Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tender is the night

I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald after The Great Gatsby. The book is an expression of torrid emotions that takes you to sublime heights and drags you down to the depths of despair, like all good books should.

(I do not own the picture. I have sponged off the blog 'Books to the ceiling')

It is said that Tender is the Night, one of Scott's last books reflects his life. And indeed it does.

Tender is the Night is the story of Dick, his wife Nicole and an American actress, Rosemary. The plot is set on the French Riviera, but it moves through Switzerland and US as the story progresses.

Fitzgerald's prose is fluid, evocative and graceful. It is succinct but highly expressive. He is nostalgic but cynical and there ar cracks in his rosy spectacles.

As for the book, the characters are highly complex. The novel is divided into three books. The first completely baffled me. I could not understand the motives behind the actions of the characters. They surprised me, I criticized them for being immature and impetuous. They behaved in a manner that was plastic and their emotions were largely superficial. The second book revealed the story of Dick and Nicole. They are a glamorous couple who seem to be made out of gold and they attract a variety of people towards them. But underneath the sheen, there is a deep fragmentation and tension that pervades their relationship. They look unassailable as a couple, but as individuals, both are quite vulnearable. Book three is conciliatory in nature and try as you might, you being to understand their characters and their motivations.

(Again, I don't own the image.)

I did not treat the book with the same enthusiasm as I did Tess. Though both moved me, I felt sympathetic to Tess' plight more than I did to Dick, Rosemary or Nicole. Long intervals between successive readings left me more indifferent to the book than I could have imagined. But I did find one truth that may be universal in nature. It will apply to every single person - it's the realisation when you read beyond the ordinary signs and start to interpret the symbols in your life -

"I thought I lived on Sesame Street.
But I turned out to be a character from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel."

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