Tender is the Night by Scott Fitzgerald (DNF)

Tender is the Night by Scott FitzgeraldRarely do I not finish a book. If a book isn’t quite to my liking, I still read on in the hope it will improve. Especially when it’s a classic that so many people rave about. It must be good, mustn’t it?

And also, I got it from Adam the RoofBeamReader in his Banned Book Giveaway, so gift horse and all that?

And, finally, I saw a documentary on the Belgian tv about this book which inspired me to read it straight away, ahead of some other books I was planning to read soon. If there is a documentary on one single book, it must be good, right?

But no, after 150 pages, which is half the book, which proves that I really did try, I gave up. Out of boredom, out of disinterest and with other, potentially better, reads waiting for me.

Tender is the Night: What is it about?

The story takes place in the South of France in the 1920s, where it’s become fashionable for wealthy Americans to spend their summer. Rosemary, a beginning actress of 20 years old, visits with her mother but has no plans to stay for long.

When she meets Dick Diver, one of the holiday makers, she falls in love with him and a budding romance ensues. However, Dick is married to Nicole, who must not find out about this. Nicole has adopted Rosemary as a friend of the family and takes her shopping and to parties the couple is invited to.

Maybe to make the book more interesting, there is a duel and a shooting at a railway station. Also, Rosemary finds a dead man in her bed.

It’s obviously not going to turn into a detective story but it is slightly mysterious. To compensate for that, the book turns to a time 10 years earlier when Dick met Nicole, and we find out how they start their relationship.

What else happened, I can’t tell as I didn’t read any more. It became boring (again).

Tender is the Night: What I thought

Well, you already know a bit about what I thought: boring and uninteresting! That’s not all, I also found some of Fitzgerald’s prose quite inaccessible. Especially in the beginning of the book, I sometimes had no idea what he was trying to say.

I refuse to believe it’s because of my poor English – it’s not poor, it’s pretty good and I’ve read many other literary classics that didn’t cause me any problems.

I think it’s more likely to do with two things. Firstly, I’m a fast and lazy reader. I don’t like to analyse each and every sentence and I’ve been known to skip a line or two here and there. Well, don’t try that with Fitzgerald as you’ll lose the plot, literally!

But, having to read carefully is also true for many other books that I did read word by word, even if I wanted to go faster. Because the books were interesting and I really didn’t want to miss a word of it!

Secondly, I think Fitzgerald and I don’t match in use of imagery. The way he describes things left me thinking: “What? What are you saying? I don’t get it!” So, he made me feel like an incompetent reader sometimes.

The book reminds me a bit of A Room with a View in which not much happens, either.

Don’t worry, it’s me, not you! I know there are lots of people who loved this book. Don’t worry, I can understand that you do. But it’s not for me.

Rating: 1.5/5

I got this book: from a giveaway organized by RoofBeamReader. I was already looking forward to reading the book, but when I saw a documentary about it, I wanted to read it straight away

I read this in: English, the original language.

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

29 Responses to Tender is the Night by Scott Fitzgerald (DNF)

  1. Eva SB says:

    I love your honesty! Even though I am a fan of Fitzgerald your review made me laugh.
    He is definitely a writer of his time centring his stories around bored, rich Americans making a dismal mess of their lives.
    It can get a bit depressing at times but Fitzgerald does create some memorable characters.

    • leeswammes says:

      It’s funny you should say my review made you laugh, Eva, because I was planning to write a humorous review at first, then decided it might sound arrogant or sarcastic so I toned it down.

  2. rikkiscraps says:

    Good review, Judith, even though I have to admit I can’t relate to it at all. I loved TITN and think Fitzgerald is a great writer. The way he describes things totally speaks to me.
    Incidentally, I also like A room with a view, :). What a pity. You still might to give his short stories a try…maybe.

    • leeswammes says:

      Rikki, sounds like my comparison to A Room with a View wasn’t a bad one, then, since you liked both books and I wasn’t too keen.

      We have different tastes, at least some of the time, and that is fine, of course.

  3. Julie says:

    At least you tried!

  4. Tes says:

    I think reading your review must be 100 times interesting than this book 🙂
    I’m glad I read your review and I really love your sincerity.

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks, Tes. I tried to be honest without being insulting or nasty. I think I succeeded. Maybe this isn’t a book for you either, since we seem to like similar books.

  5. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, authors like that, they’re not for everyone, so as long as you gave it a go, that’s the most important thing!

