Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publisher: Arcturus Publishing Limited
Publishing Date: 2016
Number of Pages: 302
Genre: Romance, Classic
“The French Riviera of the mid-1920s is the new playground for rich Americans, among them elegant heiress Nicole Warren and her husband, ambitious psychiatrist Dick Diver. The Divers’ renowned hospitality brings celebrities and socialites flocking to their villa, but when a starlet called Rosemary Hoyt finds her way into their charmed circle, the consequences are devastating.
Naïve and inexperience, Rosemary sparks the decline in a relationship already destabilized by a dark secret and undermined by destructive illusions.”
Scott Fitzgerald has developed quite the reputation as the master storyteller of the Jazz era. His magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, is one of today’s most recognized titles. It was so popular it was so popular it was adapted in the big screen starring Hollywood ‘s crème-ala-crème. The success he had with The Great Gatsby set him up for literary greatness. Unfortunately, this success casted a shadow over his other works, which were equally brilliant. One such work is Tender is the Night, one of the 20 books I chose to be part of My 2018 Top 20 Reading List.
Set in 1920s, Tender is the Night relates the story of Dick Diver. While on vacation in the French Riviera, he met Rosemary Hoyt, a fledgling Hollywood actress, with whom he instantly fell for. But just like any love stories, theirs had stumbling blocks. Dick Diver is married to a socialite, Nicole Warren. Dick’s affair exposed the rift between her and her husband, who have long been estranged with each other. Rosemary’s presence made the marriage’s past secrets to rise to the surface. Tender is the Night is the story of an illicit affair but is also the story of the author himself.
“Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
Tender is the Night is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fourth and last novel, personally calling it as his best work, eclipsing the ever popular The Great Gatsby. In this work, Fitzgerald poured in every inspiration he could muster to concoct what is to be the work of his lifetime. Amongst his works, it is the most autobiographical and it mirrored several aspects of his personal life, especially his stormy relationship with his wife, Zelda. This personal touch gives the story a different complexion, making it a very interesting one.
To start with, the book is a complex read. The elements Fitzgerald worked with are very close to his heart and reading it with an objective eye could be a challenge. The dichotomy between the author’s life and the book’s story is obscured by the story’s intricate details. The convergence of these two worlds make understanding the story a challenge. Thankfully, its rhythm and beat matched that of his previous works, The Great Gatsby and This Side of the Paradise. This assuaged my understanding and appreciation of the book.
The book is a toast of its time, portraying the high society lifestyle of the Jazz era. Fitzgerald wrote it in phases – starting with the glitz and glamour before transitioning to the darker facets of the period being depicted. Right there, Fitzgerald’s mastery of his era shines through in his words. He has this virtual scale where he is able to find the perfect equilibrium in his stories. Entering a Fitzgerald narrative is like entering the domed area of the Titanic, full of bedazzling wonder.
One of the book’s subtlest yet most important aspect is its take on morality. Fitzgerald depicted the unglamorous side of high society, hinged on marital affairs. On the other side, it also highlighted subjects on patient-doctor relationship, hypocrisy and substance abuse, particularly alcoholism. The convergence of such subjects makes the book an engaging read. Moreover, these dark themes were dealt with in a very offhanded manner, hence, it is not too preachy.
“Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy — one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure, but turn out to have been the pleasure itself.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
Fitzgerald’s personal touch made the story delve a lot on introspection. Through Dick Diver, Fitzgerald channeled his personal frustrations, his travesties and even his ideals, skewed or not. Dick’s frustration stemmed from many sides – his failed love affair with Rosemary, for instance, and his inability to convince his wife to divorce him. All of these frustrations led to his unusual relationship with the bottle, something that F. Scott Fitzgerald knows a thing or two about.
In the book, Fitzgerald’s writing shone bright. He made a very efficient machine that delivered a wonderful literary experience to readers. His writing matched his era but its timelessness makes his works last for years. It is very distinct and his voice is palpable over hundreds of pages he poured his heart to. In spite of his stormy personal life, Fitzgerald demonstrated what he is truly capable of as a writer by writing powerful and meaningful prose.
And this extreme personality was most ostentatiously demonstrated in Tender is the Night. Dick Diver, although he has fallen to wicked means, is a relatable character because he is not the typical perfect character reads about in fictional books. His flaws and down trodden nature gives him a whiff of humanness. However, some might find Dick’s flaws jarring. He is a character you would love to the but nevertheless fell sorry for because he mirrors the ordinary person’s nature.
No read goes without any challenges, and Tender is the Night is no exception. First of all, it was a challenge getting the perspectives straight. The narrative jumped from one perspective to another, and at times it gets frustrating. The abrupt shifts impair one’s understanding of the character. This led to a disjointed narrative. Moreover, although the primary characters were well developed, most of the secondary characters were sketchy.
“I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am to-night.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
Tender is the Night weaved an overwhelming sense of frustrations and regrets into the prose. On the contrary, it is because of these elements that it has a once in a lifetime book. The story, in the guise of a romance story, seemed simple enough but the curves and spins Fitzgerald made gave the story an altogether different flare. In the end, one can’t help but pity Dick Diver because of his misfortune. His actions maybe abominable and capricious but in the end, he tried to mend his ways, and that is what is more important.
Recommended for readers who like works about the Jazz Era, those who like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works, those who enjoy classical works, those who are into works that make them reflect into themselves, those who like reading works about the glamorous lives of the rich and those who like works that are autobiographical.
Not recommended for Zelda/Nicole Warren, those who have a hard time dealing with their personal circumstances, those who dislike works about dark subjects or works with dark atmosphere, those who dislike books with multiple perspectives and those who are into pleasurable works.
About the Author
(Photo by Wikipedia)F. Scott Fitzgerald. Who have never heard of him? The immense popularity of his works made him a household name and his works are amongst studied and discussed.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1986 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He spent his childhood in New York and West Virginia before going back to Minnesota when his father was fired from Procter & Gamble . When he was 15, he was sent to study at Newman School in New Jersey, where he graduated in 1913. He continued his studies at the Princeton University to hone his artistic abilities. While studying, he wrote for numerous magazines and literary outlets, all the while improving his skills.
In 1917, he dropped out from the university and joined the army. While he was stationed at Montgomery, Alabama, he med Zelda Sayre, whom he’ll marry and sire one daughter with. His storied career is marred by his alcoholism, from which arose numerous health issues. In December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald passed away.
In 1920, Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise. This was later followed by The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) and perhaps his most popular work, The Great Gatsby (1925). His last complete work is Tender is the Night (1934). The Last Tycoon (1941) was unfinished when Fitzgerald died but was later published posthumously. Aside from novels, he also wrote novellas and short story collections.