is reading "The Blue Flower" written by Penelope Fitzgerald for June.
I was delighted when Book Club Extraordinaire chose to read The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald. I first read the novel shortly after it was written and couldn’t wait to revisit. It did not disappoint.The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald is set in Germany during the romantic era of the 18th century. In this historical fiction, Fitzgerald retells the story of German romantic poet Novalis, real name Friedrich von Hardenberg. The novel focuses on the last seven years of his life and his search of the die blaue blume, the “blue flower,” the symbol of yearning for spiritual fulfillment.
"It was not the thought of the treasure which stirred up such unspeakable longings in me" he said to himself. "I have no craving to be rich, but I long to see the Blue Flower. It lies incessantly at my heart, and I can imagine and think about nothing else." Hardenberg’s blue flower is twelve-year-old Sophie von Kuhn.
The novel tells the romantic story of Hardenberg, an aristocrat who meets his fate when he instantaneously falls for a young ordinary middle class girl. Sophie becomes an image of innocent malleable muse. She becomes his “philosophy.” Tuberculosis is raging through the country and young Sophie succumbs to the disease at 15. A devoted Hardenberg stays by her side and four years later at the age of 28 falls to tuberculosis as well.
Fitzgerald does her homework. The depiction of daily life in 1790s Germany is thoroughly researched and authentic full of the details of the time and place. I could picture it all, eating boiled peppermint schnapps pig snouts at the Tennstedt fair on a warm sunny day. Well, not really.
LBF 2014: Hermione Lee in conversation with Gaby Wood, filmed at the PEN Literary Salon at London Book Fair 2014.