“It is the French Riviera in the 1920s. Nicole and Dick Diver are a wealthy, elegant, magnetic couple. A coterie of admirers are drawn to them, none more so than the blooming young starlet Rosemary Hoyt. When Rosemary falls for Dick, the Diver’s calculated perfection begins to crack. As dark truths emerge, Fitzgerald shows both the disintegration of a marriage and the failure of idealism.”
Thoughts: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s devotion to his wife, Zelda, is well-documented, as is her mental breakdown. Any story that capitalizes on this love and personal experience, given Fitzgerald’s skill with a pen, is bound to be powerful. Such is the case with Tender Is the Night, long touted as the most autobiographical of all of his novels.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is the various points of view in which Fitzgerald chooses to expose the story. While this means that the narrative does not flow chronologically, the reader is allowed to see the story unfold through every major character’s eyes. Each change in narrator forces a reader to reconsider previous understanding of the characters and to rethink everything that has been brought to light to that point. While it can be confusing at times, in the end the story is much more realistic and consequently more powerful than it would have been had the story followed in chronological order.
Dick and Nicole’s life among the fabulously wealthy expatriates living along the French Riviera is so fantastic and difficult to conceive for the layperson. Through Rosemary’s eyes, the reader gets the sense of being included among the in-crowd after so long watching from afar. Rosemary’s naivety at the mendacity of the problems Dick and Nicole face is unsurprising and slightly amusing. However, this does not prevent the reader from being completely shocked and disturbed once Dick starts sharing his story and the truth about Nicole’s breakdown comes to light. Their story is definite proof that all the money in the world cannot buy health and happiness.
Tender Is the Night is a frightfully honest portrayal of mental illness and its impact on relationships. Fitzgerald’s personal anguish over his wife’s experiences seeps through every page of this beautiful and poignant story. With his mastery of writing and his personal interest in the story itself, it is no wonder that Tender Is the Night is considered one of his masterpieces.
Acknowledgments: Mine. All mine.