I thought I had reached the high point of Fitzgerald's work when I read The Great Gatsby. I was wrong. This book is not as organized nor as focused as Fitzgerald's more popular work, but, in my opinion, it is better. The characters are astoundingly complex, and are fascinating to read about and get to know. The setting--various places in Europe--is brilliantly depicted. But what makes this book great is the interaction between the characters. It is a story of the Divers, Dick and Nicole, a couple who all but trade roles in the course of the novel. The story opens with Rosemary, a young actress, as she meets the Divers and is completely enthralled by them. Through Rosemary we see that the Divers are, in fact, very nearly the ideal couple at the beginning of the book; but this apparent bliss is a mask of a deep, complex, and difficult history, and an awful foreshadowing of a tragedy to come. The story moves backward to Dick and Nicole's meeting, then forward again to the tragic climax.
Dick, a psychiatrist, met Nicole at his clinic, where she was a patient. He was a brilliant young doctor and successful author, she, a broken and troubled youth. Dick helped her put the pieces back together, and married her. They lived an almost blissful existence for a time, but then Nicole began to relapse. The bulk of the novel deals with Nicole's problems and her struggle to overcome them, as well as Dick's growing problems, which he, with all his training, is not so able to move past. Dick and Nicole's relationship develops into something ugly, a shattered remnant of its past glory. And what is worse, it isn't even really Nicole's fault.
Fitzgerald has a gift for beautiful prose and a talent for storytelling that is almost unparalleled in literature. This book should be considered a classic, and surely deserved to emerge from the shadow of its sister work, The Great Gatsby, and be regarded as the masterpiece that it is.