Tender is the Night was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favorite novel, and it’s easy to see why. It revisits some of the tropes we see in The Great Gatsby: the ruin of a man brought about by his attempt to climb social strata; the idea that a man’s potential can be wrecked by falling in love with the wrong woman; the moral emptiness at the core of the American dream. Certainly, Fitzgerald drew heavily upon his life to create the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver, and Dick’s alcoholism mirrors Fitzgerald’s own; however, he writes a comparatively happier end for Nicole, whose mental health is made whole and who is ultimately insulated from the consequences of her actions, as Daisy Buchanan was, by her family’s wealth.
The novel is presented in three “books;” the first of these describes the events of the summer that sow the seeds of the destruction of the Divers’ marriage, and the second and third outline Dick’s history with Nicole and his eventual downfall even as she rises. Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress, is a middle-class striver whose chance meeting of the Divers sets the plot in motion, but she is the least interesting character presented here.
Overall, Tender is the Night is a great novel, but its essential darkness (including an even greater level of racism than seen in Gatsby, that jars the modern reader) is unlikely to displace Gatsby’s hold on America’s imagination.