Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night
Even though this book technically falls on my 2013 list, I am thrilled to offer it at as the first review of 2014. If you stopped by earlier this week, you know that this F.Scott Fitzgerald novel ranked as my favorite read in the month of December.

As I mentioned in the December Chapter post, Fitzgerald has captured my heart this year. I mean...last year...dang it. His stories capture the reader while his way with words makes the stories magical.

I read The Great Gatsby this summer as a part of the 100 Best Novels challenge. It left a far greater impression this time around than it did my sophomore year of high school. This secondary exposure to Fitzgerald left me eager for more. With only one other novel of his on the Modern Library list, I was pleased when I ran across Tender is the Night at the library.

The novel follows Dick and Nicole Diver, an American couple spending their years in Europe, mainly the French Rivera. Their magnetic personalities drawn in a cast of vivacious friends who float in and out of their life. They also have two small children who we see little of until the last few chapters. Their affluent lifestyle and carefree attitudes cover more serious problems lurking beneath the surface.

Nicole, who in the first part of the book shows no signs of real abnormality, is revealed to have serious mental issues. Dick plays the role of both doctor and husband. Their romance began when she was under his care. He recognizes his lifelong commitment to taking care of her, but at times struggles to remain faithful to it.

Tender is the Night is considered to be somewhat autobiographical. Fitzgerald wrote the book over the course of a decade. It was not finished and published until after his wife Zelda's mental decline. I know only the basic details about the Fitzgerald marriage (a novel about Zelda has been On Reserve for ages), so I am anxious to learn more. I would not want to take Fitzgerald's fictionalized account as fact, despite the obvious parallels. Reading the book with the real-life Fitzgeralds in mind, however, really brought a different tone to the experience. It is easy to see how much of his own heart Fitzgerald gave to the work.

Fitzgerald took the title of the book from a Keats poem. He also compared the book to An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, another book on the Modern Library list. Fitzgerald obviously spent time reading the work of other authors. His mentions of other great works prove that. Perhaps this literary immersion contributes to Fitzgerald's own prowess, along with, of course, his own raw talent. I can only hope that my own adventure into the great works will continue to improve my ability to both write and read better.

Pages: 315
Date Completed: December 18, 2013


  1. I've only ever read The Great Gatsby. I realize this is such a travesty but often times I'll read a book by an author and LOVE IT then never read any more of their ouvre. Austen is another example. LOVED P&P. Never read anything else by her. It's like I'm afraid none of their other work will live up. Maybe I'll bite the bullet this year and read more Fitzgerald AND Austen. Hearing that Tender is the Night is considered to be a bit autobiographical actually captures my attention. Those two were so fascinating in their own right!

    1. Tender is the Night is definitely worth breaking your standard approach! I thought it was on par with Gatsby. The autobiographical element really adds something unique. You're totally right - the Fitzgeralds were fascinating. If nothing else, this book has made me want to go grab several biographies.