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Buzz Book Club: Revolutionary Road, Section One

Welcome back, members of the Buzz Book Club! Last week I announced the title of March's book selection: the classic novel Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

As I mentioned before, every week I'll suggest chapters to complete by the next post (which, in this case, will go up every Friday in March). In these weekly Book Club posts, I'll posit a few questions to prompt discussion in the comments section.

The first assignment was to read from Part One, Chapter One to the end of Part One, Chapter Four. Of course, you are welcome to read beyond the weekly chapters, but please don't spoil anything in the comments! After the jump you'll find some questions that struck me as I read this first section.

The next assignment: Read from Part One, Chapter Five to the end of Part One, Chapter Six

Ready to discuss the first section of Revolutionary Road? Well, then

.

  1. While the story thus far is told mostly from Frank's perspective, no one has really emerged as the protagonist, or the person we connect emotionally with and want to root for wholeheartedly. How do you feel about this?
  2. The failure of the theater company's production seems significant. What do you think this failure represents?
  3. Yates' use of imagery is absolutely masterful. I was struck over and over by this, but one section I found particularly impressive is the description of Milly Campbell lighting up when she recalls a piece of gossip to share with the Wheelers:

    She was off again, but this was a wholly different kind of monologue: everyone was listening. The urgency of her voice and the eager way she leaned forward to tug her skirt down over her wrinkled knees had galvanized them all with the promise of a new theme, and Milly savored the capture of her audience, wanting to let the revelation come out as slowly as possible.

    Are there any moments in this section that you found particularly striking?

