of The Petrified Forest. Despite having given up her naive ideas of becoming a model or actress when she married, we're told she's the only good thing about the play; she knows her lines, she understands her part, she's the last one to fall apart when everything starts going wrong and the play ends in disaster. Not that she doesn't eventually fall apart; everyone's an amateur here, after all. There's been a ton of films and novels about American suburbian angst in the past 15 years or so, so it stands to reason that Revolutionary Road (set in 1953, published in 1960) has had a revival. But in a weird way, though Revolutionary Road predates all the other stories, it also anticipates them: Frank and April are very well aware of their situation. They're not the ones to blithely settle down and wait for promotions, grandkids and death while the rose bushes grow; they're self-described intellectuals, goddamnit, they know what their parents got wrong, they have plans and aspirations, they know that there's so much more to life than being good neighbours and following the flock. They're the post-war generation, they're the perfect family on the cusp of a brand new world, they're the ones who are going to build a new road out of old stones. And it's all going to go to hell. Revolutionary Road is easily one of the best reads of the year for me. I don't know what it is that does it; the stark realism; the beautiful prose that stays down to earth without ever becoming dull, descriptive without being flowery, with just enough sneaky irony to underline the earnestness, show-don't-tell like very few can do it; the multi-faceted, well-drawn characters and the way he sets them up against each other without using any far-fetched plot elements - just lets it play out and coldly takes them where they need to go, not for the sake of making a heavy-handed point but just because that's what happens to these people. One of the blurbs has Kurt Vonnegut declaring it the Great Gatsby of his generation, which is a perfectly valid comparison, though personally I can't help thinking of Rabbit, Run - with the added twist that Yates gives the story a more interesting (and by extension horriffic) spin than Updike; where it's hard not to think that Rabbit Angstrom is an asshole who deserves what he gets, and the people who suffer from his shenanigans are victims, there aren't really any bad guys in Revolutionary Road. Sure, they have their less admirable sides - Frank especially - but there's no conscious malice here, at least not to start with. The road isn't paved only with good intentions but also with a certain set of deeply set ideals, ideas, power structures and personal backgrounds that slowly but surely bring everything crashing down. And what makes it all the more chilling is that these are the sort of people who are supposed to know better, who think they have the intellect, education and fresh ideas to do things in a new way - and given everything they've come from, everything they still don't see, can't not end up where they're headed. We tend to forget that "revolution" means "full circle"; the very word itself belies the notion of forging a brand-new path. And even the best intentions for how to make the world better tend to end in a reign of terror. Revolutionary Road is so deliciously detailed, so subtle, and yet hits me like a ton of bricks.