Fitzgerald considered the novel to be his masterwork and expected it to eclipse the popularity and acclaim of his earlier novels, particularly The Great Gatsby. However, it was instead met with mixed reviews and lukewarm sales. This greatly distressed Fitzgerald and continued to puzzle him for the remainder of his life. In its first three months of release, Tender Is the Night sold 12,000 copies compared to This Side of Paradise, which sold over 50,000 during a similar frame. While it received a handful of extremely positive reviews, the prevailing consensus was that its quintessentially 1920s style and subject matter was no longer modern or of sufficient interest to readers.
Legacy and modern analysis
Since its initial release, Tender Is the Night's critical reputation has steadily grown. Modern critics have described it as "an exquisitely crafted piece of fiction" and "one of the greatest American novels". It is now widely regarded as among Fitzgerald's most accomplished works, with some, particularly critics outside the US, agreeing with the author's own assessment that it surpasses The Great Gatsby. Many theories have arisen as to why the novel did not receive a warmer reception upon release. Ernest Hemingway remarked that, in retrospect, "Tender Is the Night gets better and better" and felt that both he and critics had initially only been interested in dissecting its weaknesses, rather than giving due credit to its merits. Hemingway and others have argued that such overly harsh criticism stemmed from superficial readings of the material, and Depression-era America's reaction to Fitzgerald's status as a symbol of Jazz Age excess. Some critics have argued the novel to be a strongly feminist work, and feel that the conservative patriarchal attitudes of the 1930s were largely responsible for initial dismissal. Academics have noted the strong parallels between Dick Diver and Jay Gatsby, with many regarding the novel, and particularly Diver's character, as Fitzgerald's most emotionally and psychologically complex work. Anne Daniel, writing for The Huffington Post, lamented the book's forgotten status in mainstream culture and commented that readers who loved The Great Gatsby would inevitably come to love Tender Is the Night even more.
In 1998, the Modern Library included the novel at #28 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Radcliffe later included it at #62 in its rival list. NPR included it at #69 on its 2009 list titled 100 Years, 100 Novels. In 2012 it was listed as one of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.