The Blue Flower
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The Blue Flower

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  1,672 ratings  ·  268 reviews
Set in Germany at the end of the 18th century, this book tells the story of the brilliant young Fritz von Hardenberg, later to become the great romantic philosopher & poet. He announces his engagement to a 12 year old girl, to his family's consternation.
Paperback, 281 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Flamingo (first published 1995)
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Alexandra
Feb 18, 2009 Alexandra rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers
A gorgeous, elliptical book, which I was drawn to by its subject (eighteenth century German philosopher and poet becomes obsessed with unattractive twelve year old girl). I fell in love with The Blue Flower just like Fritz - later known as Novalis - did with Sophie, only the book's positive qualities are slightly more obvious. It's beautifully written, understated, and perhaps more touching than you would expect. Fitzgerald never demands that you like her characters, and there's no sentimentalit...more
Emma
....each thing has its own characteristic beauty, not only everything organic which expresses itself in the unity on an individual being, but also everything inorganic and formless, and even every manufactured article.
- Schopenhauer

This book is the nuts.

Penelope Fitzgerald has created an affecting novel, based on the early life of Friedrich (Fritz) von Hardenberg (1772-1801), the German romantic poet and philosopher later known by the pen name of Novalis.

Flitting from various viewpoints and...more
Petra X
This was an overgrown novella. I think that actually Dostoevsky would have done this theme more justice as it reminds me of The Idiot in some ways - the girl's innocence and faux maturity perhaps. Thing is if I am going to read about some man's infatuation (can't really call it love, can you?) for a 12 year old girl, which is pedophilia of thought if not action, I want that aspect of it explored. Obviously I wasn't going to get the depth of Nabokov with his distasefully wonderful Lolita but this...more
Natalie
May 03, 2011 Natalie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: brave readers who don't care if they are having fun.
How dare I refuse to give this book that was named Book of the Year by nineteen British newspapers in 1995 and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997 anything less than a five?

NYT reviewer Michael Hofmann wrote of The Blue Flower: It is an interrogation of life, love, purpose, experience and horizons, which has found its perfect vehicle in a few years from the pitifully short life of a German youth about to become a great poet -- one living in a period of intellectual and political u...more
Rebecca
True story. 18th Century poet falls for plain gal.
Tis about inexplicable love. Such as directed at this novel. ;)
Romanticism turned to tedium. *gahs*
Libby
This is a strange and beautiful short novel, which revolves around the young poet Friedrich Von Hardenberg's (the 18th century German poet Novalis) inexplicable love for the somewhat slow, not particularly lovely 12-year-old Sophie Von Kuhn, who would become his fiancee. The novel's genius lies in its complete lack of interest in explaining/examining the WHY of Hardenberg's love. This is not a love story or a romance. It is an observation of the sort of ineffable human forces that produce not on...more
Beni Morse
Stunning.

Every single sentence is purposeful and unimprovable. It evokes the world of 18th-century Germany with such vividness and authority and ease, while feeling nothing like a historical novel.

I can't think of a book that achieves a more beautiful balance between gravity and lightness, poetry and philosohy. The Blue Flower is eseentially about the nature of love and why we sometimes (often?) choose such odd candidates as the objects of our deepest affection.
Julia
Ich habe Die blaue Blume aus der Reihe der Süddeutsche Bibliothek bei meinem Bruder aus dem Bücherregal gezogen und war mir nicht sicher ob meiner Erwartungshaltungen gegenüber dem schmalen Bändchen.
Penelope Fitzgerald schreibt ähnlich wie Antonia S.Byatt einen Stil, der an eine Tuschezeichnung erinnert, fein, zierlich, detailgenau - doch nicht wie in The Children's Book, das ein wenig blutleer bleibt, ist die Blaue Blume voll von den Gerüchen, Farben und Atmosphären der Epoche Novalis', Fichte...more
Paul
Mar 12, 2009 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novels
In its first chapters this novel sprays a fine tangy mist over your face, like coming across the sea after many months inland. Hoopla! We're in for some fun. But - after a while this novel becomes the so-amusing toy whose batteries keep it chirping and beeping long after it should have glided behind the chest of drawers of oblivion. Our smile has faded. And finally this novel is like your elderly female relative who has a superstitious horror of naming anything directly, and will use every last...more
RH Walters
Begins with the house's biyearly laundry tumbling out the windows and ends in cold water. Quirky, sad and atmospheric.
Patricia
I just finished The Blue Flower this morning. It was a slower read than I anticipated....due to the many German words and the the use of more than one name for a single person. The story was wonderful...wonderful sad. But the times they lived in.....the beginning of a more modern world...,he was a poet, a philosopher and a civil engineer...This is the story of Friedrich von Hardenberg--Fritz,a young man of the late 18th century who was to become one of Germany's great romantic poets. The book is...more
Selvi
My favorite novel, I think. Somehow it floods the senses with the time and place (or her rendering of it). It reminds me of hyldeblomstsaft, the concentrated elderflower syrup that they use to make a drink in Denmark that will conjur up summer in mid-January. I love it (and her)for that quality. All of her writing is like that, but this one is the best.
Luckngrace
This Booker Prize winner is a fascinating study of life in late 17th-century Germany. One hilarious anecdote concerned washing clothes. Most of the upper-class families did the washing every 3 months. One man on the household owned 69 shirts. Our protagonist, Fridrich's family did the wash only once a year. There were 14 children in the family and numerous servants. This was before washers and dryers were invented. It blows my mind--and that isn't even what the book is about.

