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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greater than Gatsby, 1 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: TENDER IS THE NIGHT (Kindle Edition)
I first read The Great Gatsby fifty years ago, and have re-read it regularly over the years to indulge myself in the richness of the prose and the clear morality of the story. I had several times attempted to get into Tender is the Night, but until earlier this month it had always eluded my attention. Gatsby has a clear narrative timeline and two fine characters - the self-effacing Nick, and Gatsby himself - and two detestable pantomime villains: Daisy and her husband, who damage people but then pass on cocooned in their wealth.

Tender is the Night has a quite different structure - and there are no villains at all. I tackled the book again a week or so back at the urging of a friend and published author whose views I much respect, and who rated the book greater than Gatsby. I read it once, and at the end of this first reading quite frankly didn't see the point: medical charlatan marries young, beautiful, rich patient and gets his comeuppance. But, respecting my friend's views, I persevered: and half-way through the second time I began to get an understanding. Now, having read it in full three times in succession I can see why it can be considered to be greater than Gatsby.

The triptych structure is essential to the book. The first part shows Dick and Nicole Diver at the height of their existence: glamour and attractiveness seen through the perceptive eyes of a young (seventeen) but self-assured young actress, Rosemary, who falls heavily in love or infatuation with Doctor Dick. He rises nobly to resist her attempt at an affair without offending her, and clearly expressing his responsibilities to the wife and children he loves.

The second section is a flashback explaining how their relationship came to be, and the perilous quicksands upon which it is built. Dick is a serious young psychiatrist with a dazzling future ahead of him - but he is poor. Nicole, then sixteen, becomes his patient and over time they fall in love and marry: she is emotionally damaged, but very rich. Taking this history in the second part gives you cause to reflect upon the dazzling impressions of the first part, and to suspect the weaknesses that underlie it.

In part three, the finale, the edifice of their life together crumbles and eventually their marriage falls apart. They separate, divorce; with Nicole now strengthened to independence and Dick descending into alcohoiism and a succession of appointments in small towns where his charm can disguise the failure of his talent. Nicole still loves him for what he meant to her, and you know that he still loves her - but that there is no way back. Both Dick and Nicole terminate their relationship with a dignity that confirms that their relationship, although flawed, was nevertheless something of value.

I now, and somewhat to my surprise, agree with my friend's assessment that it is greater than Gatsby - but it requires more effort than a casual flipping through.
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