04 July 2014

The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald

Perhaps it is because I read (and very much enjoyed) a few novels by Goethe not so long ago that I liked this book so much. Imagine if the Sorrows of Young Werther had been narrated in the third person and been more interested in the riotous dynamic of Lotte's overcrowded family, rather than focusing on her anguished suitor -- you might have ended up with something like The Blue Flower.

Although it's ostensibly the story of the romance between Fritz von Hardenberg (who later became known as Novalis) and a 12 year old girl, what made the book so delightful to me was the way it evoked a whole social universe. I particularly loved the relationship between the siblings (treated with a wonderfully light touch), and the way the novel balanced warmth and wry cynicism, particularly in its handling of German Romantic philosophy and poetry.

But the most remarkable thing about the book was the prose, and especially the way that Fitzgerald gives a hint of German flavor to the English. This is most noticeable in the fact that one of the siblings is referred to as The Bernhard, but it subtly pervades the entire book, and is absolutely masterful. A wonderful read, very much recommended.

(This is, by the way, another recommendation from that Elle piece I mentioned before -- it's really been a goldmine!)

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