I cannot exaggerate how beautifully this book is written. I am a picky reader and often favor style over substance but Fitzgerald is a master of weaving a great story with exquisite style. That said, it is not overdone -- Fitzgerald is not trying to impress but rather to enchant. And he does a damned good job at that. Overall, a highly recommended book!
Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise.
It took me two months of reading this book off and on to finish it. That is unheard of for me. usually I plow through something or I give up on it. I stuck with it because this was a book club selection so I wanted to be able to discuss it with my friends. Also, I found the story interesting and wanted to know what happened but ultimately was let down in that area. I found this to be a very bizarre book. The story, while intriguing, is strange and difficult to follow in spots. The timeline hops around a bit. Mostly, I found the writing to be extremely wordy and there were lots of words I didn't know the meaning of, which slowed me down. I'm glad I stuck with it and finished it but it wasn't an easy read. The only other Fitzgerald I've read is Gatsby and this was much different from that so I'm not sure what is more representative of his writing. I don't think I'd recommend this book at all.
Thought provoking and brilliantly written "Tender is the Night" etches itself into your brain: once read, never forgotten. Longer, looser but more complex and much darker in its subject matter than "The Great Gatsby", Scott Fitzgerald similarly transcends time & place to leave you with quite unforgettable images. For example, describing an open-air dinner party on the Cote d'Azur he writes: "There were fireflies riding on the dark air and a dog baying on some low and far-away ledge of the cliff. The table seemed to have risen a little toward the sky like a mechanical dancing platform, giving the people around it a sense of being alone with each other in the dark universe, nourished by its only food, warmed by its only lights." And, thirty years after first reading that wonderfully evocative description, it's still there: burned-in as a reference-point that follows me around all open-air late night parties... just waiting for that distant bark.
Replete with similar passages, "Tender is the Night" juxtaposes romantic idylls with the personal tragedies surrounding most of its characters, and, in so doing, triumphs in exploring the differences between perception and reality, superficiality versus excess, strength of character versus fear & weakness, and uncontrollable madness versus self-induced self-destruction. Drawing you into a hedonistic world that you would sincerely wish to be part of and then exploding its deficiencies in front of you, it leaves you realising that not all is what it seems.
Closing with a superbly structured final paragraph that ranks as one of the most effective I've ever read - bringing together everything that the book seeks to explore in a few cogently dismissive and understated sentences - this is writing at its very best: compelling, perceptive, complex, timeless and, beneath its superficially "glossy" exterior, very true. If you haven't read it do: it's one of the best books out there.