In the wake of World War I, a community of expatriate American writers established itself in the salons and cafes of 1920s Paris. They congregated at Gertrude Stein's select soirees, drank too much, married none too wisely, and wrote volumes--about the war, about the Jazz Age, and often about each other. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, were part of this gang of literary Young Turks, and it was while living in France that Fitzgerald began writing Tender Is the Night. Begun in 1925, the novel was not actually published until 1934. By then, Fitzgerald was back in the States and his marriage was on the rocks, destroyed by Zelda's mental illness and alcoholism. Despite the modernist mandate to keep authors and their creations strictly segregated, it's difficult not to look for parallels between Fitzgerald's private life and the lives of his characters, psychiatrist Dick Diver and his former patient turned wife, Nicole. Certainly the hospital in Switzerland where Zelda was committed in 1929 provided the inspiration for the clinic where Diver meets, treats, and then marries the wealthy Nicole Warren. And Fitzgerald drew both the European locale and many of the characters from places and people he knew from abroad.
In the novel, Dick is eventually ruined--professionally, emotionally, and spiritually--by his union with Nicole. Fitzgerald's fate was not quite so novelistically neat: after Zelda was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed, Fitzgerald went to work as a Hollywood screenwriter in 1937 to pay her hospital bills. He died three years later--not melodramatically, like poor Jay Gatsby in his swimming pool, but prosaically, while eating a chocolate bar and reading a newspaper. Of all his novels, Tender Is the Night is arguably the one closest to his heart. As he himself wrote, "Gatsby was a tour de force, but this is a confession of faith."
Spotlight customer reviews:
Customer Rating: Summary: Tough Times on the Riviera Comment: Not the most cohesive of Fitzgerald's work, Tender is the Night does deliver on Fitzgerald's beautiful prose and heartbreaking characterizations. The novel explores the disintegration of a promising young American doctor whose idealism comes under the crushing weight of hard capitalistic power. At times it becomes difficult to believe in the main character's steady decline since early in the novel he is depicted as so brilliant and thoughtful. However, Fitzgerald tries (and generally succeeds) in making the argument that American idealism is a fragile thing and not impervious to the destructive power of money.
Donald Gallinger is the author of The Master Planets Customer Rating: Summary: Another winner from Fitzgerald! Comment: Dick Diver has studied hard to finally gain his role as a Psychiatrist. But his meeting with the ethereal Nicole proves to be the one thing that could take it all away from him. Nicole is unlike other women he has met. She's willing to convey her deepest and darkest thoughts to him. She cares little about the current fashions. She worries about him when he's not around. Basically, she's everything he could have ever dreamed of. But the circumstances of their meeting aren't exactly perfect. Nicole is not some random women he has met out on the street. Quite the opposite, in fact. Nicole is a resident at a mental health facility. The victim of Dissociative Identity Disorder (a.k.a. split personality). While she is loaded with money, the poor thing has fallen victim to DID after an indiscretion with her father - something she has buried in the back of her mind. While Dick is not Nicole's personal Psychiatrist, he can't help but feel that, by becoming romantically involved with her, he may risk her completely losing her mind; or him losing his license to practice. But he marries her nonetheless.
As a couple, Dick and Nicole Diver are wealthy and fabulous. People are drawn to them like moths to a flame, and shower them with love, attention, and affection at just the mention of their names. They are glamorous and respected by all. Even the young Rosemary, a screen actress who has the world at her fingertips. Rosemary is quickly drawn into the world of the Diver's, and finds herself falling in love with Dick, and he with her. But Dick is not one to place Nicole's mental health on the line, and must work to control himself when around Rosemary - which proves harder than he ever expected. Between shopping sprees on the French Riviera, and glitzy dinners at the most wonderful restaurants, Nicole and Rosemary become better and better friends; of course, this is at the risk of damaging Nicole even more than she already is. And if Dick is not careful, he may find himself lonely once more, if Nicole is driven into the dark depths of madness.
