Review: The Easter Parade

After reading Revolutionary Road last year, I put Yates’ complete works on my tbr list, it made such an impact. It’s taken me nearly a year though, to read The Easter Parade. I have to admit I was a bit worried that Revolutionary Road was Yates’ masterpiece and that all his other works would pale in comparison, but I needn’t have worried, The Easter Parade is just as impressive.

The Easter Parade follows the lives of two sisters, Sarah and Emily Grimes, over four decades, from the thirties to the seventies. The sisters live with their mother Pookie, a flaky alcoholic, who moves them from small town to small town. Their father Walter is a lonely and unhappy copy desk man, and they only see him occasionally since their parent’s divorce. Both Sarah and Emily are determined to live their lives differently than their mother, and make it happy and a success. While Sarah marries young and settles with her husband and three sons into suburban middle-class life, Emily attends college and becomes a free-spirited career woman in the city, with a string of relationships that never last. Although Sarah and Emily were close as children, they drift more and more apart, as their lives take very different directions. On the surface, the life of the other sister always seems much happier and successful, but Sarah’s marriage is marked by violence and alcohol, and she becomes more like Pookie every year. Emily’s freedom and career in New York seem dazzling by comparison, but Emily can never form any lasting attachments and comes to be very lonely.

Like Revolutionary Road, this novel is marked by resignation and sadness. Whatever Sarah and Emily strive for, they end up disappointed. Yates chronicles small middle-class lives and always, the failure of the American dream. Characterization with Yates seems flawless, I have never encountered more fully rounded characters in fiction. Yates practically dissects their needs and ambitions, but he does so with care. And it is not just the main characters whose unhappiness and vulnerability are starkly drawn. Dialogue, descriptions, and facial expressions especially create sad scenes that cut to the heart:

He was forty-three years old, but at that moment his face looked as helpless as a child’s. “You still like me?” he asked.

“Oh, of course,” she told him, and busied herself with her raincoat.

While the novel tells the biographies of both Emily and Sarah, the narrative stays with Emily for the most part, and the reader comes to know her intimately. Emily yearns for love and closeness, but at the same time, she feels suffocated by relationships. It is likely the reason why she chooses men who are never quite available or without problems which are guaranteed to break their relationship. In the end, she is perhaps luckier than Sarah, but not much. The  effect of the sisters’ fate is brutal, and it is perhaps surprising how much one can enjoy reading a novel that is so unrelentingly sad. As I suspected, this will not be my last Yates.

Other thoughts:

Teresa @ Shelf Love

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25 thoughts on “Review: The Easter Parade

  1. I’m excited to read more Richard Yates. Completely against my expectations, I loved Revolutionary Road, and his other books sound fantastic.

  2. I’m searching for this book to buy online as I write this (sadly, my local bookstores think his works don’t extend beyond Revolutionary Road). I’m glad you enjoyed it, I think he is very under-rated.

    1. I’m glad his works are are given more attention now thanks to the film. Ah yes, some bookstores. Have you tried the Book Depository?

  3. This one sounds great, I loved Revolutionary Road too and so I’m eager to read more by Yates. It sounds like The Easter Parade kind of captures that truth that there’s a downside to every path chosen in life, though Emily’s does sound preferable since it’s without violence and alcoholism. I’ll be adding this to my tbr list. 🙂

    1. I think it’s typical Yates, that everyone is always drinking in his novels. Though it’s worse with Pookie and Sarah. Hope you read it soon, I’m curious which book you’ll like better 🙂

  4. Interesting review, Bina! I love the cover of the edition that you read 🙂

    Yates’ books seem to be bleak and sad and I will have to muster enough courage before I get into one of his books. From your review, the depiction of the contrast between Emily’s and Sarah’s lives in the book is quite interesting – inspite of their lives being so different, they have something in common in terms of unfulfilled happiness. I liked very much the conversation snippet that you have quoted.

    1. The vintage editions are gorgeous! 🙂 It’s definitely a bleak world that his novels explore and it’s sometimes emotionally draining, but so very worth it. Perhaps read something more uplifting afterwards though 😉

  5. The cover alone is classic. The spin on family view is big lately and a conduit for thought provoking reflection. I’m inclined towards epics based on relationships and this sounds like something I should read next. Another great review and will place this on TBR list.

    1. Definitively, I love the vintage editions! 🙂 I think you might enjoy this one then, following characters on a journey that spans decades is so very satisfying.

  6. Oh you, stop tempting me away from my toppling TBR and wanting to add just one more to my list! 🙂 This sounds terrific. I haven’t read any Yates but I did see Revolutionary Road which, while I loved, can’t watch again. Having been hooked onto Mad Men, I’m fascinated by the period this covers. Like those who were born early in the last century, there’s been such dramatic social changes, it’s incredible. And the Vintage covers are to die for!

    1. Hahaha, it’s all retaliation because of the devastating effect you have on my tbr list! ;D The vintage covers are really perfect, I want them all on my shelf! 🙂 I love Mad Men too, and the period details!

      Yates’ stories are depressing but so well done, can’t resist. But read a mystery after wards 😉

  7. I just saw your review! I have also read Revolutionary Road and Easter Parade and I have to read more Yates. I love his style. Although the stories are depressing, they kind of fascinate me. (If that makes sense at all?!)

    1. Glad you’re still around, Sabine! Glad you enjoyed these two as much, and I definitely get that they are fascinating and depressing! Which Yates should we read next then? 😉

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