The book is a biogra...more
Jan-Maat
This is my favourite of the three Fitzgerald novels that I've read. In common with Gate of Angels and The Beginning of Spring a wealth of research has gone into this novel.

Our reasons for liking a novel are often subjective and unreasonable. In my case the place and time of the setting and the intellectual firmament of the characters overlap with things that make me happy. The end of the Enlightenment and the shattering of the Ancien Regime (at least in mainland Europe) that provides the intelle...more
Justin Evans
Fitzgerald's last novel, and, quite frankly, the praise it receives often seems to be more a result of her dying after writing it than the novel itself. Often described as 'strange,' 'magical,' and 'short,' The Blue Flower is certainly concise. But strange? It's a reasonable faithful depiction of Novalis's falling in love with a 12 year old. Yes, *that's* strange, but that doesn't mean the novel is. Magical? In the sense that psychotic episodes might be enchanting, maybe.

None of which is to tak...more
Angie
I loved this book a great deal. It is incredibly simply written but so cleverly put together that there are real moments where you cannot help but be in awe of Fitzgerald. Her touch with words, is simple but oh so subtle that one cannot help but feel emotions ranging from sadness, intense humour and curiosity.

Each chapter is short, almost vignette like in 3 or 4 pages, and although there is a narrative running throughout, each short story has a point to it which may or may not be relevant to the...more
Susan
I enjoyed Fitzgerald's economy of prose, as I had when reading her novel "The Bookshop." The historical setting (late 1700's Germany) and the influence on the plot of German Romanticism made for a densely rich reading experience. I plan to read more by this author.

(As for the occasional comparisons between Jane Austen and Penelope Fitzgerald, I would say that I find Fitzgerald more psychological and Austen more social. That is to say, it seems to me that there is somewhat more investigation into...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I don't consider myself an unsophisticated reader; I enjoy literary fiction and I like non-traditional stories. But it seems I'm the only person who disliked this book.

The writing was fine, but the story and characters were bland and boring. I appreciate that a historical novel has to stick to history, and certainly Novalis' story is interesting, but this book is blinding boring. I disliked all the characters and failed to appreciate the way anyone behaved -- in part, I was very grossed out by a...more
Tim
Do not expect a typical novel and plot. I almost gave up on this book at first, due to my own episodic reading, but when I finally sat down and read through it, I was engaged. Its episodic nature does not create one story, but many little stories, where the many characters interact. By the end, those characters charmed me. I also love the witty asides from the narrator, the small tastes of romantic philosophy and poetry, and Fitzgerald's ability to get so much across with so few words. A fascina...more
Vicky
This novel was puzzlingly overpraised, and I'm not sure why. It is empty, cold, mean-spirited and does not allow us to sympathize with, or even understand, the characters. It purports to tell the story of the German Romantic poet Novalis's infatuation with a 12-year-old girl, but it doesn't help us to understand this strange situation. What *is* the narrative aiming toward? Sometimes it seems to simply want to mock and diminish its characters or to display a minute knowledge of the period.
Chana
This book is perfect but I am not sure why. It is absolutely captivating from the first words on, it never bogs down, it is neither too many words nor too little, it is a complete world. As soon as I finished it I fell asleep and dreamed that I was terribly ill as I was still so immersed in the book. All day I have not been ready to pick up another book and finally this evening have selected a housecleaning book as I still want to savor this novel and I can do that while I clean.
Duc
Mar 20, 2012 Duc is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Why is this a strange and magical book?
One would expect a long novel because it involves history, like a period film. The sentences are not decorative but not too plain, not Hemingway plain.
So how does she do it? Some times the sentences seem modern. I do get a sense of another time and place too.
Moses Kilolo
This is a wonderful, calm book about the love of a man to an ordinary girl. Fritz, whom I learned would later become the famous poet Novelis, has fallen in love, and intents to marry the twelve year old Sophie.

