I was hoping that re-reading this might make me more apt to like it; after all, it’s been eleven years since I graduated college and this is seen as one of Fitzgerald’s masterworks. But yeah, after MeToo there is no WAY I’m feeling anything resembling sympathy for Dick Diver, the worst psychiatrist in history. There’s actually a line in flashback where Dick states his aspiration to be the world’s best psychiatrist and his partner thinks he’s joking and laughs; I laughed too because HE MARRIES HIS PATIENT. A couple of chapters later he is “accused” of seducing another patient and his defense is “nothing happened I only kissed her.” DUDE. NOOOOOO. Throw the whole man away, including his license.
It’s also so so so very obvious that this is S. Smott Smitzgerald and his lovely wife Helda, so I don’t really think we’re in an unreliable narrator category here, I do think we’re supposed to sympathize with Diver even if his tragic undoing is of his own making. But I can’t. It’s one thing to have Florence Nightingale syndrome once, to truly get wrapped up in another person so completely that their well being comes at your own expense, so I like what Fitzgerald was going for, but everyone cheats on everyone (the novel opens with the push-pull will-they-won’t-they between Diver and Rosemary, a young actress as much in love with Dick as with the tragic mystery of his charmed marriage to Nicole, who AGAIN WAS HIS PATIENT), and it’s hard to care about any of the people in the novel where Dick is held up as the best of them.
The actual writing feels a bit soap-opery, the prose is purple and the problems are petty. I had a hard time keeping track of all the Divers’ hangers-on. But really, nothing much on the plus or minus side is going to change my opinion of a book about a serial philanderer and opportunist who takes advantage of vulnerable women. An extra star for Fitzgerald obviously writing about Nicole with affection and not treating Dick as saintly, but NOPE to all of this.