Tender is the Night

Fitzgerald once said that Tender is the Night only yields its full riches at the second reading and, after my first reading, I very much agree with him. The rush and swirl of events carry as much symbolic as narrative meaning and the book is so densely packed with close observation and authorial judgement of the characters that I found it, in some ways, hard to digest; the mental maelstrom only calms and becomes comprehensible in retrospect.

Something I would take careful note of if I were to reread it is the contrast between the elaborate and realist first part, which establishes the riviera scenery, and the punchier and more psychological second and third parts, particularly around Lake Geneva. There are emotional high points — notably the tragedy that the moment Dick has healed Nicole is the moment at which she no longer needs him and throws him off — however much of the novel’s emotion is subtly screened beneath a veneer of politeness and good manners.

In short, a novel which is both enchanting and tortuous, by labyrinthine turns.

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