Thursday, July 18, 2013

Read This: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Ever since Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby became a reality, everyone has been jumping on the Gatsby bandwagon and the 1920s have come back in a big way.

Now I will be the first to admit that, cliches aside, I love The Great Gatsby and count it among my favourite books (just like everyone else).  There's something that I love about Fitzgerald's style in The Great Gatsby - the way he can create emptiness amidst so much excess, the way that his writing is all about the subtext and the way he can convey mood through the style of his language and not only through the words that he uses.  I also have a serious love for all things 1920s.

In this recent flurry of Gatsby-revival, I realised that I was probably doing myself a disservice by not having read any other Fitzgerald.  So spurred on by this realisation, and a recent curiosity about the Fitzgeralds (admittedly cultivated by Woody Midnight in Paris), I picked up Fitzgerald's fourth and final completed novel, Tender is the Night

I naturally sprung for this beautiful Coralie Bickford-Smith edition - who could resist?

Tender is the Night is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Fitzgerald while his wife, the infamous Zelda, was hospitalised in Baltimore, Maryland being treated for schizophrenia.  It is difficult to give a plot synopsis for this novel without giving too much away, but the story essentially follows the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a young psychoanalysis in 1920s France, who has a difficult but compelling relationship with his wife, Nicole, and is the subject of teenage admiration from new starlet, Rosemary Hoyt.

Fitzgerald tracks his characters through the excesses of the 1920s high-life to their individual points of desperation and uses flashbacks to fill in their history and give the characters depth.  What I love about this novel is the way that Fitzgerald uses subtle changes in the style of his writing to shift the mood of the novel - he conveys the poetic and romantic, as well as harsh, blunt reality.

I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone, but especially to anyone who has loved The Great Gatsby. I can't remember the last time that I read a book that I fell for as hard as I did with this one.

Rating (out of 10): 9

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