Due to my insatiable love for The Great Gatsby, I decided that I needed to read something else by Fitzgerald - just to see if it was only Gatsby who pulled at my proverbial heartstrings or if it is something in Fitzgerald’s writing.
Also, it’s almost impossible to give a plot synopsis of Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald without giving away some of the juicy details, so if you don’t want to read any spoilers, just skip this next part:
Tender is the Night is ultimately the story of Dick Diver and his wife Nicole. It is broken up into a three part tale.
Book One begins with a young, beautiful actress named Rosemary. She is vacationing on the French Riviera with her mother after the release of her movie “Daddy’s Girl” (a movie where father and daughter seem to have a somewhat sexual relationship). One day while sitting on the beach she meets a group of hoity toity people. Uninterested in their company, she meets another group of people, and she finds herself falling in love with one of the men in the group, Dick Diver. Rosemary is invited to a dinner party at the Diver’s home. They appear to be an immaculate couple, with beautiful children and a beautiful home. Among these guests is a young man named Tommy who says, rather deliberately to Rosemary, that he likes Nicole very much (which stood out very blatantly to me, as the reader). One of the guests goes into the house to use the restroom and upon returning claims that she has a secret about what she saw going on within the home. Tommy interrupts her and says that she must not talk about what goes on inside the house. Throughout Book One Rosemary and Dick flirt with one another. At first Dick acts as though its childish flirting, he refers to Rosemary as an infant, but soon the flirting turns into something much more.
(Ok. So a lot of things go on in each of these books, with a lot of different characters, so trying to summarize is getting a little hard without confusing you. I am going to try and condense it down even more.)
While on a trip in Paris it becomes apparent to Nicole that Dick is showing off for Rosemary, also Rosemary puts the moves on Dick, they kiss. They find Nicole screaming in the bathroom having a breakdown, and Rosemary realizes that this is what the guest had seen at the dinner party inside the house.
Book Two is from Dick Diver’s point of view. We have lost Rosemary as Dick puts her on a train and sends her away after Nicole’s mental breakdown. But, Dick’s point of view actually begins much before they ever meet Rosemary on the French Riviera.
It turns out that Dick Diver is a psychologist – a great one at that - who by chance met Nicole at a mental institution. She was sent there after her mother died and her extremely rich father began to sexually abuse her. Pretty, huh? Anyway, Nicole falls in love with Dick. So they get engaged. Then through a montage of scenes we are brought back up to the present day. Dick misses Rosemary terribly and is worried about Nicole’s state of mind. They travel to the Alps and there he meets with his old psychologist friends and they propose he start a clinic with them. They start the clinic, after a while Dick isn’t happy and Nicole begins to have mental problems again. Dick decides to take a break from the clinic and Nicole, and heads on vacation. At some point in his travels he is in Italy and runs into Rosemary. They catch up and finally do the deed.
Book Three is basically just about the end of Dick and Nicole Diver. Dick can’t stop drinking. He can’t stop being an asshole to everyone he meets. He pulls out of the clinic that he started, and the Divers go back to the French Riviera where the story began. Rosemary is there – she and Dick flirt in front of Nicole. Nicole gets upset - she has an affair with Tommy – the young man from the beginning of the story. Tommy confronts Dick and tells him that Nicole doesn’t love him anymore and that they must get a divorce. Dick agrees.
Nicole marries Tommy and Dick tries to start clinics in America but all seem to fail.
SYNOPSIS OVER. Holy cow. And I cut A LOT of stuff out, too.
For a non-spoiler recap (or just a much shorter recap): This book is about Dick Diver and his wife, Nicole. They travel to a lot of places. They meet an actress and have friends. They do dinner on the French Riviera. Something happens at dinner. More stuff happens. It turns out Dick is a psychologist – and a good one at that. He has even written a widely acclaimed text book. They travel some more. You basically watch Dick’s entire life disintegrate. The end!
I actually really enjoyed this book, it was very easy to connect to the characters – even more so than in Gatsby – they had a richness to them, like people you could actually see yourself sitting down to a French Riviera dinner with.
The novel did seem to draw on for a long time. Some of the other characters just didn’t really need to be in there, at least that’s how it felt to me. I understand that through watching the other character’s lives change, as well as the Divers, you can see the passage of time and how life affects everyone – for the good and the bad.
It really was a touching story though; I mean I was pretty emotionally invested in the characters by the end of the book, particularly Dick.
In the end I was expecting a different sort of ending. It all wrapped up very quickly. I thought for sure Dick was going to leap from the top of the cliff on the beach – and I suppose I would have rather had that than the way the book actually did end.
I think I need to read one more book by Fitzgerald before I conclude whether it is his writing in general, or just the one novel, that make me love him.
On to reading!