The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

The Easter Parade tells the story of the very different lives of two sisters, Sarah and Emily. Their childhood is spent with their overbearing mother, with occasional visits from their distant father. Sarah grows up to lead the apparently perfect life of a 1950s housewife and mother, but her husband turns out to be abusive and violent. Emily has a career and a more adventurous life in the city, but this life also brings loneliness and a series of relationships that are often painful or unfulfilling.

I really liked the book’s irony and the understated style, which somehow conveys the sadness of the characters’ lives and only makes the emotional impact greater. The extremely realistic, often comic characterization and dialogue show the author’s huge gift for observation and I sympathised completely with Emily’s aspirations and disillusionments (the book is mostly written from her point of view). The book interestingly portrays the relationship between the two sisters, which includes rivalry but also an affection and closeness which they rarely express. I feel the book also suggests how easy it is to drift through life not really understanding the meaning or implications of what we do. Although it is undeniably bleak, I loved this book for its exploration of the disappointments and pain of life, and for its beautiful writing, especially the perfect final scene, which has stayed with me ever since I finished the book.

 

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