It seems that such a decision meets the sharpest criticism from those around him. (And the book is quite populated by relatives from both sides..) But his love, despite the full knowledge of who Sophie is, what she is, seems both profound and deeply true. He makes a choice that he is willi...more
Danica
I strained so hard to "get" this book I nearly popped a joint. No, not that kind, although at times this book felt so stupefyingly plodding that reading it may have approximated the same effect. Why, wondered I, did it land the plum spot on 19 separate end-of-the-year book lists in 1995, as its back cover so modestly relates? After pondering the issue for a bit, I have come to the conclusion that I am either braindead or a ninny or, possibly, that it just isn't that good. (BUT HOW COULD A.S. BYA...more
Carin
This book was surprisingly funny, and very well-written, but a bit odd. I did enjoy reading a book set in such a different time and place (1790s Germany) and it completely caputed the era, both the practicalities (clothes washing once a year!) and the Romanticism. Fritz's family reminded me a bit of the family in Pride & Prejudice, in their kooky way, and the book often throughout reminded me of Candide, in its tongue-in-cheek laughing at many of the characters. But I had trouble keeping all...more
Rowena
For Fitzgerald's writing style alone, I gave this 4 instead of 3 stars. She writes as if it's like breathing to her - so unforced and natural and lovely. Really brilliant character exposition, but the plot just wasn't there for me. I never say this but I honestly think this would make a great BBC series simply because her evocation of each character is so well done, it'd translate great on screen and provide an opportunity for a more fleshed-out plot

Book club points:

- Sidonie, Justen and Sophie'...more
Patrice
What would Novalis do? If you like German romanticism, historical fiction, and ill fated tales of love this might be the book for you.

This novel came highly recommended to me from by a co-worker who really loved it. It was at times a humorous read and an interesting look at German aristocracy and middle class during the 18th Century.

Novalis falls in love with a young ordinary sickly girl and the novel follows their courtship and correspondance to one another.

Characters such as the poet Goethe...more
Wahida
My rating is based on my personal enjoyment of the book, rather than its literary merits. I wish I could give it 2 1/2 stars, something between "It was ok" and "I liked it," because that's where it actually falls for me.

There are things I really like about it, but ultimately I'm a character person, and character is where this book falls a bit flat. The minor characters are great, the themes/ideas explored here are stimulating, there's quite a bit of humor (plenty of it dark) and awe-inspiring li...more
Stephanie
This is a book I inherited from LEC's bookshelf when she moved to the sunny part of town. Never heard of it or the author. What a find!

Quietly enchanting, funny, and sad. This book has a "voice" that is unique and not in the slog of a voice that was Jennifer Egan's sci-fi fembot spy short story in a recent The New Yorker. "The Blue Flower" is a love story set in late 18th century Germany. Young man meets 12-year old girl and falls in love on the spot. He's a bookworm poet trying to be a mine in...more
Kate Forsyth
This novel tells the story of the strange love affair that flowered between the 18th century German poet, Novalis, and a twelve year old girl named Sophie. He fell in love with her at first sight, and managed to persuade his and her parents to allow them to be engaged when she was fourteen. A year later, she was dead, and in his grief, he wrote some of the most beautiful and astonishing works in the German Romantic tradition. Four years later, he too was dead. The book is really more like a seri...more
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She was the daughter of Punch editor Edmund Knox (E.V. Knox) and the niece of theologian and crime writer Ronald Knox (Ronald A. Knox), cryptographer Dilly Knox and Bible scholar Wilfred Knox.

"When I was young," Fitzgerald later wrote, "I took my father and my three uncles for granted, and it never occurred to me that everyone else wasn't like them. Later on, I found that this was a mistake, but...more
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“A word of advice. If, as a young man, student, you are tormented by a desire for women, it is best to get out into the fresh air as much as possible.” 1 likes
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