The Blue Flower
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The Blue Flower

By (author) Penelope Fitzgerald , Introduction by Candia McWilliam

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From the Booker Prize-winning author of 'Offshore' comes this unusual romance between the poet Novalis and his fiancee Sophie, newly introduced by Candia McWilliam. The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father's permission to announce his engagement to his heart's desire: twelve-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking? Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, 'The Blue Flower' is a masterpiece of invention, evoking the past with a reality that we can almost feel.

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  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 130 x 200 x 26mm | 300g
  • 01 Aug 2003
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • FOURTH ESTATE LTD
  • London
  • English
  • 0006550193
  • 9780006550198
  • 16,580

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Author Information

Penelope Fitzgerald was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. Three of her novels, The Bookshop, The Beginning of Spring and The Gate of Angels have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. She won the Prize in 1979 for Offshore. Her last novel, The Blue Flower, was the most admired novel of 1995, chosen no fewer than nineteen times in the press as the 'Book of the Year'. It won America's National Book Critics' Circle Award. She died in April 2000, at the age of eighty-three.

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Review quote

'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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Review text

The German poet Novalis (1772-1801) was really Friedrich Leopold von Hardenberg: and Fitzgerald (The Gates of Angels, 1992; Offshore, 1987, etc.) here re-creates him, his family, his doomed young lover Sophie von Kuhn, and Sophie's huge family - not to mention the era all of them lived in - in the most human-sized and yet intellectually capacious narrative a reader could wish for. Times were once better for the Hardenbergs, who've sold two estates, may have to sell another, and meanwhile live in a more manageable house in town. The pious and old (he's 56) father of the many-childrened family is Director of the Salt Mining Administration of Saxony, one of the few vocations (the military is another) not forbidden to members of the aristocracy, and the same calling the oldest Hardenberg son, Fritz, will follow upon conclusion of his studies at the universities of Jena, Leipzig, and Wittenberg. To say he's a salt inspector, though, is a little like saying Shakespeare was an actor. Not only have Fritz's studies brought him among faculty the likes of Fichte, Schiller, and Schlegel - but he himself is already a visionary poet helping bring the 18th century to its close (" 'The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards' "). What transpires, then, in the inward universe, when Fritz first sees 12-year-old Sophie von Kuhn standing at a window looking out? Says he:" 'Something happened to me.' "This cheerful, careless, laughing child-woman becomes Fritz's star, his guide, "his Philosophy." Against all precedent (Sophie isn't of the real nobility), and in keeping with the changing times (there's been the revolution in France), he gets his father's permission to become engaged - but dreadful sorrow lies just ahead. A historical novel that's touching, funny, unflinchingly tragic, and at the same time uncompromising in its accuracy, learning, and detail: a book that brings its subject entirely alive, almost nothing seeming beyond its grasp. (Kirkus Reviews)

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