I read THE GREAT GATSBY quite a few years ago, and have always counted it as one of my favorite novels. Now, however, TENDER IS THE NIGHT has also garnered a spot on that particular list. Perhaps it is the fact that I am a Psychology student; or because I love tales full of romanticism and riches, but F. Scott Fitzgerald's TENDER IS THE NIGHT spoke to me in more ways than one, and truly gave me a glimpse inside the lives of a wealthy socialite and her husband/Psychiatrist. Nicole is such an elegant character whose frequent trips into madness are riveting, and impossible to tear your eyes away from; while Dick's constant philandering, yet extreme passion for his wife is hard to ignore, and makes the reader sympathize with and adore him, yet, at the same time, loathe him. Together they are a couple full of power and popularity who stay on your mind long after the last page is turned. Fitzgerald has an uncanny ability of glamorizing anything and everything - from mental illness to starlets and everything in-between. His descriptive language, and impossible to ignore characters are poetic and lovely; while the undertones conveyed within TENDER IS THE NIGHT are somber and tragic. Another winner from Fitzgerald!
Freelance Reviewer Customer Rating: Summary: Not his best but still Fitzgerald Comment: F. Scott Fitzgerald's book, Tender is the Night, is widely regarded as his second best offering (after The Great Gatsby) and, as with other second best efforts, it suffers by comparison. There are three things wrong with this book, two of which can be corrected and one which cannot. The first problem is that Fitzgerald uses far too many obscure (to an American reader) references and words in French. While such use lends a certain authenticity to the book, it also makes it difficult to read without a considerable amount of knowledge of France, French culture and the French language. One way to overcome this obstacle is to read the Wordsworth Classics edition which provides a list of 399 notes to explain the text. It is somewhat awkward in that you have to flip back and forth between the text and the notes which are in the back of the book. It would be a good idea to make a photocopy of these notes so that they can be referred to as you read the story.
The second problem, also correctable, but more awkward, has to do with the structure of the book. The main story idea is the disintegration of an idealistic and decent man, Dr. Richard Diver, who is corrupted by money and the loss of purpose in his life. To fully experience this tragedy the story should begin at the beginning, namely when Dr. Diver is working as a young psychiatrist in Switzerland. Instead Fitzgerald starts in the middle, that is to say after he is married to Nicole and they are on the French Riviera When we first meet him he comes across as a rich, indolent man given to hanging around with rich, unpleasant people. We also don't know, as Malcolm Crowley has pointed out, what the book will be about--some Americans in the South of France or its true purpose, the "the glory and decline of Richard Diver as a person." The Introduction to this edition by Henry Claridge of the University of Kent does a good job of explaining this problem. Professor Claridge indicates that in fact another edition was put together to correct this very situation, but for various reasons it is no longer in circulation. One could, of course, simply start reading the book at the chronological beginning (the start of Book 2) and then backtrack as necessary.
But the biggest problem, the one that cannot be corrected, is that we just don't care about these people, this insufferable group of Ugly Americans. The book begins by introducing us to Rosemary Hoyt, a 17-about-to-be-18 year old actress who has made one teeny bopper movie (Daddy's Girl) and regards herself, and is regarded by others, as the next coming of Greta Garbo.(For those of you too young to remember Garbo think Meryl Streep with a Swedish accent.). Rosemary has the de rigor mother who is micromanaging her career. She arrives in the South of France and meets a whole host of unpleasant people. There is Tommy Barban, a soldier of fortune apparently on leave between wars, Abe North, an alcoholic who gets more unpleasant as Book 1 continues, the fey Luis Campion, Earl Brady, the stereotypical Hollywood movie director, Mr. McKisco whom nobody likes, Mrs. McKisco who "sees something in the bathroom" and touches off a duel) and other assorted neer-do-wells. Even the Diver children, Lanier and Topsy, seem too too perfect, singing a tune in French. In this bunch Nicole comes off as clearly the best of the lot. And then there is Dick. But this isn't the idealist Dick, this isn't the tragic Dick. It's the idle rich Dick, whiling away his life on the beach, giving parties, doing the tourist thing in Paris.
One is hard pressed to admire Dr. Richard Diver at any point in the novel. He is certainly bright--Yale, Hopkins, Oxford--but the picture that Fitzgerald paints of him is more one of professional ambition than service to humanity. We are not talking Dr. Switzer here. He is also a bigot, witness his attitude toward Italians, which gets him into an argument with Italian taxi drivers and leads to negative consequences. And then there is his problem with women or should I say young girls? When we first meet Nicole she is barely 16 and still in shock from a traumatic incident that would affect any child. Yet we find him "falling in love" with her. At this point Diver is 27 years old. Later (chronologically) when the same thing happens with Rosemary Hoyt she is just turning 18. This is not Romeo and Juliet; it is not even the 47-year-old Bogart and the 19 year old Bacall in To Have and Have Not. It is Humbert Humbert and Lolita redeux. Perhaps the problem is that Fitzgerald is trying too hard. It took nine years to write the book and after creating one of the most memorable characters in American fiction, Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald was trying to top him. But the result is just not very successful. On the other hand Book Three is easily the best of the lot. Here Fitzgerald picks up the action and includes some scenes that are basically slapstick comedy, such as when Mary North (now Mary Minghetti) and her friend Lady Caroline Sibly-Biers are thrown in jail for impersonating two sailors and picking up some local girls. The scene ends fittingly when the local person who can arrange their release (Gausse), after taking much abuse from Lady Caroline, gives her a well-deserved boot in the rear.
