May 8, 2012

Tender Is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald: Review

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Hollywood darling, Rosemary Hoyt, meets the Divers, Dick and Nicole, and their clique on the French Riviera. Rosemary is smitten with Dick and mesmerized by the beautiful, aloof and sophisticated Nicole. She frolics on the beach with them all summer long.

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They’re rich and mean to anyone not as cool. Even Dick acts like a jerk when he plans parties for people who hate each other and knows will fight. Just because. It’s the bees-knees until there’s some drama and the Cool Kids break apart at the end of Book 1.

A point of view switch and a flashback later, brings the reader to the days when Dick meets Nicole. It’s not all gin and Charlestons. Nicole is a mental patient at an institution where Dick is a psychiatrist. Somehow or another, Dick and Nicole get married. That wouldn’t be kosher these days but no one is all that outraged. Nicole’s sister, Baby, is a bit suspicious because Nicole has $$$ but it’s okay because Nicole needs a 24 hour doctor and what a better way to get one than marry one! Dick is offended by the implication that he’s a gold digger. He’s all, “I’ll show you! I’m a genius and gonna write a book that would blow the beard off Freud.” Baby is all, skepical eyebrow raise, “Uh-huh. We’ll see.”

Dick finds that taking care of Nicole is not an easy task. She has her moments, also that book just isn’t going to write itself. Dick becomes a bigger dick as the years go by and loses his patented charm and all his old friends start to hate him.

Apparently, it took Fitzgerald forever to write Tender Is the Night. He kept changing things and adding events that were happening in his life because if you haven’t gotten it by now this is a thinly veiled Story of My Marriage: F Scott and Zelda. Dick/F Scott’s career is ruined by his wife Nicole/Zelda’s mental illness. (Although when Fitzgerald started the book Dick and Nicole were based on Gerald and Sara Murphy. They were the It Couple at the time.) I’m not totally buying it. It would be tough going but Dick can’t dump all the blame on Nicole. He had opportunities others did not and he wouldn’t take them.

I could easily put down Tender Is the Night and forget about it for days. I felt like the story was going in circles: Bad Thing, then Boring Life Stuff; Bad Thing, then Boring Life Stuff.

funny dog pictures - Bulldog Orbit 

It took me until the end to see that it wasn’t so much cyclical but what happens when you take the plug out of the sink- it all goes down the drain.

I’ve been looking up the Fitzgeralds online and finding some interesting stuff. F Scott would read Zelda’s diary and plunk bits of it into his books. She was not pleased. “Mr. Fitzgerald--I believe that is how he spells his name--seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”-Zelda ["The Beautiful and the Damned," Tribune (New York, April 2, 1922)]. Makes me wonder what parts were true and what was fiction. In retaliation to his writing about their life, Zelda wrote Save Me the Waltz, her fictionalized account of their marriage. It was his turn to be pissed. Tender Is the Night was still a work in progress. (That’s what you get for sneaking into people’s diaries, Fitzy.) Unfortunately, Zelda has been largely forgotten as a writer, while F Scott is considered A Great American Novelist.

And I can see why. Although I prefer The Great Gatsby, Tender Is the Night did get to me. It’s like lasagne; it’s always better the next day after the flavours have melded together. I keep thinking about it. Maybe it’s gotten to me because it is so close to the author’s life. The structure is different from Gatsby and takes getting used to as well. It’s a tragic tale of a tragic couple in fiction and in real life.

Ratings:

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17 comments :

  1. I think reading this would totally ruin F. Scott Fizgerald for me. :(

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    1. The characters are unpleasant. He doesn't shy away his/their problems.

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  2. I read this in high school and loved it even more than The Great Gatsby. Have been wondering how I'd react to the book now and recently purchased a copy. Your review makes me even more anxious to get to read it!

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  3. I have never made it through Gatsby. I've tried, many times, but I just hate that book with such a passion that I can never make it past the halfway point. I don't even know why! There's nothing particular about it that I hate. Reading it just grates on me. I've ever tried on audio, and can't do it. Sigh.

    But I want to read this one. I've been told by people who know my tastes well that this one is far more suited to me. I hope they're right. I really would like to read one of his novels, to make up for my irrational relationship with Gatsby.

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    1. It's very different from Gatsby. Maybe you'll have better luck with it.

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  4. I read this last year and I was struck by how incredibly autobiographical it was. That made the book so much more tragic to me, especially because Fitzgerald obviously sawa himself as the alcoholic failure that he writes Dick as.

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    1. It's sad. They were a too much too soon kind of couple. They looked like they were having a grand time when underneath they were full of insecurities.

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  5. I love the way you wrote this one up. I think I would feel the same way about it. But lasagna is okay by me. I don't need to love a book, but I do feel as if I have to appreciate something within it.

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    1. I wouldn't put it up there as a favorite but I did appreciate it.

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  6. I hate this book as much as I love The Great Gatsby. If that makes sense. I've tried to read it three or four times and I never get very far. Great review, Chris!

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    1. It was very difficult to get into. I was lost for most of Book 1.

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  7. This doesn't sound very compelling to me.

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    1. Put it on your Maybe Someday list. ;)

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  8. I wonder if he ever wrote any happy books?

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    1. lol. I don't know. I haven't found one yet.

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  9. The fact that you are still thinking about it to me is what makes this an excellent read. No matter if we love it or hate it, a great read keeps us dwelling on it for a long time after finishing it. I'd say that no matter how much you might not have enjoyed it while reading it, Fitzgerald accomplished what he wanted to accomplish!

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