Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tender is the Beach

English books are a bit rare here in good ol' Rayong, and all the more cherished because of it. There is a used book shop in Ban Phe near the beach, but as you might imagine, the stock consists mainly of summer vacation books that people brought with them, but don't want to carry back home. There is one table of 'classics' an eclectic mix of Shakespeare and Vonegut and of course a couple copies of Keroak's On the Road (which I still haven't read). Due to this scarcity, you can't be too picky about what you want to read, and we tend to share whatever books we have. And this is how I ended up reading Tender is the Night, one of the books Bunny had brought with her.

Tender is the Night - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Plot: Rich expats flit around Post WWI Europe but can't escape their own internal battles.
Motto: All that glitters is not gold
Hmm... this book is complicated. The beginning was agonizingly slow with entirely too many characters introduced with only the barest of development. It took quite a while before I figured out that Dick and Nicole Diver were the main characters. I simply could not follow what was going on or why. It seemed like just a bunch of shallow snobs and the melodramas of their endless parties. Rosemary was too ridiculous for words.

The middle section got my attention though as it focused more on Dick & Nicole, their history and their secrets. I really started getting invested in them and wanted to know what would happen to them. But then the final section was a bit of a let down, Just when I thought I understood the characters, everything started changing and the whole story went down hill. The ending was...ugh...very unsatisfying in a very realistic way.

I don't know. There is a level on which I can appreciate this as a 'great' book, but I really didn't enjoy it. I don't get Fitzgerald's writing style - too much purple prose for me. Too many cultural references I didn't get. Too much randomness coming out of nowhere (the duel at dawn - why??? the dead body in the hotel room - huh???). The whole book was entirely too long (I could better appreciate The Great Gatsby because it was so short). But I understand that a lot of the book was autobiographical, and I can respect that the 'plot' and characters were kind of messy in the way real life is messy. The most enjoyable thing about reading this book was feeling at least some degree of connection with the characters as I am an expat myself at the moment. That and I read a lot of the beach scenes while I was lying on the beach. Rayong beaches are a far cry from the French Riviera, but you know... I like it when art imitates life however vaguely.

Next up - a reread: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. I was itching to reread The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe (even though I *just* read it again in like June or something) but again... can't be too picky here!

TAG: Code Watermelon

I miss Powells. =(


Bezzie said...

Aw! A book review! Just like old times!

Batty said...

Not everyone likes every book, classic or not. Don't ask me about Catcher in the Rye or anything Hemingway!

Rebel said...

I know Bezzie... I'm full of surprises. ;)

Batty - it's true, and CitR & Old Man & the Sea are two of the 'classics' I just can't stand.

Jeannette said...

When I got to Japan I ask my blog readers to send me books, I got quite a few and still havent finished them all. Sure beat the stack of old "Geisha" novels at the apartment.