Published in 1934, Tender Is the Night was one of the most talked-about books of the year. "It's amazing how excellent much of it is," Ernest Hemingway said to Maxwell Perkins. "I will say now," John O'Hara wrote Fitzgerald, "Tender Is the Night is in the early stages of being my favorite book, even more than This Side of Paradise." And Archibald MacLeish exclaimed: "Great God, Scott...You are a fine writer. Believe it -- not me."
Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character -- lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative -- Tender Is the Night, Mabel Dodge Luhan remarked, raised F. Scott Fitzgerald to the heights of "a modern Orpheus."
In the novel, Dick is eventually ruined--professionally, emotionally, and spiritually--by his union with Nicole. Fitzgerald's fate was not quite so novelistically neat: after Zelda was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed, Fitzgerald went to work as a Hollywood screenwriter in 1937 to pay her hospital bills. He died three years later--not melodramatically, like poor Jay Gatsby in his swimming pool, but prosaically, while eating a chocolate bar and reading a newspaper. Of all his novels, Tender Is the Night is arguably the one closest to his heart. As he himself wrote, "Gatsby was a tour de force, but this is a confession of faith."