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The Blue Flower Paperback – 11 April 2019
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|Paperback, 11 April 2019||
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- Publisher : 4th Estate GB (11 April 2019)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 320 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008329680
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008329686
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2.3 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 616,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
‘The Blue Flower is a model of what historical fiction can be at its best – when the radical otherness of other times is not merely acknowledged but made integral to the fictional experience. It's also Fitzgerald at her best – elegant, inventive, hilarious, unsparing. I adore this book.’ Jonathan Franzen
‘Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality – the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.’ Sebastian Faulks
‘Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.’ David Nicholls
‘An enchanting novel about heart, body and mind. The writing is ellipitical and witty… so that what could be a sad little love story is constantly funny and always absorbing. This novel is a jewel.’ Carmen Callil, Daily Telegraph
‘Her sense of time and place is marvellously deft, done in a few words. She knows how they all walked, eased their old joints. She knows the damp smell of decay of the ancient schlosses. In a bare little book she reveals a country and an age as lost as Tolstoy’s Russia and which we seem somehow always to have known.’ Jane Gardam, Spectator
‘Detail, expertly dabbed in, provides a substantial background for the story of a poet which, it is subtly suggested, is also the story of a remarkable moment in the history of civilisation… It is hard to see how the hopes and defeats of Romanticism, or the relation between inspiration and common life, between genius and mere worthiness, could be more deftly rendered than they are in this remarkable novel.’ Frank Kermode, LRB
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Top reviews from Australia
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Inspired by the life and love of poet and philosopher Novalis – a.k.a. Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr (‘Fitz’) von Hardenberg, Fitzgerald enters a world of great tumult, with France under a revolutionary dictatorship and the beginning of German philosophical deviations into Romanticism and the nature of being.
The book really is a wonderful evocation of period of great interest to me, with the kind of political turmoil, intellectual voracity, and moral ambiguity that should feed a great yarn. Ostensibly an exploration of genius, The Blue Flower really excels as a fascinating and wry look at domestic life. I’m not sure the extent that it was deliberate, but the author manages to weave a lovely – and utterly unforced – mediation on gender within the broader historical context.
I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but its structure of 55 brief vignettes keeps it lighter than you would imagine possible. Really worth the effort. Extremely highly recommended.
Top reviews from other countries
‘The Blue Flower’ is a short novel, 223 pages. The chapters are concise [mostly only two or three pages each] and this encouraged me to ‘just read another’ and so, gradually, almost without realizing, I fell into the story. Fitzgerald recreates this particular time in German history with a delicacy that, despite the language and sometimes confusing names, makes the people become real.
It is 1794 and Fritz, an idealistic and passionate student of philosophy and writer of poems, stays with some family friends and meets their youngest daughter, Sophie von Kühn. Love is instant for Fritz and, despite a little bemusement on the part of Sophie, and astonishment by his siblings and friends, he proves himself constant.
It is the sort of novel that, when you are reading it you ‘get’ it but afterwards, when trying to describe it to someone else, you struggle to grasp it. I still do not really understand the meaning of the blue flower. But although the deeper meaning may elude me, there are passages I love. Particularly the opening chapter when a guest arrives at the Hardenberg house in Kloster Gasse; it is washday, the annual occasion for washing personal and household linen, and his arrival effects an introduction to the household. This starts a juxtaposition which runs throughout the novel, of the ordinary everyday mundanity of life alongside Fritz’s poetic sensibilities. He calls twelve-year old Sophie his Philosophy, his guardian spirit. Knowing he must wait for her, he trains as an official in the salt mines and Fitzgerald treats us to some of the practicalities and science of this industry.
This is not a lazy read. Be prepared to invest something into it yourself. Fitzgerald does not put it all onto the page, she expects the reader to think, to research, to work it out, as she did when writing. If each book is the visible bit of an iceberg above the waterline, with the research submerged, ‘The Blue Flower’ is the snowball on top of the iceberg.
To be honest probably the more you know of Novalis the greater will be your appreciation of this novel, as otherwise you will probably not realise the importance of certain aspects here. We are thus shown the young man as he is growing up, his teaching and his own thoughts, and of course the love he had for Sophie, a girl he met when she was only twelve, and he was older. By all accounts the real life Sophie was no beauty, or as bright as her wannabe lover, but they did have an understanding of each other, and in some ways not only as a muse for Hardenberg, she was a perfect foil for him, and he did mourn her for the rest of his short life. Taking us through these years so we read of the beginning of the work known as The Blue Flower, which was never finished but became not only a symbol of the German Romantic movement, but also its emblem.
This is one of those tales that leaves perhaps too many things out for a lot of people to enjoy, mainly I suppose as the author did not want to lecture readers and bore them with things that may seem patronising, as I suppose as many would expect if you are going to read this book then you obviously already know about the main character and his history. Ultimately this is a tragic tale because of the death of the young Sophie, and after the story finishes you can clearly see in the afterword so many others, including Novalis himself, from tuberculosis, which has been making a bit more of a comeback in recent decades due to a few reasons, one of course being the anti-vaccination movement.
I may as well add that the same applies to the other historical novels that she wrote at the end of her career, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels. They form a trilogy of masterpieces