    • leeswammes says:

      Coffee (and Book Chick), indeed, I tried Tender is the Night, and that was good. I actually did expect to like the book so I didn’t go into it with prejudices.

  6. I actually didn’t mind this book, although it has been a few years since I read it.

  7. Adam says:

    *bangs head on my desk*

    Okay, that’s out of my system. But, what the what!? Well, to be fair, I read this book for an American Lit. seminar in graduate school, so I was treated to a lot of the history of the novel and the writer. That’s partially what made the book so interesting to me, that it was largely autobiographical. Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda Sayre, is the inspiration for Nicole. As the book goes on, you discover that Nicole, Dick’s wife, is also being treated by Dick, a psychiatrist, for schizophrenia. In real life, F. Scott’s wife, Zelda, was schizophrenic, and an incredibly difficult, dangerous, not-too-nice person. This ultimately comes out through Nicole as well.

    I can see how this book might be one of those that definitely doesn’t come around until the end, when all the pieces fall together. It’s still one of my all-time favorites, but I won’t pretend it was easy. I was further biased by having also been in a relationship (a bad one) with a schizophrenic, which ended just about two years before I read the book, so I had a personal attachment to the story from the start.

    I hope you’ll give it another try some day – it’s largely emotional/psychological, but I do think it pays off to get through it, as much of the story and purpose are revealed in the latter part of the book.

    • leeswammes says:

      I’m sorry to have disappointed you, Adam. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have made it half-way even.

      I looked up on Wikipedia how the story would continue although I had heard a bit about it in the documentary as well.

      I think this wasn’t quite the right time for me to read it, maybe and maybe in a few years’ time I’ll look at it with a different point of view.

      Thanks for sharing your personal information. And thanks ever so much for sending me the book. It was good to try it, for sure.

  8. JoAnn says:

    Sorry you couldn’t get through this one. I read it ages ago in high school and loved it – even more than The Great Gatsby. Have been wanting to reread it for the past couple of years… maybe in 2011.

    • leeswammes says:

      I wonder what you’ll think of the book next time around, JoAnn. Sometimes a book I really liked is not so good a few years later, and maybe it will be better for you, maybe you’ll understand things that you missed the first time.

  9. Dorte H says:

    I have never even heard about this one. The problem with banned books may be that what offended people then seems so ordinary today. I have read The Great Gatsby in school, and I didn´t find it very interesting either.

    • leeswammes says:

      I’m not sure, Dorte, exactly what the banning was about, I haven’t found out. Seems you’re like me with Fitzgerald, maybe we don’t “get” him?

  10. Rachel says:

    I am the same.. I hate to put a book down. I am a big ‘if you start something, you finish it’ kind of person, even when it comes to books. There are a few I couldn’t get through though.

    Thanks of an honest review! I know that can be especially hard if the book was won/a gift. Good work 🙂

  11. amymckie says:

    I wasn’t a huge fan of this book either, so I don’t blame you for giving up on it!

  12. Mystica says:

    You do not have to love any book just because the rest of the world adores it!!!! I did not like Wolf Hall at all and for some people thats heresy!

    • leeswammes says:

      Thanks, Mystica. It’s hard to be negative when everyone seems to like a book, but it’s good to be honest. I haven’t tried Wolf Hall – I do want to try it, but now I know where to run for cover if I don’t like it. 🙂

  13. I have a feeling that this book may make me feel the same way as you, Judith. I don’t like books that make me have to analyse every sentence either; I’m not trying to do a degree in literature, I just want to be entertained.

    Thanks for the warning about this one! (I did enjoy The Great Gatsby, however).

    • leeswammes says:

      Well, Boof, I’m sure Fitzgerald hasn’t changed his writing style much from one book to the next, so it is likely that you’d still enjoy Tender is the Night. But what you say, we’re not after a degree in Lit.

  14. Nish says:

    I haven’t read this one, but the story synopsis does sound interesting. That said, Great Gatsby had an awesome plot, but still the book was hard going.

  15. Marie says:

    Hi Judith,

    Honest review! I actually loved this book, but then, as an English Literature grad I often find that I’m quite a close, analytical reader, as opposed to a fast reader, and so I can understand why you may have been a bit bored by this one. Still, nice to hear different opinions!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marie, as you say, the way you read books probably makes a big difference for books like this. I like my books to be quick, not something I’m stuck with for ages. 🙂

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