Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“When I was young and foolish I used to think F Scott Fitzgerald and Nabokov were the only people who understood love. Now I think they are the only people who don’t.”
Tender Is The Night was written nine years after Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, which would eventually define Fitzgerald forever in the literary world. I can understand the trepidation of having to follow his major work and it is evident in the amount of re-writes and controversies that now surrounds Tender Is The Night.
Truthfully, it feels a lot like The Great Gatsby. Their are commonalities to Fitzgerald’s writing and themes that span his career; the jazz age, the great war, expats in Europe, heavy drinking and unattainable love. It makes sense that him and Hemingway were friends, they had a hell of a lot in common.
The story centers around the protagonist Dick Diver, a dashing, young psychiatrist striving to make a name for himself in the medical world. His plans are turned upside down when he falls in love and marries the mentally unstable, Nicole Warren. The novel plays out throughout Europe, in upper class hotels and seasonal homes.
Much of the subject matter from Tender Is The Night is pulled directly from the Fitzgeralds life. It is the story of the demise of Dick Diver and the rise of Nicole like that of Zelda and Scott.
When I was young and foolish I used to think F Scott Fitzgerald and Nabokov were the only people who understood love. Now I think they are the only people who don’t. Fitzgerald and his protagonists confuse love and infatuation. I suppose I do to and maybe that’s why I’ve always enjoyed F Scott.
Unattainable love was the driving force behind Fitzgeralds entire life. The hopeless romantic who could never appease the fleeting siren. One major difference in the Great Gatsby, is that you are able to witness Daisy Buchanan’s flaws. Nicole Warren seems worth throwing your life away for. If you have ever loved a sad girl you will know exactly what i’m talking about.
“I like the saddest girls the world has ever seen” - Rick Reid
Tender Is The Night has it’s flaws. The first section of the book seems misplaced. Apparently Fitzgerald requested it be changed after it had been approved for publishing but he was overruled. It seems like an obvious mistake. This unfortunately means it takes longer than necessary to engage with the characters and it feels like you enter the story midway through (which, I suppose you do)
The real beauty of Tender Is The Night is Fitzgeralds eloquent wordplay, his whimsical prose and his beautiful metaphors. There is a reason he was considered by many to be the greatest American writer. For this reason, Tender Is The Night is a great read. Despite it’s flaws, it is still beautifully written. I will leave you with the following quote.
“Already he felt her absence from these skies: on the beach he could only remember the sun-torn flesh of her shoulders; at Tarmes he crushed out her footprints as he crossed the garden; and now the orchestra launching into the Nice Carnival Song, an echo of last year’s vanished gaieties, started the little dance that went on all about her. In a hundred hours she had come to posses all the world’s dark magic; the blinding belladonna, the caffein converting physical into nervous energy, the mandragora that imposes harmony”.