Tender is the Night

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September…

How many people remember this from their English lit days? Tender is the Night is a study in the push-pull of relationships at their strongest and weakest. Dick Diver is a wealthy psychiatrist who falls for the mentally unstable Nicole Warren. A doctor marrying a patient begins as a dance between crazy and sane. Both are wealthy, society driven people with magnetic, charming personalities. The French Riviera serves as the backdrop and Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Murphy serve as the inspiration for the the first half of Tender is the Night. Zurich, Switzerland and Fitzgerald’s relationship with his mentally ill wife, Zelda, help finish the rest of the story. Overall, it is a tragic display of how mental illness infects like a contagion, bringing down even the most solid of minds.

Lines I liked, “He had long been outside the world of simple desires and their fulfillments, and he was inept and uncertain” (p 206) and “Well, you never knew exactly how much space you occupied in people’s lives” (p 211).

Author fact: Fitzgerald was a Princeton graduate.

Book trivia: Tender is the Night bombed commercially. Just goes to show you, you can’t judge a book by its sales. It’s now considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Another piece of trivia: Tender is the Night was made into a 1962 film starring Jason Robards (who played Heidi’s grandfather in a much later movie).

Nancy said: Tender is the Night needs to be read with Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill and Living well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the previously mentioned chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 45).

Polish Officer

Furst, Alan. The Polish Officer. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.

Alexander de Milja has been offered a miraculous choice. With Poland on the brink of surrender to the Germans, he has a decision to make: stay in the Polish army as Captain and serve on the battlefield (a guaranteed suicide) or join an underground Polish resistance group Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej. No brainer. His first mission is to secure a successful route for Poland’s Gold Reserve to the safety of England via a refugee train headed for Bucharest. Later, in Paris de Milja poses as a Russia poet. Still later he is a Slovakian coal merchant. This is at a time when the war was filled with uneasy partnerships and extremely unstable alliances. How anybody trusted anyone else is a mystery. Even though it was everyman for himself, de Milja infiltrated a variety of groups and formed key relationships which helped him keep his disguises believable. The women embedded in the resistance were the most interesting to me.

As an aside, reading this now is perfect timing. It fits in with Maus, Maus II, and The Wild Blue – all books about World War II I’ve read in the last two months.

Reason read: Furst’s birthday is in February.

Author fact: I have read in numerous places that Alan Furst is the “next” Graham Greene. I would agree they are similar.

Book trivia: As far as I know this hasn’t been made into a movie. If it isn’t, it should.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 253).

Cat Who Ate Danish Modern

Braun, Lilian Jackson. The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern. Read by George Guidall. New York: Recorded Books, LLC, 1990.

Jim Qwilleran is a reporter for “The Daily Fluxon.” He has led a simple life until he is asked to write for “Gracious Abodes,” a magazine specializing in interior decorating of lavish homes. Qwilleran is paired with David Lyke, an interior designer who leads him to all the fashionable homes he has put on his designer touch. Oddly enough after each cover story is published something terrible happens at the featured home. First, there is the home of George Tait. His expensive jade collection is stolen and his wife dies of an apparent heart attack. Then, house number two is raided for being a brothel after it is featured on the cover of “Gracious Abodes.” At the third residence there is a murder…Qwilleran keenly watches the behavior of his Siamese Cat, Koko, to figure out the mystery.

“Reason read: June is National Cat Month…or something like it.

Book Trivia: Get the audio version and listen to George Guidall read the character of David Lyke. It’s hysterical.

Author fact: Braun passed away two years ago which is a shame because I really think I would have gotten along with her. Her descriptions of cat behavior are spot on!

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy ” (p 52). Incidentally, Pearl says this particular “Cat” book is her favorite.

Widow for One Year

Irving, John. A Widow For One Year. Read by George Guidall. New York: Random House Audio, 1998.

While meandering at times A Widow For One Year follows the life of Ruth Cole. In Part One it is 1958 and Ruth is only four years old. The plot doesn’t necessarily focus on Ruth at this point but rather on her Long Island parents – their endless grief over the accidental death of their teenage sons and the bitter end of their tumultuous marriage. Ruth’s father is a celebrated author of books for children, a closet alcoholic and a raging adulterer. He wants to divorce Ruth’s mother, Marion, but he first needs to make sure he’ll win the custody battle over Ruth. Given his drinking (he can’t even drive due to too many dui arrests) and sexual conquests outside the marriage he needs Marion to have an indiscretion of her own to level the playing field. Enter Eddie O’Hare, a sixteen year old high school student from Philips Exeter Academy. Ted hires Eddie to be his writing assistant for the summer but really Eddie is supposed to seduce Marion. It’s Eddie who I like the best in this part one. He plays the fool perfectly (oh, but what a sweet and pretty fool). Unwittingly he is a pawn for both Ted and Marion.
In Part Two Ruth, at thirty-six, is an accomplished writer living in New York. The section begins with the very same Eddie O’Hare. He is in town to introduce Ruth at one of her readings. While their paths cross only briefly at this point in the story Ruth is enlightened by Eddie’s memories of her mother. She begins to see her parent’s divorce in a whole new perspective. Before leaving for a European book tour Eddie gives Ruth a murder mystery he thinks was written by Marion. While in Amsterdam Ruth is witness to the murder of a window prostitute from the red light district.
This sets in motion Part Three which, in the beginning, focuses mostly on the murder of the prostitute from five years earlier. The lead chief inspector has a conundrum. While he was able to solve the murder he now wants to find the witness. The story jumps back fill in the story of the prostitute (which could have been a whole separate book). I don’t want to spoil the end except to say it’s nice that Irving brought the story full circle.

Favorite lines: “There are few things as seemingly untouched by the real world as a child asleep” (p 151). Don’t you love the image of that? Another favorite line, “I appear to have an old disease to share” (p 324).

As an aside, Ruth’s attitude about her American fans reminded me of how Natalie Merchant reacts to autograph signings and picture taking with her American fans. Both Ruth and Natalie are more comfortable with their European fans.

Reason read: John Irving celebrates a birthday in March, on the 18th…or so I’ve read on LibraryThing.

Author fact: John Irving was not an author Nancy Peal included in her “Too Good to Miss” chapters. Too bad because he should have been. He has written some amazing stuff.

Book trivia: The 2004 film adaptation of A Widow For One Year was “A Door in the Floor.” Note to self: put this on my movie list.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Wayward Wives” (p 232). I think Pearl got it wrong. Yes, the wife is wayward but her situation is completely more understandable than her husband’s. I think her husband is despicable. But, another thing: the book isn’t really about the wayward wife or husband.