F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night – A Review

Turns out that right after reading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, I needed to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night for the West Chester Library Book Club. Considered his most autobiographical novel, Tender is the Night follows the lives of Dick and Nicole Diver, an expat couple who have a penchant for holding parties and being at the center of good times. The book is unconventional in that it starts with the good times being had, before a slight crack in the facade can be seen. I have to say, the first section of the book was not easy to get into. There are many characters shuffling through the scenes, and some of the language had me scratching my head. But then I came to this awesome quote, in which Dick says to Nicole,
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“I want to give a really bad party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.”

This foreshadows Dick’s eventual destruction, and while their party ends up leading to a duel the following morning, the real destruction happens much later in the book. The second section takes the reader back to when Dick and Nicole met, he a psychologist and she a patient, and divulges family secrets and the believed source of her mental illness. In the final section, we are projected forward to their dissolving marriage and infidelities. As Nicole has become stronger, she has grown independent. In turn, Dick battles career issues brought on by his drinking.

Before all that though, there is the movie starlet Rosemary Hoyt. She is surprisingly aggressive in courting the married Doctor Diver, and eventually gets under his skin, leading to this excellent line:

Dick walked beside her, feeling her unhappiness, and wanting to drink the rain that touched her cheek.

Overall, for the era this was written, there is plenty of soap opera style drama, including: incest, mental breakdowns, marital affairs, fights, arrests, and duels. Our book group all found it amusing how the Divers had two little children running around during all this mayhem, cared for by a nanny.

My Goodreads rating will probably end up being 3 out of 5 stars. With the movie version of The Great Gatsby coming out soon, re-reading that will have to be done soon.

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