'Revolutionary Road', Richard Yates' stunning 1961 novel has recently been re-released, coinciding with the Sam Mendes film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and is just as startling and affecting now as it was then.
The Wheelers are a young, bright and handsome married couple who are nearing 30, and, with their two kids, live in the leafy suburbs of Connecticut on the absurdly named 'Revolutionary Road'. But the American dream has not left them happy and fulfilled; they feel trapped and suffocated in the monotony of their everyday lives.
Frank works in a corporation in the city, mindlessly trudging along with the sea of suits, while April stays at home. They are both certain they are capable of much more – only thing is they haven't decided what that is.
Their frustration at the emptiness of their lives is cruelly taken out on one another and their resentment begins to overwhelm their marriage. That is until April comes upon the idea that their best option is to relocate to Paris, to allow Frank the space to follow his creativity while she provides for their family.
Even as this decision reawakens their love for one another, and hope for the future, it is painfully evident that this pipe dream is nothing but that - an unrealistic quick fix to all their problems.
Yates writes the book from switching perspectives, which gives us great insight into the inner workings of each character. His writing is bitter, blackly funny and cruelly observed. We are privy to the most pathetic and pretentious sides of the two largely unsympathetic main characters as they toil against one another and their suffocating environment.
The premise of the monotony of suburban living may seem old-hat, but Yates is an uncommonly sharp and perceptive writer, breathing life into the Wheelers' world with a forcefulness and clarity that makes the words jump from the pages.
'Revolutionary Road' is a savage indictment of the American dream, written with unpitying scrutiny, assurance and austere but beautiful prose. The film adaptation is sure to launch it from cult status to the bestsellers lists, and rightly so. A modern classic that deserves a place on the 'must-read' list.