Review of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night

Tender Is the Night: A Romance (Penguin Modern Classics)F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender is the Night
[rate 4] I’m not sure if I would recommend this book or not. Fitzgerald is an important author and it does detail the between-war period beautifully with a lyric, depressive, twist, but at the same time I can think of books I would rather read. Bit like Schindler’s List – you’re glad you’ve stuck with it, but one would hardly say it had been a party. Put it this way, it won’t be in my Desert Island list, whilst Cryptonomicon, Pride and Prejudice, and Cold Comfort Farm would be.

I am not totally sure what the fuss is about Fitzgerald. I finally got around to reading the Great Gatsby a few months ago, and finished Tender is the Night just after Christmas after talking to a Fitzgerald-fan (she made it sound good) and, whilst I enjoy his stuff, I think I must be missing something. I did like this though: a great view of 1920’s expat culture in Europe if nothing more. The ending though, I do like Fitzgerald’s endings.

The book is split into three sections, each one populated with the same characters, but seeing them from different angles. Without giving too much away, by the end the characters you think are going to top themselves are doing great, whilst the main protagonist is a washed up heap of scum. Love it!

I made the mistake of reading the introduction, written by a scholar who completely deconstructs the entire book, pulling out the major themes (or what he feels are the major themes) which, ok, is what he was paid to do, but having just read the book and quite liked it, I didn’t want to then read about how it is totally about incest. Looking back at it now, sure, there’s a fairly incestuous undertone, but it is one thing to accept this about a book, and quite another to have your nose rubbed in it.