Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

If this is the lost generation, don’t send a search party…

🤬

A teenager develops a crush on a married man, and he simply can’t help himself, darlings – what’s a devilishly handsome, utterly charming, autobiographical alter-ego of a narcissistic author to do? Especially since women exist only for their men – to deny Rosemary her opportunity to slavishly adore him would surely be cruel? And so long as the wife, Nicole, never finds out that her husband and her young friend are up to hanky-panky, she won’t be hurt by it, right? So Dick reasons, anyway. (Yes, he is called Dick… a moment of subconscious insight on Fitzgerald’s part, perhaps?).

Gosh, I hated this. So much so that I abandoned it at 32%, thus happily missing out on the promised descent of Dick into alcoholic self-indulgence and Nicole into madness over his unfaithfulness (I assume). The odd thing is that I read this when I was around twenty, just after loving The Great Gatsby, and while I didn’t think it was anywhere near as good, I don’t remember having the kind of visceral antipathy to it that I experienced this time around. Admittedly that would have been sometime in the ‘70s, so my extreme youth coupled by the fact that back then women were still routinely treated as pathetic little accessories to strong, purposeful men might have made it seem almost quite romantic. But surely even young FF couldn’t have overlooked the fact that it’s immensely, seriously dull? Pointless people leading pointless lives pointlessly. Maybe I envied them their wealth and glamour? I hope not!

Book 70 of 90

Let me give you a few quotes to try to show why I hated it so much – bear in mind that Dick Diver is largely Fitzgerald himself, and Nicole is his wife, Zelda:

… the two Divers began suddenly to warm and glow and expand, as if to make up to their guests, already so subtly assured of their importance, so flattered with politeness, for anything they might still miss from that country well left behind. Just for a moment they seemed to speak to every one at the table, singly and together, assuring them of their friendliness, their affection. And for a moment the faces turned up toward them were like the faces of poor children at a Christmas tree.

Uh-huh! OK, but that’s probably a one-off example of how wonderful Dick – I mean, Fitzgerald – thinks he is, eh?

But Dick Diver—he was all complete there. Silently she admired him. His complexion was reddish and weather-burned, so was his short hair—a light growth of it rolled down his arms and hands. His eyes were of a bright, hard blue. His nose was somewhat pointed and there was never any doubt at whom he was looking or talking—and this is a flattering attention, for who looks at us?—glances fall upon us, curious or disinterested, nothing more. His voice, with some faint Irish melody running through it, wooed the world, yet she felt the layer of hardness in him, of self-control and of self-discipline, her own virtues.

Yes, well, OK, maybe this is just teenager Rosemary’s idea of him, and not Fitzgerald’s own. Let’s see what the third-person narrator thinks…

But to be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognising the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world.

Maybe he’s being ironic? Please tell me he’s being ironic…

But Fitzgerald’s self-obsessed narcissism is only part of the problem. The other part is his opinion of women…

Their point of resemblance to each other and their difference from so many American women, lay in the fact that they were all happy to exist in a man’s world – they preserved their individuality through men and not by opposition to them. They would all three have made alternatively good courtesans or good wives not by the accident of birth but through the greater accident of finding their man or not finding him.

Not misogynistic enough, you say? Well, how about…

Like most women she liked to be told how she should feel.

Funnily enough, I’d really like to be able to tell Dick – I mean, Fitzgerald – exactly how I feel right at this moment…

Dick Diver came and brought with him a fine glowing surface on which the three women sprang like monkeys with cries of relief, perching on his shoulders, on the beautiful crown of his hat or the gold head of his cane. Now, for a moment, they could disregard the spectacle of Abe’s gigantic obscenity. Dick saw the situation quickly and grasped it quietly.

While the vision of Dick quietly grasping Abe’s gigantic obscenity set me howling with welcome laughter, I fear the narcissism, misogyny and accidental (I assume) massive double entendre in this final quote was the end for me. If I allow myself to grow to hate Fitzgerald – I mean, Dick – any more, I shall never be able to read Gatsby again – it’s already looking shaky – and that would be a pity since up till now I’ve always declared it one of my most treasured novels.

Note to authors: if you must include yourself in your novel, probably best not to praise yourself too highly.

A few of us were reading this simultaneously with a view to doing a review-a-long today, so I’ll add a link to Eva’s review if she posts it later, and check out the comments section below for Alyson’s and Christine’s opinions. I sincerely hope they all enjoyed this considerably more than I did!

