Book review ‘Tender is the Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is an elusive book that has many different levels and many different faces so that one is never really sure one understands the point. The jet set – gatherings  of rich people who seem to know no better than to have a good time indulging themselves — move in and out of focus in the plot that presents a tapestry of society and the high spots of Europe.

The marriage of central character Dick to his patient, Nicole, the gradual decline of their relationship and of him, the superficial interpersonal communications and ‘affairs’ between members of their society never seem to be real – rather carbon copies of stereotyped people moving about their world’s stage as if nothing really mattered.

Before dismissing the artificiality of the book, I was struck with moments of sheer genius when the author caught exactly that elusive quality of a relationship that never fully came to fruition, he caught those fleeting moments that seem insignificant at the time but have tremendous impact on the psyche and are never forgotten.

His quick character descriptions, his colourful descriptions and his slight-of-hand manner that evokes exactly what it was like certainly caught the imagination. The reader is also constantly informed of historical and cultural facts and descriptions that leave one in awe of such an informed author and the tantalizing use of French and of exotic locations and events take the reader into a forgotten affluent world as a relatively uninvolved observer.

This book was a fascinating read, introducing me to a world quite different to any that I have or ever will experience. It was not a book that I could ever say I could relax with. As a reader I had to work hard to follow the characters’ trains of thought, or to appreciate their feelings and actions but while reading it, I was constantly aware that much deeper issues underpinned the writing, ones that matter a great deal and although these were never brought right out into the open, I was aware that it was these issues that made this book worthy of its place in the greatest of literature.


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