This was an arduous read for me. Frankly, I think Fitzgerald should take a dive from the top of the Show-Don’t-Tell tree and try and hit every branch on the way down. I will credit him with keen character insights but I always appreciate forming those ideas and thoughts on my own. I like meeting characters, not being told about them. And poetic prose isn’t oftentimes dictated with a Thesaurus at one’s side.
Having said that, the people in this book are intriguing, but I don’t find them to be people we haven’t heard about before. Of course, the scene is different; the generation of those damn kids living lavish lifestyles and who will inevitably talk about the damn kids of the next generation. I won’t criticize Fitzgerald, as he has been, of melodramatically sympathizing with frivolous Jazz-Agers. But we have seen these people before.
Admittedly, I was struck by the gender issues present in Tender. In brief summation, the theme is best articulated through the idea of acting. Rosemary, I primary character insofar as her effect on the main couple, is an actress and several others are mentioned. Dick and Nicole both act, or perhaps more accurately put, don masks for different reasons. Nicole wants to be well, which of course begs the question of if she was ill to begin with, and Dick wants to help. What happens is the doctor plays husband and the patient plays a woman of society. I will say that I found the transition in Book 3 odd and somewhat disconcerting. I had read through the book feeling sympathy for Nicole but as it progressed, and she was being described, stylistically of course, as being a lovesick woman acting as a patient, I began resisting her. And Dick, originally the doctor playing husband, which we know is a horrible, ill-fated role, becomes a cramped, broken man playing husband. In any case, it resolves with both of them getting what they want. Or maybe what they thought they wanted.
Perhaps a more careful reading and analysis will illuminate the quality of the change in these characters but, nevertheless, Fitzgerald’s style has turned me off from caring too much one way or the other. He should stick to short stories.