Updated on May 19, 2015
36. ‘Tender is the Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Well, it was about time I read another Fitzgerald novel, having only got ‘The Great Gatsby’ under my belt so far. I received this beautiful edition of ‘Tender is the Night’ as a gift last Christmas (yes, I intend to collect all of these gorgeous books) and it’s been calling to me from my bookshelf for ages, so I took the plunge at last.
The novel tells the tale of Rosemary, a young American actress who goes travelling with her mother in Europe, where she gets involved with a lively but troubled party set, and falls in love with a married man. Dick and Nicole are the bright, attractive couple at the heart of the book and the story is really an anatomy of the collapse of their marriage (and their mental health).
The characters really drive this story and, although there’s plenty of conflict and disagreement, they’re all likeable in some way. They all struggle to do the right thing and they often mess it up, but the reader really feels for them and wants them all to succeed (even at the expense of each other). Having said that, this really only applies to how the adult characters communicate with other adults. The way Dick and Nicole treat their children is just unbelievable: they row in front of them, leave them in the care of perfect strangers, and even order them to walk off alone in the woods when they want to fight in peace. Unbelievable.
However, there was plenty to love about ‘Tender is the Night’. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of Fitzgerald’s glamorous, ennui-laced fops and flappers scene, and the way he juxtaposes extreme frivolity with extreme seriousness. I particularly loved the fragmented, first-person section in the middle of the book, when we enter Nicole’s head to find out her entire back story and the true depths of her emotions.
As something of a book snob, I have a tendency to think that, if a book is incomprehensible, it must be good. Of course, I like to think I’m pretty good at discerning between pretentious twaddle and good, complex writing but sometimes I take being absolutely baffled as a good sign. This book isn’t completely impenetrable – far from it – but there were moments when I felt I was adrift in an ocean of philosophy that went right over my head. And I was fine with that. Even if, now and again, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, I could still revel in the breathtaking writing and the vague, comforting feeling that I was reading something great.
“There was little they dared talk about in these days; seldom did they find the right word when it counted, it arrived always a moment too late when one could not reach the other any more.”
If you liked my review, why not read the book and let me know what you think?