Saturday, 24 October 2015

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Alas! When passion is both meek and wild! - JOHN KEATS

Rating: 10/10

Frank and Alice Wheeler live a typical 50s American suburban life in Revolutionary Road. In reality this life leaves both of them dissatisfied. Being in my early 20s, I am starting to appreciate the themes in Yates’ Revolutionary Road. The prospects of job that doesn’t excite you, of still being in a ‘stop gap’ years later and of feeling like life is mundane. I really enjoyed reading Revolutionary Road. It has definitely made a lasting impression on me.

The realist writing style was well written. Even though Yates is writing about the ordinary without any embellishments the story wasn’t boring. I found it easy to connect to the situation and the characters. They are everyday people with hopes and disappointments. Yates’ characters are exquisitely crafted as well. The characters are full of desires, contradictions and flaws so much so they could be genuine people. You can never quite predict how the character is feeling or what they will do either. It’s a very emotionally honest and direct story.

“I think it’s unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working like a dog year after year at a job he can’t stand, coming home to a house he can’t stand in a place he can’t stand either, to a wife who’s equally unable to stand the same things…”

The main stand out are the themes I've already mentioned. Throughout the story I was constantly thinking about the situation Yates is describing. I was constantly asking myself ‘What is wrong?’ and ‘Where does the fault lie?’ Is it the situation that is wrong or is the dissatisfaction connected to Frank and Alice Wheeler as people... would they ever be happy for instance?

This novel isn’t even questioning whether the American Dream is possible. It is a more basic question of satisfaction. There is no one-size fits all lifestyle that will make everyone happy; sometimes we can feel trapped in by the bleak future full of routine with no scope for adventure. Is it acceptable to survive, perhaps not financially, but just by getting by emotionally? Are the Wheeler’s demanding too much of life by having unrealistic expectations? What is it exactly they are demanding... happiness all the time (i.e. a perfect life) or the prospect of adventure?

“That’s how we both got committed to this enormous delusion— because that’s what it is, an enormous, obscene delusion— this idea that people have to resign from real life and ‘settle down’ when they have families. It’s the great sentimental lie of the suburbs, and I’ve been making you subscribe to it all this time. I’ve been making you live by it!”

I didn’t think I would enjoy this as much as I did having watched the film not long ago. (The film had excellent casting and visuals so if you are ever wondering what to watch then you have a free recommendation.) I thought the book would be repetitive and possibly dry because I didn’t really enjoy Yates’ Easter Parade. I found the book even more enjoyable than the film; I really enjoyed the interior view to the characters and their backstories. I saw new things coming to the story a second time too, especially with the opening scenes. Interestingly, this is Yates’ debut novel (and was published the same year Heller’s Catch-22).

I used the audiobook and the narrator was great. He really brought it to life and created distinct voices for each of the characters. Overall I really connected with these themes and it’s probably why I enjoyed this book so much but I’d highly recommend it.

Original Publication: 1961
Pages: 337
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Production Date: 2008
Narrator: Mark Bramhall
Length: 11 hours 24 minutes

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Book cover for book review. Audiobook cover.

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Monday, 19 October 2015

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Rating: 8/10

Hurley’s impressive debut novel makes for an excellent Halloween read. The Loney is a Catholic pilgrimage site where the narrator’s brother is cured during their holiday at there. The narrator’s tale is interwoven with a vast amount of small details that leave you guessing how these details intertwine. The mixed timeframe is also executed well with various memories interspersed throughout the tale. They provide a welcome break that provides interesting background information without being so long it becomes boring. In this sense, it is a rare well-planned book; most of the small details were used to good effect (think Chekhov’s gun: everything must have relevance to the story) although some questions do remain.

Whilst The Loney doesn’t leave you scared witless it does keep you mostly in suspense with a good pace balancing out the religious dimension and the actual plot. I also appreciated how Hurley dealt respectfully with Catholicism; it was not a cheap caricature and asked some subtle yet important questions over faith. My only qualms are that I guessed what would happen to Hanny half way through and I would have preferred scenery that is more haunting. Overall, it was very 'readable' and different to most books published this year. If you get the chance you should give it a go.

Book facts
Original publication: August 27th 2015
Publisher: John Murray
Pages: 368
On the cover a book review from Sunday Telegraph calls it a "modern classic".

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Update October 2015: Star Wars Episode VI

Hello to anyone who may be reading this!  I haven't forgotten you, I just haven’t posted on here for ages due to personal reasons and simply because I also got out of the habit of writing book reviews. (I also forgot how difficult it is writing on Blogger... I am going to look at moving to Wordpress because my cursor never turns up and it’s just so lethargic like me.)

I'm going to be posting some reviews up. Luckily I wrote the outline for the reviews of the books I read many moons ago so they just need typing up.  I am just going to publish them as I go because writing lists creates too much pressure and it becomes a chore.  I am also going to be changing my blog up a bit.  I am updating the blog over the coming weeks by streamlining the tags, improving the visuals and that kind of thing.  I am moving from 5 stars to a rating out of 10 too. The pieces on creative writing are moving to my other (work) blog; they are also more substantial pieces than a series of quotes.  This change is mainly because I have more experience writing now and to prevent double posting.  I am replacing the creative writing with a new monthly ‘op-ed’ feature.  The first series is on audiobooks and they are ready to be posted!  The next series will be on difficulties with reviewing (aptly called “Reviewing Reviews”).  I am going to wait until my blog builds up a bit content wise before I post them.

On a more personal note, I’ve become an aunty for the first time ever.  I have officially started my English MA and somehow managed to get tonsillitis even though I study at home… typical.  My MA is going well though, just a bit (read: a lot) behind on my reading.  Christmas is coming up soon so I’ve been busy applying for a more stable part-time job.  Anyway, that’s enough of the me me me.