The Classics Club: Tender is the Night

Tender is the Night

I decided in January to try to always have a classic novel or short story collection on the go, alongside one fiction and non-fiction. Starting as I mean to go on after finishing Shirley by Charlotte Brontë I picked up Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Tender is the Night takes us to the beautiful south of France in the summer of 1925. Wealthy, American couple Dick and Nicole Diver, and their social clique are enjoying the sun, sea and beach from their villa on the French Riviera. The equilibrium is to be altered with the arrival of the young movie star Rosemary Hoyt and her mother. This new friendship will go on to reveal the cracks in the Divers’ friendships and even their own marriage. I love the 1920’s world of Fitzgerald’s novels; the clothes, parties and glamour while in this novel the beautiful French setting was an extra bonus.

While the setting is intoxicating I often find the society, outlook and opinions of the age unattractive and in turn so are the characters in Fitzgerald’s novels. In Tender is the Night Rosemary and many of the Divers’ other friends and family are over privileged, aloof, shallow and live with no thought of consequence. When we first meet the Divers they too come across like this however when you come to the middle of the novel we are taken back in time to when they first met. Nicole was in a mental illness institute and Dick a young doctor. Knowing the hardships they have been through and the love and need they once had for each other did make me soften to them.

Tender is the Night is the third novel I have read by F Scott Fitzgerald, the previous being The Great Gatsby and The Beautiful and the Damned. I find Fitzgerald’s writing to be detailed, eloquent, but quite meandering. Fitzgerald is certainly not a direct writer. Rather than this annoying me though I find this style adds to the precocious, aloof, and flamboyant mood of the age and setting. Again it particularly works in this novel because of the mind sets of the Divers. Dick is a man who is coming to think too much while Nicole has her mental illness to come to terms with. Again not sure this style would work for me in anything but a Fitzgerald novel.

Tender is the Night is a glitzy and gritty look into the lives of 1920’s American socialites in Europe. I recommend to those interested in the 1920’s and classic American literature. This is my 28th read off my Classics Club list. Okay read.

Have you read this? Or another of Fitzgerald’s novels?