Tender Is the Night is an English language novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in Scribner's Magazine between January-April, 1934 in four issues. It is ranked #28 on the Modern Library's list of the 100 Greatest Novels of the 20th Century.
In 1932, Fitzgerald's wife Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald was hospitalized for schizophrenia in Baltimore, Maryland. The author rented the "la Paix" estate in the suburb of Towson to work on this book, the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife, Nicole, who is also one of his patients. It would be Fitzgerald's first novel in nine years, and the last that he would complete. While working on the book he several times ran out of cash and had to borrow from his editor and agent, and write short stories for commercial magazines. The early 1930s, when Fitzgerald was conceiving and working on the book, were certainly the darkest years of his life, and accordingly, the novel has its bleak elements.
It should also be noted that two versions of this novel are in print. The first version, published in 1934, uses flashbacks whilst the second revised version, prepared by Fitzgerald's friend and noted critic Malcolm Cowley on the basis of notes for a revision left by Fitzgerald, is ordered chronologically; this version was first published posthumously in 1951. Critics have suggested that Cowley's revision was undertaken due to negative reviews of the temporal structure of the book on its first release.
Dick and Nicole Diver are a very glamorous couple who take a villa in the South of France and surround themselves with a circle of friends, mainly Americans. Also staying at the resort is Rosemary Hoyt, a young actress, with her mother. Rosemary gets sucked into the circle of the Divers, and falls in love with Dick and also becomes adopted as a close friend by Nicole. Dick first toys with the idea of an affair with Rosemary at this point, which finally acts upon years later.
However, Rosemary senses something is wrong with the couple, which is brought to light when one of the guests at a party reports having seen something strange in the bathroom. Tommy Barban, another guest, comes loyally to the defense of the Divers. The action involves various other friends, including the Norths, where a frequent occurrence is the drunken behavior of Abe North. The story becomes complicated when an unnamed man is murdered and ends up in Rosemary's bed, in a situation almost of high farce. This nearly compromises the situation with Rosemary and Dick.
Once into the book, the history of the Divers emerges. Dick Diver was a doctor and psychoanalyst and had taken on a complicated case of neuroses. This was Nicole, whose complicated, incestuous relationship with her father is suggested at as the cause of breakdown. As she becomes infatuated with Dick, Dick is almost driven to marry her as part of the cure. However strong objections are raised as Nicole is an heiress and her sister thinks Dick is marrying her for her money. However they do marry, and Nicole’s money pays for Dick's partnership in a Swiss clinic and for their extravagant lifestyle. However Dick gradually develops a drinking problem. He gets into fights and trouble with the police in various incidents and is bought out of the clinic by his partner. The opening episode almost marks the cross over point whereby Dick becomes the weaker partner, progressively failing in what he attempts while Nicole becomes stronger. Dick's behaviour becomes embarrassing as he mishandles situations with the children and friends. Eventually Nicole has an affair with Tommy Barban, and divorces Dick to marry him. Nicole survives, while Dick drifts into ever diminishing circumstances. The underlying theme is then how one person has become strong by destroying another—a point emphasized cynically by Nicole's sister, who having seen Dick originally as the parasite, finally remarks that "That was what he was educated for".
Fitzgerald began working on a new novel almost immediately after the publication of The Great Gatsby in April 1925. His original plan was to tell the story of Francis Melarkey, a young Hollywood technician traveling on the French Riviera with his domineering mother. Francis was to fall in with a group of glittering and charming wealthy American expatriates (based on Gerald and Sara Murphy and some of their friends) and gradually disintegrate, ultimately killing his mother. Fitzgerald originally intended to call the novel "World's Fair", but also considered "Our Type" and "The Boy Who Killed His Mother". The characters based on the Murphys were originally named Seth and Dinah Piper, and Francis was intended to fall in love with Dinah—an event that would help to precipitate his disintegration.
Fitzgerald wrote several chapters for this version of the novel in 1925 and 1926, but was unable to finish it. Nearly all of what he wrote, however, ultimately made it into the finished work in altered form. Francis's arrival on the Riviera with his mother, and his introduction to the world of the Pipers, was eventually transposed into Rosemary Hoyt's arrival with her mother, and her introduction to the world of Dick and Nicole Diver. Characters created in this early version survived into the final novel, particularly Abe and Mary North (originally Grant) and the McKiscos. Several incidents such as Rosemary's arrival and early scenes on the beach, her visit to the Riviera movie studio, and the dinner party at the Divers' villa, all appeared in this original version, but with Francis in the role of the wide-eyed outsider that would later be filled by Rosemary. Also, the sequence in which a drunken Dick is beaten by police in Rome was written in this first version as well (with Francis as the beating victim); this was based on a real incident that happened to Fitzgerald in Rome in 1924.
After a certain point, Fitzgerald became stymied with the novel. He and Zelda (and Scottie) returned to the United States after several years in Europe, and in 1927 Scott went to Hollywood to write for the movies. There he met Lois Moran, a beautiful actress in her late teens, with whom he had an intense relationship. Lois became the inspiration for the character of Rosemary Hoyt. Fitzgerald supported himself and his family in the late 1920s with his highly lucrative short-story output (particularly for the Saturday Evening Post, but was haunted by his inability to progress on the novel. In around 1929, he tried a new angle on the material, starting over with a shipboard story about a Hollywood director and his wife (Lew and Nicole Kelly) and a young actress named Rosemary. But Fitzgerald apparently completed only two chapters of this version.
By 1930, the Fitzgeralds were again living in Europe. Zelda had her first nervous breakdown in early 1930 and was institutionalized in Switzerland. It soon became apparent that she would never fully recover. Fitzgerald's father died in 1931, an event that was written into the final novel as Dick's father's death. Devastated by these blows (and by his own unrelenting alcoholism), Fitzgerald had settled in suburban Baltimore by 1932, and had finally decided what he was going to write his novel about—a man of almost limitless potential who makes the fatal decision to marry a beautiful but mentally ill woman, and who ultimately sinks into despair and alcoholism when their doomed marriage fails.
While renting a home called "La Paix" on the estate of Baltimore architect Bayard Turnbull, Fitzgerald wrote the final version of Tender Is the Night in 1932 and 1933. He salvaged almost everything he had written for the Melarkey draft of the novel in some form or other, and also borrowed ideas, images, phrases from many short stories he had written in the years since completing The Great Gatsby. Ultimately, he poured everything he had into Tender—his feelings about his own wasted talent and (self-perceived) professional failure and stagnation; his feelings about his parents (who on a symbolic level provided much of the inspiration for Dick and Nicole Diver); about his marriage, and Zelda's illness, and psychiatry (about which he had learned a great deal during her treatment); about his affair with Lois Moran, and Zelda's with the French aviator Edouard Jozan (paralleled in the relationship between Nicole Diver and Tommy Barban).
The book was completed in the fall of 1933 and serialized in four installments in Scribner's Magazine before its publication on April 12, 1934. Although the book briefly made the bestseller lists and received many sensitive and glowing reviews, its reception did not remotely match the effort and anguish Fitzgerald poured into its creation.
Blur's song's "Tender"'s opening line is "Tender is the Night".
A television mini-series of the book, with Mary Steenburgen and Peter Strauss as Nicole and Dick, was made by the BBC and shown in 1985 on the BBC in the United Kingdom, the CBC in Canada, and on Showtime in the United States. Often praised as a brilliant adaptation with an outstanding performance by Steenburgen, this production has never been released on DVD and has since been shown in the US only once, on Bravo.