The ending is also disappointing. Instead of a dramatic climax the book goes out, as t.s. eliot might have said, "not with a bang, but with a whimper." The whole Nicole and Tommy thing is simply not believable--and Dick as a GP in Palookaville??
When we read a novel it is like entering into another world. The characters become real and we want to care about what happens to them. When Quasimodo meets a tragic end at the end of The Hunchback of Notre Dame we are saddened because we have come to care about him. But by the end of the first book of Tender is the Night I found myself not really caring about any of these people and plunged on with the novel only because it is Fitzgerald.
Then is there any reason to read the book? The answer I think is yes, for two reasons. First of all for the language. Fitzgerald is simply a marvelous writer of English prose. His language here is beautiful and evocative. Take for example, these lines from page 129: "She crossed and recrossed her knees frequently in the manner of tall restless virgins." "...she was a compendium of all the discontented women who had loved Byron a hundred years before..." All this about a relatively minor character, Baby Warren. And this line from page 193 about a policeman: "He had possessed the arrogance of a tall member of a short race, with no obligation save to be tall." Then there is this exchange between Nicole and Tommy Barban on page 246: (Tommy) "You know, you're a little complicated after all." Oh no," she assured him hastily, "No--I'm not really--I'm just a--whole lot of different simple people."
The second reason for reading Tender is the Night is that one should not confine one's self to just one book by an author. Just as we cannot fully appreciate Thackeray if we just read Vanity Fair or Dostoyevsky if we limit ourselves to Crime and Punishment we should read more of Fitzgerald's work than his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. To fully appreciate this book and Fitzgerald, one should read his first novel, This Side of Paradise and a good biography of his life as well as Gatsby. As with many authors much of his work is autobiographical and it is only by knowing his life that you can understand and fully appreciate his writing. In the end Fitzgerald is writing about himself and his own wife, Zelda. Knowing the lives these two led is vital to a full appreciation of this book.
Amazon forces reviewers to make a choice between a positive or a negative review. But this is a false dichotomy. This book is both very good and very bad. I recommend reading it as a part of Fitzgerald's body of work,, but not as his only work and not as your first reading of his novels.
Customer Rating: Summary: Master Chef serves up a half-baked book... Comment: Fitzgerald was a supreme talent, and he showed what he was capable of with The Great Gatsby...but Tender is the Night lacks direction and inspiration. (I read the restored version, so my chronology may differ from other readers'.)
The plot is a bit scatter-shot and uneven, with a very sweaty ending (for a slice-of-lifer, many developments come across as factitious rather than organic), but the writing is still unmistakably that of a master. Numerous sentences stick with the reader, and Fitzgerald's facility with the phrase causes me no end of admiration.
However, the air-tight perfection of Gatsby is noticeably lacking. (I know: they can't all be as good as Gatsby...but the comparison is natural, and leaves Night far behind.)
Tender is the Night is ranked #28 on the MLA 100, which puts it ahead of some better stuff, but I can't quibble too much with the novel's placement. It's virtuoso writing by a literary titan, and definitely should be read. Customer Rating: Summary: Paradise Lost Comment: Scott Fitzgerald famously noted that the very rich are different from you and I. Agreed. However, in this tale of the wanderings of a segment of the post World War I "lost generation" one could argue that some things do not escape even the richest. I would note the scars left on Nicole Diver, nee Warren, by her father's incestuous behavior. I would further note the extreme mental problems that caused not only for Nicole's life but for Dick Diver, her husband and a psychiatrist, and their children. If that is Fitzgerald's point it really hits home because this book at the very least reflects his own personal problems with his beloved wife Zelda when she went over the edge. As for the rest of the story line this is a typical Fitzgerald Jazz Age story, well written, but with no necessity to empathize with the plight of the other denizens of the story.