Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ms. Hen reviews THE BLUE FLOWER

Penelope Fitzgerald
Mariner Books

Ms. Hen had read about this novel in a couple of different places, and it seemed like something she would like to read, since it is a novel about a real-life writer, the poet known as Novalis who lived in the late eighteenth century Germany. Ms. Hen was immediately enthralled with the style of writing.

Something about the writing in this novel made Ms. Hen think that the author was attempting to copy the language of the era in which the novel takes place. Some of the characters are referred to with a “the” in front of their names, such as “The Bernhard.” The writing seems to drip off the page; it feels as if the reader is right there in Germany in the first chapter on washing day, when all the washing for a year was done. Ms. Hen could imagine how badly everything would smell if everyone only washed their clothes and their linens once a year.

The novel is about Friedrich von Hardenberg, later Novalis, who falls in love with a twelve-year-old girl, Sophie, when he is visiting her family home on business. Everyone around him does not understand his infatuation, because the girl is not up to par with him intellectually. Hardenberg does not inform his father of this for quite some time, and his brother Erasmus is angry about Friedrich’s intentions at first, but comes to love Sophie himself.

Sophie is a child, and has not been educated well, but she is beautiful and simple, and love has no explanation. People are upset about him being engaged to Sophie, including his father’s friend, Just, and his Just’s niece, Karoline, though she would never let Hardenberg know. Hardenberg is afraid his father will disown him if he marries Sophie, but there is nothing his father can do.

Some feminists might be angry about the way women are portrayed in this novel, but the things the characters say are views people held in the past. Some of the notions put forth by both men and women appear so preposterous today, that Ms. Hen had to laugh, if it weren’t so tragic that people used to believe things like this. But this aspect of the novel only served to make the story more believable; the reader gets involved in the age in which the novel took place, like going in a time machine, which quality historical fiction should do.

Even though this story is a tragic tale of love, humor abounds. Ms. Hen couldn’t help but be amused at the absurdity of the situations that these characters put themselves into, even though the comedy is dark. The lovers don’t understand each other, and nobody understand them, but that is the way life is sometimes, but we have to think it's funny at how ridiculous their actions are.

Ms. Hen thinks this novel is unlike any she has read. It is magical and real at the same time. Fairy tale elements exist in the novel, but at the same time, it’s based in reality. The writing is exquisite, like delicate porcelain painted with flowers and trees that Ms. Hen was afraid to drop and smash on the floor, but it is beautiful all the same.

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