In 1932, F Scott Fitgerald was living in suburban Baltimore. His father had recently died and his wife Zelda had been committed to a psychiatric institution in Switzerland. He finally decided that the novel on which he had been working on and off since the publication of [b:The Great Gatsby|4671|The Great Gatsby|F. Scott Fitzgerald|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1361191055s/4671.jpg|245494] in 1925 would be about the destruction of a man of great promise through an ill-judged marriage. In writing the novel, Fitzgerald liberally used material from his life. This material included his relationship with Zelda, their life together in France, the life-style of wealthy American expatriates Gerald and Sara Murphy, the death of his father, his alcoholism, what he had learned about psychiatry since Zelda had her first mental breakdown, and his despair at what he considered to be the waste of his potential as a writer.
The novel which emerged from this extraordinarily difficult period in Fitzgerald's life is not easy to read. At first I thought I didn't want to keep reading, so little did I care about the characters and their concerns. However, when the narrative moved into flashback, detailing the circumstances leading up to the marriage of the central characters, Dick and Nicole Driver, I became interested in the narrative and that interest was sustained until the end.
Knowing that this is the most autobiographical of Fitzgerald's works and understanding a little about the circumstances under which he wrote it adds poignancy to the reading experience. Fitzgerald clearly felt very sorry for himself, but from that self-pity was born a powerful and haunting novel.