Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1933.
Genre: Modern Classic. Relationship Drama. Mental Illness. 1920s Europe.
Other Details: Paperback. 352 pages.
It is the French Riviera in the 1920s. Nicole and Dick Diver are a wealthy, elegant, magnetic couple. A coterie of admirers are drawn to them, none more so than the blooming young starlet Rosemary Hoyt. When Rosemary falls for Dick, the Diver's calculated perfection begins to crack. As dark truths emerge, Fitzgerald shows both the disintegration of a marriage and the failure of idealism. - synopsis from publisher's website.
As I read the opening scene in which Rosemary Hoyt first meets Nicole and Dick Diver and their entourage on the beach I realised that at some point in my past I had studied this novel. I'm still not sure whether it was while at school in my late teens or later on when taking adult education classes on literature but this sense of familiarity continued to haunt me throughout the novel as events unfolded. Now writing this up I am pretty sure it was the latter circumstances, probably in the early 1980s.
On this reading I found it difficult at times to relate to its characters given their level of privilege and narcissism. However, I could appreciate why the novel is considered a modern classic, even if a flawed one, given its portrayal of addiction, mental illness and the disintegration of an already flawed marriage.
I noted that one iconic scene in the novel had been referenced in Deborah Levy's Swimming Home, which dealt with similar themes including the breakdown of a marriage, mental illness and was also set on the French Rivera.