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cgnelson cgnelson 8 years
just want to make sure I have the reading assignment right - only two chapters for this week?
coolgurl24 coolgurl24 8 years
I just wanted to add that I missed the last book club b/c I couldn't get it from the library, but this is a great selection and I'm really enjoying it. (Sorry for being so redundant about the suburbs in my last comment.) :)
coolgurl24 coolgurl24 8 years
1.) This book reminded me of The Great Gatsby, although from Tom and Daisy's perspectives. Frank and April are both such flawed individuals that it's hard to root for either of them. There's so much tension and simultaneously, they both feel empty and don't know how to fix themselves or their monotonous, meaningless existence in the suburbs. 2.) Like everyone else, I think that the play symbolizes the failure of their marriage and their failure to communicate. 3.) I am really enjoying Yates' prose. It conveys the desperation, anger, and frustratedness of Frank and April and the cookie-cutter, vacuous suburbs that they live in.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 8 years
Does this book make anyone else think of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I almost feel this is what April and Frank are building up to... there are these layers of disappointment and resentment that keep on piling up to these inexplicable explosions between them. -- 1. You can't herald any one of them as being a true protagonist because they are both at fault. They are both too deeply entrenched in their own selfish self-pitying woes to really see the other person as being anything more than a prop, a part of the scenery of this play they no longer want to be a part of. When Frank sought out April in the dressing room after her play, he didn't give consideration to what she must be feeling. When she insisted that she just wanted to go home, he told her she was being irrational. If April had given any consideration to what Frank was feeling, she would've been more patient with him when he attempted to console her. They are martyrs in their own minds. 2. I hadn't thought of the play being symbolic of their lives until I read the comments. Great observation, guys. :) 3. Every word seems to have this heaviness to it, the weight that comes with endurance of an endless string of mini-failures and constant disappointment. One part that particularly struck me was when Frank and April were driving home after the big post-play blowout on the side of the road and Frank retreats with his thoughts back to his own 'good old days' when he thought he suddenly came into his own: Loose strands of his character - the very traits that kept him dreaming and lonely among schoolboys and later among soldiers - these seemed suddenly to have coalesced into a substantial and attractive whole. For the first time in his life, he was admired and the fact that girls could actually want to go to bed with him was only slightly more remarkable than his other concurrent discovery - that men, and intelligent men at that, could actually want to listen to him talk. There are many scary parallels in this book that I can draw to my own life and this was one. I remember the time when I suddenly came into a great deal of self-confidence and that memory of past success has a way of making you feel disappointment a little bit more deeply. -- So far, I think this is a great selection for the book club! This is the sort of book that I really enjoy. It's the sort of book with writing that you take your time with and savor like fine wine.
cgnelson cgnelson 8 years
I find myself liking Frank more than April at this point. I don't have a ton of respect - hard to respect someone who is abusive - but I feel that he actually does seem to care and put forth effort, even if he doesn't know how to reach April at this point in their lives. He seems to have some sense of right and wrong, even if he is not able to consistently live up to it. Of course, we have seen much of the story unfold from more of his perspective, so maybe it's natural to feel more sympathetic towards him.
Beauty Beauty 8 years
So glad to see this book here! It's one of my top five favorites. FWIW: I think the fact that Yates starts the book with a play is significant. April plays a role on stage, but she's also playing the role of the happy housewife.
sandie30 sandie30 8 years
1) I really don't like any of the characters, though at this point we don't know them very well. Frank strikes me as a pompous, arrogant (and abusive) man who is not willing to admit that he has become what he most feared. They laugh at the mundane suburban lives of their neighbours so that they can feel superior to them and not admit that they too have mundane suburban lives. 2) I agree with the two comments above: the play is representative of their lives. There was so much hope for something fresh, something new, but in the end it flopped, failed and people pretended to like it even if, deep down, it was horrible. Nobody says anything about the mediocrity of their lives - they hide it with those polite smiles - but they're all thinking it. 3) Milly's reaction was quite telling as well. Gossip is total schadenfreude and it makes their lives seem more exciting than they are, even if it is vicarious excitement. I also saw a lot of relief in the character - there is something out of the ordinary they can talk about and discuss; something to break the monotony of Frank's incessant droning!
adw7984 adw7984 8 years
1. It is definitely strange to not have someone to root for. Honestly, I go between liking and disliking Frank and April at different times. I feel like April has been insignificant so far and yet I don’t like her just yet. At times I find Frank to be an okay guy but that scene on the highway turned me off to him completely. But I feel that the scene is the result of something more. 2. I did notice the theater’s failure to be an important role. At first, I found it hard to read the theater stuff because I was unsure as to how it fit into the book. After finishing our first reading assignment, I believe that the failure of the company mirrors Frank and April’s failure as a couple. They are putting on an act to their friends being the good suburban couple, but like the play they are failing. 3. I also really liked this passage. The way Yates writes reminds me of true life. You can just tell from this passage that she is bursting at the seams to share the gossip. This scene was so vivid and so true, it even made me excited to hear what the news was. 4. I liked the scene on page 65 with Frank’s speech about society. I found it to be heartbreaking in a way. I felt he was being so honest and yet the others seemed to dismiss him. He was saying how unhappy he was in this suburban life, I only hope that Frank and April can work this out.
liza0183 liza0183 8 years
1)Like dannysf I am not sure who I should be rooting for because the words between April & Frank so far are just so negative I am at a standstill. I want to have a little hope for both of them at this point. 2)I think the play's failure struck me because it is totally what their marriage has become confusion, no warmth, and stale. 3) the whole discription of when Frank walked into her dressing room like he wanted to comfort her a little but then he didn't due to her not wanting it & saying to tell that other couple that they have to go home early really struck my heart because I think they both want to be nice and civil but it seems as if they think its worthless due to their unhappiness. So sad :( I am totally loving this book so far!!
dannysf dannysf 8 years
1) I'm ambivalent about all of the main characters, not because I'm not emotionally drawn to the book, but I'm not quite sure who I should be rooting for. I dislike Frank for his abuse, but we haven't really gotten to know April yet. 2) The failure of the production does seem significant. It parallels, for me, the couple's whole existence. Settling for a suburban lifestyle that neither really wanted, but can't quite escape. The play, was the couple's way of doing something bigger than themselves, but they're too shackled in mediocrity. Loving it so far!
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