Heartbreakingly beautiful. I think this is the only story I've ever read or seen that has ever caused a painful emotional reaction in me so powerful that I found it hard to finish, even though I wanted to. There are parts of this that are absolutely true. Yates explores the dark side of young marriages, and the materialistic model of middle-class life that has been the root of discontent and depression in America for the past 50 years.
Anyone who's been married can recognize certain feelings, even if only a little. The Wheelers are a young, intellectual couple - college educated and liberal-leaning in their lifestyles. April studied to be an actress and Frank, well, Frank doesn't know what the heck he wants to do. He hates fakes, phonies, and the intellectual baboonery of American corporate life and the suburbs. Nevertheless, April and Frank find themselves living the middle-class life, complete with two kids, the suburban house and the corporate job. Revolutionary Road is a story of realization. Frank and April wake up one day to find that they've become everything they used to hate and are desperate to find something to bring the spark back to their marriage and their sense of purpose. And that's just the beginning.
There are layers upon layers here, each as depressing as the next, and the themes and imagery are about as bleak as anything I've ever read before: dreams unrealized, conformity, the selfishness of humanity which ultimately makes close human attachments like marriage unrealistic and doomed to failure, ego,....and fear. That's not to say that there's nothing positive to take from the novel. If anything, the central message is that life isn't worth living if you don't do what's important to you. The trick of it all, and the nasty part of living, is that it's always more comfortable and easy to just keep doing things the way you always have, even if it means being miserable your whole life. The odd part of our world is that doing the reasonable and easy thing is considered sane and normal - and seizing life and doing what you want is considered insane.
Ultimately, this is a tragic, tragic, tragic story, but one that makes you want to just put away all the silliness and quit the stupid things (and people) in your life to live it the way you want and just be happy because the more you try to convince yourself that you can be happy living a life you don't like, the less likely you will be. A great book, and just as relevant now as it was 50 years ago.