Tender Is the Night. New York: Scribners, 1934; London: Chatto & Windus, 1934. Novel. Tender Is the Night, 'With the Author's Final Revisions,' ed.
Tender is the Night is one of Scott Fitzgerald's most personal novels. He started work on it in 1925, but it was not ready for publication until 1934. The parallel's between the novels central characters, Dick and Nicole, and Fitzgerald's relationship with his wife, Zelda, are frighteningly apparent. During the period when he was writting, Zelda's condition was deteriorating so rapidly that she had to be hospitalized in a sanitarium on Lake Geneva. Moreover, his own illness, alcoholism, was a constant struggle for him.
The novel is not simply a love story between two highly dysfunctional people, but it revisits Fitzgerlad's interest in the American Dream gone awry, as he covers the topic of incest amongst a sophiticated American businessman and his daughter. The novel is littered with similarly barbed attacks on American society, much like The Great Gatsby.
One interesting aside worthy of note, is that the novel exists in two forms. The first, and in my opinion, definitive version has a number of authorial voices that guide the reader through the events. The chronology of events in this version is flawed, and there are inconsistencies as the story cuts between dates and events, but the overall effect in depicting Dick Diver's disintegration is stunning. The second version, in which Fitzgerald attempted to re-edit the entire novel, and have the events occur in chronolgical order contains the same themes, and helped Fitzgerald remove certain errors, but the overall effect is diluted. As the first closes, the reader is invited to draw comparisons between the brilliant Dick at the start of the novel, to the shadow of a man, destroyed by this socialite and her rich family, at the close; with the second, the temptation is to sympathy with Nicole. It is perhaps testament to how intesely personal the novel was to Fitzgerald, as he attempted to rewrite it, and do so in a way that is kinder to Nicole, and hence Zelda.