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Buzz Book Club: The End of Revolutionary Road

Welcome back, members of the Buzz Book Club! Now that you've finished Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road, we can talk about what all this suburban-life-in-the-1950s stuff is about. In fact, it will be interesting to discuss this book now as a whole work, rather than section by section, because we have every piece of the puzzle in place to sort out what Yates is driving at here.

The movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, will be out in December, so we have plenty of time to mull over how on earth such a powerfully written book can be adapted for film.

Last week's assignment was to finish the book. After the jump you'll find some discussion topics that struck me as I read to the end. Also, if you're just joining and want to catch up, you can find all of our Revolutionary Road discussions thus far here.

Hopefully you're not too emotional after finishing this novel, so to discuss

  1. Can you imagine Leo as Frank and Kate as April? I'm having such a hard time with that! And while I love Kathy Bates, I had a totally different impression of what Mrs. Helen Givings would be like. What do you think? Who would you cast?
  2. Speaking of the movie, I’m curious which parts of the story you think will translate well to a movie and which you think are best suited to print. For example, in my mind, the events of the novel wouldn't work well in chronological order, so I'm curious to find out how the movie will give us the backstory as well as the "present day" happenings.
  3. After the first assignment, we discussed how there wasn't exactly one single character who stood out as the person we were supposed to be rooting for. By the devastating end, however, April had become almost like the heroine in my eyes, as she seemed like she was becoming more honest with herself. Did you find yourself rooting for any of the characters in particular by the end of the book?
  4. The theme of abortion is clearly front and center in this book — both literally (April's abortion) and figuratively speaking (the Wheelers abort their plan to move to Europe, for one). Is there a grander message about the idea of abortion that Yates is trying to get across?
  5. What did you think of the ending? Could you envision a different ending that also could have worked?
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ShePirate2010 ShePirate2010 7 years
i cannot wait to see this film!!!! them together again.....yay!! :)
catchme catchme 8 years
1. I knew Leo and Kate would be starring in the movie before I read the book and I can picture no two better people to play the parts. Frank and his "round face" - totally Leo. I can see him making all of the facial expressions Frank makes. April - "sitting there like the heavy-lidded queen". Kate will play this part to perfection. They couldn't have cast it better.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
I so agree with ameliajc--this was a great pick. Thanks, Buzz. 1. The more I think about the casting, the more I warm to the picks. I can see Kathy Bates as Mrs. Givings and I think Kate and Leo can pull off the dynamics of the relationship well. The whole time I was reading the book, though, I kept seeing Jon Hamm and January Jones and the Draper family kids in Mad Men, so I'll have to get used to the fact that they aren't the key players. 2. Filming will be challenging, to say the least. Perhaps the film will be best in present day with flashbacks, especially to Frank's and April's childhood relationships with their own parents. The domestic fights will be powerful scenes and I hope they do more to show how the children react to the family tension. The scene with Frank and his father on that first big trip to the office could be significant as well. 3. It was difficult for me to like any of the characters. In the end, I felt some sympathy for April, but her final actions were just as measured and calculated as all of the others. The power struggle in which she and Frank were engaged was never ending. In a sense, she did "win" by escaping and leaving others to suffer long after she was gone. 4. Yates captures the spirit and the context of the 50s and 60s so well. I can picture the smoke filled offices, the family dinners--and the domestic disputes. His book can be appreciated on so many levels. At times it's funny, at others it's full of sarcasm and satire. The battle/war imagery underscores all of the relationships. Everyone seems to be struggling to find themselves, to carve out a unique and satisfying identity; they want to break from the past, to change and yet at the same time they fear change. 5. The ending, while devastating, is so perfect.
ameliajc ameliajc 8 years
