Obviously, The Great Gatsby has been a huge success for Fitzgerald all over the world, and has even been turned into movies, starring actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.
However, Tender is the Night is a less well-known story of his, and I had no expectations about this novel before I picked it up. The novel focuses on the relationship between Rosemary Hoyt, an eighteen-year-old movie star, and Dick and Nicole Diver, the couple whom Rosemary meets while on holiday in the French Riviera. They are a rich, glamorous couple who live sophisticated lives and Rosemary becomes entangled in their social circle of more sophisticated, extraordinary people. Rosemary instantly becomes infatuated with Dick Diver, and the novel follows his delicate relationship with Nicole, full of dark secrets and corruption.
Tender is the Night is a biographical novel based on Fitzgerald’s experiences on the Riviera in southern France, where the majority of the novel is set. The Fitzgerald’s were staying with Gerald and Sara Murphy, the graceful and elegant couple who were the inspiration behind Dick and Nicole Diver, along with other notable people including Picasso. The novel had mixed reviews after it was published in 1933. After the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Americans were less interested with reading about the gay lives of the rich and famous on the Riviera.
I really loved the form of this novel. It began with Rosemary’s point of view; she was like a child, interested in everyone, with an immature and naive outlook on other people. During Book I, the narrative switches to Nicole’s point of view, only for half a chapter. Nicole demonstrates a more ‘grown-up’ approach in comparison to Rosemary, and their two narratives together expose their difference as characters. When the narrative changes again to Rosemary’s perspective, the narrator literally exclaims: “to resume Rosemary’s point of view…” By the end of Book I, I found myself not focusing on what was being said, and becoming a bit bored. However, Book II changed everything for me. It goes back to when Dick and Nicole met. Dick is away at war and, having met once, Nicole declares she should have a pen-friend who she can write to when she feels the need and the novel changes to epistolary form. I absolutely loved Chapter 10, Book II, as it’s from Nicole’s point of view and whizzes through her entire relationship with Dick, from when they got married to when they first saw Rosemary on the beach. I really loved the way Fitzgerald did this; Book I demonstrates Rosemary’s first impression of Dick and Nicole whereas Book II demonstrates Dick and Nicole’s first impressions of Rosemary.
Nicole Diver, her brown back hanging from her pearls, was looking through a recipe book for chicken Maryland. She was about twenty-four, Rosemary guessed – her face could have been described in terms of conventional prettiness, but the effect was that it had been made first on the heroic scale, with strong structure and marking, as if the features and vividness of brow and coloring, everything we associate with temperament and character, had been molded with a Rodinesque intention, and then chiselled away in the direction of prettiness to a point where a single slip would have irreparably diminished its force and quality. With the mouth the sculptor had taken desperate chances – it was the cupid’s bow of a magazine cover, yet it shared the distinction with the rest.
I am among friends who like me. I am here on this tranquil beach with my husband and two children. Everything is alright – if I can finish translating this damn recipe for chicken a la Maryland into French. My toes feel warm in the sand.
“Yes, I’ll look. More new people – oh, that girl – yes. Who did you say she looked like…No, I haven’t, we don’t get much chance to see the new American pictures over here. Rosemary who? Well, we’re getting very fashionable for July – seems very peculiar to me. Yes, she’s lovely, but there can be too many people.”
Rosemary is clearly infatuated by Nicole’s beauty and her demeanor, however Nicole is very disinterested with Rosemary, despite the fact she is a celebrity.
I really loved this novel, especially the turns the plot takes towards the end.
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