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75 thoughts on “Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

  1. Dearie, dearie me! I agree with all of this, and that Dick is really unbearable, and yet… don’t you think this is sort of what Gatsby and Daisy might have evolved into if they’d married and lived abroad? And I think the whole power of the story is that he gets his downfall as sure as anything. While I have some issues with the ways in which Fitzgerald portrays Nicole’s descent into depression and madness (taking large chunks out of his own wife’s diaries), I think he was both fully aware and deliberate in showing Dick to be such a dick – it’s quite a scathing self-criticism, I think.

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    • Aarghh, yes, I do think that it could have been how Gatsby and daisy might have ended up! It was because it was making me revise my opinion of Gatsby that made me abandon this one. In Gatsby, I felt he kinda agreed with my own opinion about these feckless Jazz Agers, but this one was making me feel that maybe I was wrong. I remember much more about Nicole being in the sanitorium from my first read than all this stuff about how wonderful Dick is, so I was a bit sorry not to get to that point. But my sympathy for self-pitying alcoholic wallowing gets less with each passing year, so I doubt Dick would have won me over… 😉

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        • I rarely enjoy autobiographical novels as much as pure invention – it’s a hard thing to do well. I’m glad I read Gatsby first, since I suspect if I’d read this first I may not have read any more Fitzgerald.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Haha! an enjoyable response, and I’m actually with you on this one. I found myself putting it down during Part 1, for all the reasons you mention. However, I managed to get an audiobook version from the library after this and did finish it by giving it lighter attention while I engaged in domestics etc.
    I didn’t find it as bad later, but it didn’t get a lot better either. There were moments of enjoyable descriptions, but overall the story was an empty one, too self absorbed and with little uplift, engagement or meaningfulness for the reader (though Nicole did come out on top 🙂).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, we appear to be unanimous on this one! I’m actually rather glad since I wondered if it was simply my slump that was stopping me from appreciating it, which is a horrible thought! I considered moving over to the audiobook too, but in the end I was so scared that it was destroying my love for Gatsby I decided just to run away and hide. It was describing the women as monkeys that finally did it for me – sometimes I’m sorry an author’s deceased status prevents me from telling him what I think of him… 😉

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  3. Hey bookish twin, I’m so relieved it wasn’t just me, I’m afraid I dnf’d it too after the first book, I just couldn’t take any more. I wasn’t sure whether it was my lack of patience with pretty much everything I’m reading at the moment, but this book probably contains the most irritating, shallow, self-satisfied people I’ve ever come across. Fitzgerrald clearly had an over-inflated ego, and the blatent misogyny was far too much to cope with. Besides this, the message, such as it was was so transparent as to be completely pointless, I like being able to think and work things out for myself when I am reading, but this was all surface level stuff with no substance at all. Maybe it would have improved, but I didn’t want to find out, as I didn’t care tuppence for any of them. Mind you, I wasn’t especially wild about Gatsby either when I read it years ago, perhaps the Jazz age is just not for me. On the plus side, we can both tick it off our reading lists and put it down to experience. Hopefully the others found more to like than we did.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, we appear to be unanimous! Only Christine made it all the way through and reckons it wasn’t worth the effort, so I’m glad we both stopped. I wondered too if it was my slump that was making me unable to appreciate it, so I’m actually quite relieved to find you all felt the same. I always struggle with the Lost Generation – so shallow and self-centred, most of them, and completely out of touch with the lives of the less privileged. Oddly, I loved Gatsby because I felt that was what he was saying – that it was a critique of the emptiness and privilege. But now I’m wondering if that was young FF’s opinion too, that older FF has simply never questioned. I’ll be quite frightened to ever read Gatsby again now, and that’s a major loss for me. Hopefully when our reading enthusiasm revives a bit, we can find some other more appealing book to review-a-long!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Eva will not be posting a review later as she too abandoned it at the end of “Book 1” because she was quite frankly losing the will to live. She agrees with all your incredibly valid points though; particularly the dullness, the abundance of pointlessness and the misogyny.

    Would quite like to do this again but hopefully with a better novel. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, that makes us unanimous! Only poor Christine struggled through to the end and I don’t think she felt the effort was worth it. Sometimes I do wonder how books manage to acquire classic status – this was even worse than Moby Dick! 😉 Yes, hopefully when our reading enthusiasm revives a bit, we’ll be able to find some other book to review-a-long – a good one, next time! 😀

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    • Haha, it’s odd that I find it so much easier to write a rant than glowing praise! Not sure what that says about me… 😉 Yes, I don’t think this one deserves a priority slot on your reading list!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, I often think that when I look at lists of classics – after a lifetime of reading you’d think I’d have got through more of them! Too many crime novels, I suspect… 😉

