You’ve heard of Christmas in July, right? So here’s my version with a summer book in the winter! I suppose if I’d started the challenge in January, and followed it chronologically this book would have lined up nicely with summer time, but due to how I decided to skip around this has ended up being one of my December reads.
The problem with this challenge, is that if you look at a list of books set in summer…they tend to largely be…well…lesser quality works. No judgement to those of you who like paperback romance novels, but they’re really not my cup of tea. So setting into this challenge, was definitely a challenge for me to find something that’s less of a beach novel and more of a literary one.
I found Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald listed somewhere on the internet on a list of books set in summer. My other two choices were A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (but I took one look at the size of that volume and was thoroughly done with the idea) and Atonement by Ian McEwan which still remains on my reading list. However, I was curious to try out another Fitzgerald novel, so I decided to give this one a go.
Tender is the Night follows the story of the Divers, a psychologist and his mental patient who have married and are living a sort of extravagant life in Europe. A young American starlet named Rosemary becomes involved with the couple one summer, traveling with them and quickly becomes immersed in their troubled marriage.
That’s about all that can be fit in a nutshell without becoming too complicated. The main thing I’d like to say in my own review of this book is that I think any naive reader like myself needs to be aware of how foolish it is to align this book with The Great Gatsby. While this book still maintains Fitzgerald’s poetic prose and fantastic characters, it is in every way its own story and deserves its own analysis without the bias of Gatsby in the background. However, I went in with this tainted view, and for that reason I think I cannot love this book as much as I would like to.
The book is more difficult to follow than Gatsby. It has a tricky sort of flashback structure that can be a little confusing. I will definitely admit I glanced over Sparknotes to make sure I hadn’t missed too many major details. I really wish I’d given more time to reading this book, because I think that would have helped me understand it more. I also feel like it lacks the cohesiveness of Gatsby’s plot. It is more drawn out, and I kept waiting for some surprising turn that never truly came.
However, to me the Divers are truly fascinating characters. Rosemary is a bit dull, but I think the main couple makes up for her by being so compelling in terms of their problems. Nicole in particular just had me riveted to the story with her horrible background and all of her terrible mental problems. I think the dynamic between her and Dick is quite interesting and really redeemed the novel for me in terms of feeling like it let me down after Gatsby.
There are many positives about this book, and the main one for me was that it was a summer novel that still had a story of love and betrayal while being something of a challenge to consume, which was exactly what I wanted to fit this challenge.
How do you feel about a typical “summer book”? Does your reading list change during the summer at all? Have you ever judged a book by its author’s past works instead of its own merits? Always love hearing from my readers!