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Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Chapel Hill, Boston, Istanbul, Calgary, Washington DC, Austin, Tunis, Warszawa and counting

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tender is the Night

Kind of by accident, I started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night taking place largely on the Riviera and in Paris directly after Hemingway's account of his time in Paris (There is never any End to Paris). Not to confuse, this novel is completely different, it simply evolves around the same time-period and also evokes the life of American expats in France.

Supposedly very autobiographically, Fitzgerald tells of a promising psychiatrist, Dick Diver, who falls in love and marries a psychiatric patient, knowing very well how high the chances are that she will suffer from schizophrenic attacks again later on in life. Diver and his wife Nicole lead a glamorous life on the French Riviera, they have kids and in every way represent a stunningly successful, attractive and noteworthy couple with especially Dick being the center of attention. This is highlighted by a young and famous actress completely falling for him at first sight and for a few years.

Yet, of course, the book shows the emotional downfall of this couple, how one becomes weak and cheats on the other, how the constant attention due to her psychiatric problems Dick has to pay to his wife is getting to him, how he develops an alcoholic problem. It is the story of a relationship growing sour, even while it is not representative for other couples, simply because the schizophrenic nature of Nicole adds a layer not applicable to most people.

I had read the Great Gatsby a long time ago, maybe even in school, and I must say Tender is the Night was a very positive surprise to me. I simply hadn't expected to enjoy it as much. Even if the story holds little surprise (most of the ending is clear to the experienced reader from the beginning on), Fitzgerald captivates his reader and shows him a little piece of a world and a time that has disappeared while at the same time portraying a couple that is very unique.

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