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  5. Interestingly this is kind of how I felt about Gatsby when I read it a few years ago – I kept hearing people say that it was a damning indictment of the selfishness of the Jazz Age and the flaws in the American Dream, and I just couldn’t see it no matter how hard I tried. Beautifully written, and I can certainly see how it’s so admired, but everyone in it is just so awful and I felt like Fitzgerald actually liked that about the characters. This makes me nervous about The Beautiful and Damned, which is due to come up on my TBR shortly!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think I read The Beautiful and Damned back when I was going through my early Fitzgerald phase, and I certainly won’t be reading it in the foreseeable future, unless you convince me otherwise with your review! But I do love Gatsby, and do read it as an indictment of all these feckless Jazz Agers, which is why I was so surprised at his glowing admiration for himself in this one! However, I did read Gatsby when I was very young, and first love lingers – I don’t know how I’d feel about it if I was reading it for the first time now. I certainly have less patience with self-indulgence than I once did… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really like that description, FictionFan: Pointless people leading pointless lives pointlessly. I loved The Great Gatsby, too, but this one? No. And I think you highlighted one important thing about it; the characters are so unlikeable. And Dick is so very off-putting that it’s hard to muster the patience to get through it and find something good about the story. So, yeah, I can see why you reacted as you did. Hopefully your next read will be a winner!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to hear that you love Gatsby but not this – I was seriously wondering if this one would have made me unable to read Gatsby again with as much pleasure as usual, which would be a real loss to me. Dick was dreadful – it reminded me of when I do an occasional spoof and describe myself as youthful, gorgeous, with long golden curls. I don’t expect people to take me seriously, but I fear Fitzgerald meant every word… 😉

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  7. This is too funny!! I read this many years ago and don’t remember it that well, and don’t remember the visceral reaction to it but I also might have been too young to fully appreciate all the awfulness of it. Loved reading this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, glad you enjoyed it! 😀 Yes, I think I’ve definitely become much more cynical and less forgiving as a reader over the years, especially with classics, which I expect to be worthy of the name! I do think describing women as monkeys is taking old-fashioned sexism to the extremes, though… 😉

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  8. As usual, your review is entertaining. I’m not totally surprised by it, however. And maybe that’s just my own bias talking. (I read, but didn’t like The Great Gatsby; sorry, but I didn’t.) I never heard good things about this book for some of the reasons you mentioned here.

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    • I love Gatsby as you know, but I do wonder how much of that love is because I read it when I was so young – first love lingers! Perhaps my more cynical attitude would have stopped me loving it so much if I was reading it for the first time now. Glad I didn’t read this one first though, or I’d probably never have read another Fitzgerald!

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  9. Such an enjoyable demolition job! I read Gatsby and Tender when I was too young to feel I could voice my negative opinions and I can’t help noting that over the years the loudest champions I’ve come across of both have been male.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yes, I quite often find that classics I can’t stand because of the rampant sexism get very well rated by male reviewers – we all see things from our own perspectives! 😉 I do love Gatsby, though, and find it quite hard to reconcile the idea that the same author wrote both books – it seems to me Gatsby is taking almost totally the opposite stance. But I’m frightened to re-read it now, in case I change my mind…

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  10. So I gather you didn’t much like this one, huh?!! Somehow, I managed to miss it (what were they thinking in my literature classes by omitting “classics” like this??). From what you’ve said, I don’t think I’ve missed much and will gladly leave it unread. One star? *shivers*

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you should be grateful your literature classes omitted this one! 😉 I thought it was just me and my slump that made me hate this so much, but all four of us who were reading it at the same time seemed to feel the same way, so I’m feeling validated! 😀

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    • Hahaha, yes, exactly! He nearly drove me to insanity merely by reading a bit of his dreadful book! But maybe you’ll enjoy it more – it certainly has plenty of five-star reviews, though I can’t for the life of me think why… 😉

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  11. I didn’t like this either, mainly because I found it so slow and boring, although I did persevere with it and thought it improved in the second half. I’m afraid I wasn’t a fan of The Great Gatsby either, so I’ve concluded that Fitzgerald just isn’t for me!

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    • I might have persevered if I wasn’t still in the middle of a slump, but oh, yes, it was so slow, and so full of pointless nothings! I do love Gatsby, but I wonder if I would if I was reading it for the first time now – I was much less critical and cynical back in my early reading career!