1. After I read the book I scanned through pictures of the cast and I'm not sure any of them fit. Kate and Leo almost seem to old for these parts. I'm sure they'll both do well in the roles, but I wish they had casted some unknowns. I think it takes something away from their roles in this movie because everyone will see them as their characters from Titanic. 2. I think it would be a challenge for the director to do things out of order/with all the flashbacks. It makes sense to do it in chronological order, but I also think it would make for a more interesting, engaging movie if they filmed it as present day with flashbacks. 3. By the end I was rooting for April, but in a very sad way. You realize she is coming to terms with herself and the fact that she does not know herself that well. Therefore, I guess I was rooting for her to find her escape from the life that she felt was torturing her. 4. I agree with the other readers that this must have been a controversial book. I didn't pick up on a message Yates was trying to convey. I liked that because you could form your own opinions and see what the effects of the abortion actions had on the characters. I think abortion is seen as a means of escape, just as April viewed France as an escape. Therefore, when she didn't get her escape to France, she had to find another way out. 5. The ending was certainly devastating. However, I don't know what else would have worked. If they had the baby and everything was "fine," it would still be a miserable existence. If April had survived the abortion she might have been temporarily happier, but then things would return to normal suburb life and they would be back to the same place. So, it seems to me this was the only way to wrap it up. The author conveys how oppressive the suburbia life can be, so I think even he was rooting for someone to escape, no matter what the cost. All in all, this was a fantastic book. I would have never picked it up on my own but I am so glad I got a chance to read it. I am interested to see how the movie works. Great pick!
adw7984 adw7984 8 years
1. Honestly, while reading this book, I never once could picture Leo as Frank and Kate as April. I tried the whole time, but I pictured Frank to be really tall and lanky for some reason and April to have really long, mousy brown hair. I don’t know why I pictured them like this, but I did for some reason! I cannot picture Kathy Bates as Mrs. Givings. I pictured her to be more “elderly” I guess. I am having a hard time with the casting for this movie, but I am sure they will pull it off  I guess that is the fun of reading the book before seeing the movie, that way you can create the characters as you see them. 2. I think the fight scene at the sign of the road will be a very powerful scene in the movie. That is one scene I am excited to see. I am very excited to see how this novel looks in movie form. I am looking forward to it. 3. I wasn’t really rooting for anyone. April did become more likeable at the end, but for some reason I just couldn’t get on board with her. I can’t put my finger on it but for some reason I didn’t like her. At the same time, I couldn’t really feel sorry for Frank at the end as well. I feel very conflicted because of these matters. 4. I agree that this book must have been very controversial; it is hard to imagine a time where people had to do the abortions themselves. I don’t really know what Yates was saying about abortion, but it was interesting to read about. It is interesting because the “technology” of the abortion has changed (in that you can go to clinics and get it done in a safe environment) but for some people, the thoughts about abortion hasn’t changed and people still view it as “shameful”. Who knew that after all these years, this book could still be relevant in that sense. 5. The ending worked for me. I mean it was awful and devastating, but I think any other ending wouldn’t have fit. After all they had been through, the ending was appropriate I guess.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 8 years
Oh, was there some sort of symbolism or meaning behind the gift that April's father gave to her, in her flashback?
freegracefrom freegracefrom 8 years
1. Individually, I could see both Leo as Frank and Kate as April. They are both very capable actors and I know they could do it. What's going to throw me off is that memory of that so-in-love couple that they made in Titanic! Really, I think Kathy Bates is a pretty good pick for Mrs. Givings. 2. As far as chronology is concerned, if the story is focused on one central character like Frank, they might make it work. I think we'll lose touch with April a bit though if they take that route, because obviously her childhood had much more of an impact than the author would openly admit. I think the ending would make even less sense. At any rate, I wish they didn't make this into a movie... knowing the story and considering it comes out in December, I think I'll sit out that one. My life is already too eerily similar to this and it would depress me too much. 3. Towards the VERY end, I guess I was rooting for April a bit. I didn't understand how she could've let Frank suckered her into thinking that she was crazy though - she struck me as being smarter than that! Or at least, given her attitude about her adoration of her "sometimes around" mother and father, why would she care what Frank thought? I really never got a sense as to why April was seeking so much more out of her life. 4. I'm not sure that the author was trying to convey a greater message for or against abortion, but you certainly can't help but be pressed into thinking of it. Considering the time this book was written in and released, I'm sure this was a highly controversial book! 5. The ending was so brutal. I have a hard time thinking of a different way to end it while maintaining that same heavy impression.
LaLaLaurie06 LaLaLaurie06 8 years
1. I can totally see Kate in the part but I was having trouble picturing Leo. Something about his voice didn't jive with the way I pictured the character speaking. 3. I was rooting for April because it seemed like she wanted so much more from life but didn't know how to get it. The society she lived in and her upbringing probably didn't help her much to learn to be independent or find happiness in raising children.
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