Reading a Fitzgerald is always a strange experience; his books are sad, but you feel almost happy in the sadness. Truly a romantic in his writing, the way he captures a moment in time is simply outstanding, and the way he captures beauty even more so.
“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 chiseled away in the direction of prettiness to a point where a single slip would have irreparably diminished its force and quality.”*
Excuse the length of the quote, but my goodness.
I was originally introduced to this book by a friend who stated confidently that it was better than The Great Gatsby – an audacious comment given that The Great Gatsby is the greatest book ever written. I was taken aback, and vowed to find out the truth for myself. All other tasks dropped, and I read Tender is the Night from start to finish that weekend.
Before I go on I have to first say that, sadly, this book is not as great as The Great Gatsby, but it does come close. A semi-autobiographical novel that takes the reader through the romantic and melancholic life of several friends, this book is one that simply cannot be put down.
One of the greatest aspects of this book is the inability to figure out who exactly the story revolves around until the later part of it. Certain parts of the book revolve around certain characters, and the reader is left captivated by the lives of these people but unable to know who to focus on.
For any other fans of Fitzgerald who have yet to read this novel, it rates significantly higher than his first two novels, with much greater depth, but still taking with it the art of description that Fitzgerald has been honing in his first two books and numerous short stories. In many ways it incorporates the best of these novels, as well as Tales of the Jazz Age, and takes it to the next level by adding the intricacy of the story line.
What it lacks however, is the 3-dimensional quality found in The Great Gatsby, with no true antagonist besides the main characters themselves, and a lack of complexity in its characters, never straying from the strict romanticism found abundantly in his first two books and which was developed upon in The Great Gatsby.
For any true fan of Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night is a must, or anyone wanting to learn about the art of descriptive storytelling. If you didn’t like The Great Gatsby, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it (though, in my opinion, it’s the second greatest book by the greatest writer of all time, so in reality I would recommend it to everyone).
Oh, and it’s a sad and melancholic story, so expect to cry.
* Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published 1934.