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  12. I am still on a blogging hiatus, but I had downloaded a copy and was going to read this. Thank you for doing the heavy lifting for me instead! I do want to read this at some point, but I can’t imagine enjoying the book more than your review 🙂

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    • Haha, glad you enjoyed the review – sometimes it’s necessary to have a rant to get the blood pressure back down! 😉 You may enjoy it far more than me though – it has more than its share of five-star reviews, though for the life of me I can’t think why… 😀

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  13. OMG! I love this review and what a dick Dick seems to be! (sorry for stooping to that crass level, but it begged to be said 😂) I’ve not read any Fitzgerald, nor do I want to. I formed a poor opinion of him based on a historical fiction novel I read about Hemingway (The Paris Wife). I’ll steer clear of this.

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    • Hahaha, I couldn’t resist the Dick jokes either – somehow he seemed to deserve them! 😉 I did love Gatsby, though, but I’m glad I read it first. If this had been my first Fitzgerald I doubt if I’d have read another. On the whole, these Lost Generation writers annoy me with their tedious drinking and self-pity. I always want to tell them to stop whining and get a real job… 😀

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  14. I seem to remember telling you, that I’d rather reread Gatsby than making an attempt with this one (when you first mentioned it in TBR Thursday). I won’t say ‘told you so’ (even if tempting) but I will definitely stick to my plan. 🙂

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    • Haha, go on, say you told me so – I deserve it! 😉 I definitely think I’ll stick to Gatsby in future and leave his other books for some other poor soul to read. Though I’ll have to leave it awhile, till I get over my desire to hit him over the head with a brick… 😀

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    • Haha, poor old Fitzgerald hasn’t found many people to defend him from my tirade! 😉 i do love Gatsby, but I doubt I’ll make an effort to read or re-read any more of his books now – I think youthful FF liked him considerably more than mature FF!

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  15. So I thought that the very least I could do was pop in to read the results from those of you who did take up the challenge. Now I’m thinking I could have joined in – if I only needed to read a fraction of the book, maybe I could have added my voice to the dnf chorus! 😉 Seriously, I never had much hope of liking this one and you have confirmed my suspicions. But it would have been unfair of me to try under present personal circumstances – unfair on the author and unfair on me: there’s enough tough stuff going on in my life right now; why add more! 😖 All that said, I’m delighted to see that you’ve not lost your touch, FF; these 1-star reviews are always a treat!

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    • Glad to hear from you, Sandra, though I’m sorry you’re still going through rough times. Haha, I doubt very much that you’d have enjoyed this any more than the rest of us, so I think you did well to dodge this particular bullet! It’s very strange how some books get a reputation as a classic when they’re so dire! Though it has a ton of five star reviews on Goodreads, which makes me wonder if there’s another book somewhere with the same title… 😉 Hope things look up for you soon, and am looking forward to us all finding another book to share sometime – probably in the New Year. Take care! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Haha, I’ve been surprised by how many people have confessed to not liking Gatsby. I still love it, but I’m wondering now if that’s only because I was so young when I first read it. Certainly this one won’t be replacing it as my favourite Fitzgerald… 😉

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  16. I love your title. I had the same reaction to This Side of Paradise (I can’t stand it, I mean), because of its juvenile thinking. This one sounds worse. Maybe The Great Gatsby is the only great book he wrote.

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    • Haha, I always feel a bit like that about the Lost Generation! I know I read a few of his books after I’d first read Gatsby, and that none of them had anything like the same impact on me. But I don’t remember hating them the way I hated this now either! I’ll need to leave some time before re-reading Gatsby to get the taste of this out of my mind…

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  17. I remember reading this in my early 20s too and being rather confused by how the author of so many brilliant short stories and The Great Gatsby could write such a boring book. At the time, the relationships seemed unhealthy but I don’t think I was particularly struck by the misogynism and narcissism either. I’ve thought of going back to re-read it but your review has confirmed my suspicion that this is not a book that grows on a woman as she ages!

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  18. YIKES!!!! As a woman, of course I love being told what to feel? Ugh, how infuriating. I loved the idea of thinking back to a young FF however, and trying to see this book through her eyes. How much has changed, thank god.

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  19. I’ve been meaning to read this for some time and am actually teaching Gatsby at the moment! I’m not too surprised that Fitzgerald’s chooses to cast himself in this egocentric fashion…I must admit that even Gatsby frustrates me and delights me in equal measure.

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    • I think I was young enough when I read Gatsby to be pretty uncritical, and my love for it blinds me still to any imperfections. This one, though… well, let’s just say that Fitzgerald makes Hemingway look like a feminist… 😉

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    • Hahaha, glad you enjoyed it! Having a good rant is very therapeutic… 😉 Argh, no – I wouldn’t recommend putting this one on the re-read list! Not without plenty of medicinal chocolate to hand anyway!

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