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F. Scott Fitzgerald considered “Tender Is the Night” to be his best novel.
It was the last he managed to finish.
And it is certainly one of the greatest books you’ll ever read!
Who Should Read “Tender Is the Night”? And Why?
You’ll find “Tender Is the Night” in Boxall’s “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” and in Modern Library’s list of 100 best English-language novels at place 28.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography
F. Scott Fitzgerald considered “Tender Is the Night” to be his best novel.
During his fairly brief life (he died at the age of 44), he managed to write 164 short stories and four exceptional novels: “This Side of Paradise,” “The Beautiful and Damned,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Tender Is the Night.”
He is widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in history.
It’s June 1925.
Rosemary Hoyt, a 17-year-old starlet, and her mother, Elsie Speers, are on vacation on the French Riviera.
Rosemary goes out on a beach walk, and there she happens upon Dick Diver, a psychiatrist twice her age, who’s there with his fairly young wife Nicole (23), and their two young kids, Topsy and Lanier.
Nicole is a wealthy heiress, so, needless to say, the Divers are not staying in a hotel: surrounded by many (mostly American) friends, they spend most of their time in a villa at the resort.
Soon, Rosemary – who gets the immediate hots for Dick – joins their circle.
At a big party the Divers organize, one of their most irritating guests, Violet McKisco, says that she has seen something strange and shocking in the Divers’ bathroom.
She is about to blurt it out to everybody, but Tommy Barban, a professional soldier whose “business is to kill people,” stops her, obviously aware of what the shocking thing could be.
Albert McKisco, Violet’s husband and an admirer of “Ulysses,” feels offended by this act which results in a gun duel the next morning, from which – fortunately – both men get out of alive.
Soon after, Rosemary goes with the Divers to Paris.
She’s still attracted to Dick, and he even starts toying with the idea of starting an affair with her. However, even though he’s falling in love with Rosemary, he resists – fearing that he may hurt Nicole.
Nicole, on the other hand, is pretty much aware what Rosemary is trying to do with her husband, but, even though she is a bit irritated by this, she is always very kind toward the now 18-year-old girl.
Abe North, a talented musician/alcoholic/friend of the Divers, gets a few black men in trouble in a bar, and one of them – Jules Peterson – ends up getting shot in Rosemary’s bed.
Dick, worried about how the event could affect Rosemary’s reputation, moves the body to the hall and asks Nicole to hide the sheets.
Once that is done, Dick and Rosemary finally catch some breath in the suite of the Divers.
Dick goes to look for Nicole in the bathroom, and Rosemary starts hearing some “verbal inhumanity that penetrated the keyholes and the cracks in the doors, swept into the suite and in the shape of horror took form again.”
What she witnesses next is Nicole blabbering out some things about privacy, spreads with red blood, and bathrooms, and Dick trying to calm her down by shouting “Control yourself!”
Back in the salon, Rosemary stands trembling with a revelation: now she knows what Violet McKisco had seen in the bathroom at Villa Diana!
And we go back in time to learn more about the mystery that is Nicole.
It’s the spring of 1919, and Dick Driver is a 28-year-old promising young man with a psychiatry degree headed to a Swiss clinic to meet with Franz Gregarovious, a doctor who works there and his friend.
From him, he learns all about the origin of the mental problems of a 16-year-old patient whom he had met a year ago and with whom he has been corresponding in the meantime.
Surprise, surprise –
That patient is none other than Nicole!
And her story is not at all amusing.
She was brought to the clinic by her father, Devereux Warren, and her disease was diagnosed by Dr. Dohmler, the owner of the clinic, just a several days later:
Diagnosis: Divided Personality. Acute and down-hill phase of the illness. The fear of men is a symptom of the illness and is not at all constitutional… The prognosis must be reserved.
When confronted, Devereux admits a painful truth: three or four years ago, distraught by the death of his mother, he raped Nicole!
Seemingly, the only thing which brings some light into the life of Nicole at the moment is her pen-and-paper relationship with Dick.
Even so, Dr. Dohmler advises Dick that he shouldn’t go any further than that.
As we already know from Book 1 – Dick does the opposite, falling profoundly in love with her the minute he runs into her later that summer.
Nicole and Dick get married and, soon, Nicole gives birth to their two children. Dick does just well as a psychiatrist, and Nicole (who suffers a bad relapse after the birth of her daughter) plans to buy a villa in the French Riviera which, she believes, will do both her and Dick some good.
And she does – so, we’re back where we started.
Later on, Nicole and Dick go to a ski lodge in the Swiss Alps for Christmas. There they meet with Franz and Baby Warren, Nicole’s sister.
Franz proposes to Dick an interesting business idea: that they buy the clinic from Dr. Dohmler and start running it themselves. Both Baby Warren and Nicole think this is a good idea, so Dick agrees.
Meanwhile, Dick (like Fitzgerald and many of his characters) has started drinking a bit much, and he and Nicole have started drifting apart.
One day, Nicole receives a letter from some woman who blames Dick for seducing her teenage daughter. Even though, in his mind, he believes that it is possible that he has kissed the girl, Dick denies it.
Nicole is, nevertheless, furious, and, soon enough, she tries to drive the Divers off a cliff, grabbing the wheel while Dick is driving.
As Nicole’s condition worsens, Dick’s deteriorates as well, especially after hearing that his father has passed away and that Abe North has been beaten to death “in a speakeasy in New York.”
So, Dick goes back to America, and, from there, he sets out for Rome, where he finally consummates his relationship with Rosemary.
After that, he abruptly breaks up with her and, in a state of drunkenness, he punches an Italian cop, which results in him being badly beaten in a Roman prison.
He is rescued by Baby Warren.
Tender Is the Night Epilogue
Dick’s drinking problems become unbearable after a patient of his clinic files a complaint, so he is forced to sell his half of it to Franz.
Back in their Riviera home, Dick and Nicole meet up with Tommy Barban, who – as we can deduct from Book 1 – has always had a soft spot from Nicole.
The change is that now Nicole has a soft spot for him as well.
So, Nicole starts an affair with Tommy, and Dick restarts his one with Rosemary, once the actress shows up for a visit at their villa.
This latter one ends up soon after, but the one between Nicole and Tommy doesn’t.
In fact, Tommy is quite convinced that he is the right man for Nicole, telling Dick:
You don’t understand Nicole. You treat her always like a patient because she was once sick.
After spending some time with the kids, Dick agrees to stay out of Tommy and Nicole’s way and the Divers divorce.
The last chapter is the last nail in the coffin of Dick’s once-promising career.
In three short paragraphs, we learn that Nicole has stayed in touch with him even after marrying Tommy, and from the letters she receives, we can infer that Dick has ended up traveling from town to town, unsuccessfully practicing general medicine, and ruining his reputation.
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“Tender Is the Night PDF Quotes”
Our Critical Review
Published in the first four issues of “Scribner’s Magazine” of 1934, “Tender Is the Night” was the most talked-about book of the year, described as “excellent” by Ernest Hemingway, and a “favorite” by John O’Hara.
However, many reviews were rather lukewarm, which confused Fitzgerald, since he sincerely believed that this was his masterwork.
Six years later, he died convinced that his critics – and not him – were in the wrong.
Lo and behold – most people today agree.
And we are not an exception.