TENDER Is THE NIGHT F. Scott Fitz-geraldScribner ($2.50).
For many a U. S. reader a nine-year period of suspense ended last week when F. Scott Fitzgerald, bad boy of U. S. letters, published his first novel since The Great Gatsby (1925). Somehow during those intervening years the news had leaked out that Author Fitzgerald had big ambitions, would not always be content to turn out facile potboilers for the commercial fiction magazines. Even highbrow critics admitted that The Great Gatsby had been a promising foreshadow of better books to come. Rumor spread that Author Fitzgerald was leading a double literary life, that he was writing a Dostoievskian novel in which a son kills his mother. Readers last week were relieved to discover that Tender Is the Night is built to no such outlandish specifications, but closed the book with still unsettled feelings about the author. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who started well this side of paradise, is not yet through purgatory. Though he often writes like an angel, he can still think like a parrot.
Tender Is the Night is a story of U. S. sophisticates abroad. Fitzgerald's are introduced as a little clique sunning themselves in agreeable idleness on an as-yet-unfashionable Riviera beach. To Rosemary, a naive cinemactress resting after her first success, they seem mysteriously charming. She is grateful to be taken into their closed circle, immediately falls in love with the head man, Dick Diver. But he seems to be perfectly happy with his beautiful wife, Nicole, and their two children. Other members of the set are Abe North, a musician who no longer works at it, his wife and Tommy Barban, half-French soldier of fortune. After a party at the Divers', Rosemary begins to realize there is something strange about Nicole and her relations with Dick. They all go up to Paris together where Dick falls in love with Rosemary. But before anything can happen Abe North involves them all in a drunken scandal, Nicole has a breakdown, and the Divers go back to the Riviera alone.
The story turns back several years. Nicole, daughter of a millionaire Chicago widower, is brought by her father to a Swiss clinic for mental cases. The doctor discovers that her insanity is the result of incest with her father. Dick, an ambitious specialist in psychiatry, is a friend of the doctor's, takes an interest in Nicole's case. In psychoanalyst patter, she "makes a transference" to Dicki. e., falls in love with him. When her doctor advises Dick that he has done the patient all the good he can and should "break the transference" by going away, Dick marries her.
After Nicole's breakdown in Paris, Dick accepts an offer of a partnership in a Swiss clinic of his own. Nicole seems better but Dick cannot get Rosemary out of his head. Several years later he runs into her in Italy. They become lovers and quarrel. Dick goes back to the clinic, takes to drink, gradually goes to pot. His partner buys him out. Nicole, now completely cured, looks at her once-adored husband with new eyes, sees him rapidly losing his charm and his character. She takes the patient Tommy Barban as a lover, divorces Dick. He goes back to the U. S. and becomes a less & less respectable country doctor, in one small town after another.