Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald

Review by JJ Marsh

What we thought:

One of those books I always wanted to read because my friends – the well-read and passionate sort – said I’d love it. They weren’t wrong.

This odd, thoughtful and deeply endearing story doesn’t look like a charmer from the outside.
Yet this novel of a German poet and philosopher, whose absorption and passion echoes so many young thinkers of the time, hypnotises from the first page.
It’s about ideas, life and death, the sublime and the banal.
It's about love – some requited, some not  – and the value of family.
It's about how to face a dangerous and cruel world in harsh times.

18th century Germany and Fritz von Hardenberg brings a friend home from university. It’s washday and the family’s linen is drying in the wind. Fritz is a poet and thinker and seeker of truth. His youthful convictions are alternately uplifting and frustrating.

The writing is at once considered and lively, luring the reader into these families, these wonderful, peculiar but fascinating characters, and this particular time and place. Fitzgerald’s characterisation is so delicate and deft, even within the historical period, you feel you know these people, you used to.
Especially The Bernhard.

Thought and the suspicion of the lack of it, good humour, intelligence and pragmatism are the cornerstones of this bright, unusual but thoroughly enjoyable novel.

I will read this again.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier, Raven by Thomas Strittmatter, or The Walk by Robert Walser

Avoid if you don’t like: Thought-provoking discussion, historical settings, broken hearts

Ideal accompaniments: An overflowing Stein of Weissbier, some dried meat with pickles and Mahler's Kindertotenlieder

Genre: Historical fiction

Available on Amazon

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