"Dick and Nicole Diver are handsome and rich, their dinners are
legendary, their atmosphere magnetic. But Nicole has a secret and Dick
has a weakness. Together they crash their lives on the rocks and only
one of them really survives."
With the glittering success of the latest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby still ringing in everybody's ears, it's in some ways unsurprising that this novel is Fitzgerald's most well-remembered. But is this a fair assessment?
Tender Is The Night was Fitzgerald's final novel, so one could argue that by this stage he should have been at his peak. Sadly, it seems more likely that Gatsby was his apex, and that from there on his work declined.
The glitz and glamour (whether real or imagined) that makes the story of Jay Gatsby so successful still resonates in the lifestyle of Dick and Nicole Diver, the protagonists of Tender Is The Night. The parade of parties and aura of sophistication surrounding them both is really what lingers after one puts the book down, indicating that it is perhaps this descriptive power that lies at the heart of Fitzgerald's literary legacy. However, in Dick's smouldering not-quite-there affair with Rosemary, Fitzgerald creates a relationship that is reminiscent of Gatsby and Daisy - and this is where the cracks begin to show in Tender Is The Night.
On one hand, Dick and Rosemary's relationship is the most alluring part of the book - even if we don't know whether to want them to consummate it, being carried away with the romance of it all; or whether to be furious with Dick for his betrayal of Nicole. This is especially true when comparing the intensity of it to all of the seemingly insipid and insignificant subplots occurring in the background. However, Fitzgerald doesn't create anything new in this relationship. The fascination that readers (and viewers) often have with Gatsby and Daisy is that, depending on interpretation, their love either seems so real that Daisy leaving her husband is a real possibility, or it's clear that Gatsby is doomed to be heartbroken by the superficial Daisy (who is so silly at times that readers can truly wonder what on earth he sees in her).
None of these nuances exist in the relationship between Dick and Rosemary, meaning that some readers may be disappointed by the liaison's (some would say predictable) outcome. This damp squib of a novel will therefore leave fans returning to The Great Gatsby for a fuller, more complex and more developed tale - or perhaps instead opening Fitzgerald's other famous novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, in the hope of obtaining satisfaction.
other novels by F Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise (1920)
The Beautiful and the Damned (1922)
The Great Gatsby (1925)
The Love of the Last Tycoon (unfinished and published posthumously; 1941)
First three Chapters....
8 years ago