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  2. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
  3. The Blue Flower's elusive magic
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Since then, three of her nine novels have been short-listed for the Booker Prize in England, and her ''Offshore'' won the prize in She had a varied professional life before she took up novels. She had written a couple of biographies and, as she amiably stresses in biographical notes and interviews, brought up three children.

Her first five novels are all set in England, in the present or the recent past. Many of them make comedies of institutions: The typical Fitzgerald protagonist is an innocent who is fed into these systems, pitting his or her own surprising resources of courage and determination against the equally surprising eccentricity -- shading into monstrosity -- of the surroundings. All her books might be called ''Innocence,'' although only one is.

The exceptions are her child characters, who are repositories of awful knowledge. These dry, shrewd, sympathetic and sharply economical books are almost disreputably enjoyable -- serious cousins, as it might be, of P. Wodehouse or the children's writer Richmal Compton. Then, through ambition or restlessness, or feeling that she'd exhausted her own immediate material, Ms.

Fitzgerald set her next three books in different territories: Her habitual insight and authority seemed to carry over effortlessly into these more imagined, historically complicated settings. One could set her Italy next to that of Cesare Pavese or Natalia Ginzburg, her Russia next to Mandelstam's ''tossed salad of glass and wood and milk,'' her Cambridge by Gwen Raverat's, and not be any the worse for it. In ''The Bookshop,'' for instance, there is this amusing little cultural aside: But in ''Innocence,'' Ms.

Fitzgerald writes, as parenthetically, but even better, of ''Cesare, who shared the delusion of all Italian farmers that sacks are waterproof,'' which seems to me to have more strangeness, to show more affection and to be harder to know. These fugitive scraps of insight and information -- like single brushstrokes of vivid and true colors -- convey more reality than any amount of impasto description and research. Fitzgerald's books you can breathe the air and taste the water, just as ''the Gaul'' the nag, the hack does in her new novel, ''The Blue Flower'': As Fritz loosened the girths, the Gaul breathed in enormously, as though he had scarcely known until that moment what air was.

Fritz's valise, tied to the crupper, rose and fell with a sound like a drum on his broad quarters. Then, deflating little by little, he lowered his head to the water to find the warmest and muddiest part, sank his jaws to a line just below the nostrils, and began to drink with an alarming energy which he had never displayed on the journey from Wittenberg. Novalis is also administrator of a salt mine and then Sophia dies at 15 of a brain tumour or something. Novalis dies shortly after aged Why was he so obsessed with Sophie - was he just a pedo albeit mentally he never actually sleeps with her?

Then again I was nodding off every other paragraph! A common sentence went along these lines: A lot of the characters were very flat - I got a rough idea of who Sophie and Novalis were but everyone else was a blank - and everyone speaks in the same voice. I suppose it was mildly interesting in comparison to the rest of the novel towards the end when Sophia was dying, or maybe that was just my excitement at nearing the end of this dreary muck!

This novel is like someone mildly dramatised a Wikipedia entry on Novalis. Read The Blue Flower if you want to feel the mental anguish young Sophie was going through. Gah… there are 8 more books on the Christmas pile! Oh no - is that Proust?! Goes looking for noose View all 3 comments. Feb 28, Libby rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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 year-old Sophie Von Kuhn, who would become his fiancee.

This is not a love story or a romance. It is an observation of the sort of ineffable human forces that produce not on 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 year-old Sophie Von Kuhn, who would become his fiancee. It is an observation of the sort of ineffable human forces that produce not only love, but also its companion, art. In this small book what goes unsaid, unseen, and unheard is just as important as what we, as readers, do have immediate access to; it is an object lesson in the writer's art of strategic omission.

Fitzgerald makes many other interesting and in my opinion, successful choices: Utterly captivating, and not quite sensical, much like the relationship at the novel's center. In its first chapters this novel sprays a fine tangy mist over your face, like coming across the sea after many months inland. 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 In its first chapters this novel sprays a fine tangy mist over your face, like coming across the sea after many months inland.

And finally this novel is like your elderly female relative who has a superstitious horror of naming anything directly, and will use every last possible circumlocution, and whose conversation, I'm sorry to report, revolves dispiritingly around and about and in and through the dozen people she's ever known in her long life, and the five places she's ever been. Poor Penelope We still hear her late at night Whirring helplessly. View all 18 comments.


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I picked up this book because it had a pretty cover. I noticed it had a blurb on the front from A. Byatt, whom I rather like, and it also noted that the author, Fitzgerald, was a winner of the prestigious Booker Prize. So I looked at the back cover, and saw that it was a historical novel about the early life of the German Romantic poet Novalis - which was quite a coincidence, since I'd just that month been reading about Novalis and looking at some of his poetry online. So I grabbed it! However, I picked up this book because it had a pretty cover.

However, at first I couldn't get into the book, and as I read through it, it began to actively annoy me. Fitzgerald obviously did a lot of research for the book, reading Novalis' letters, writings, documents from the time period Unfortunately, rather than working these period details subtly into the narrative, she just bluntly inserts random facts into the text, even when they don't really serve a purpose in the story. It's distracting, and struck me as poor writing technique.

Her personal, 20th-century opinion on everything also shines through - and it's not a positive opinion. In my opinion, the 'job' of historical fiction is to take the reader into the time and place described, and to make the reader see things from the characters' point of view. Instead, we find out that Penelope Fitzgerald thinks that people in 18th-century Germany ate disgusting cuisine, were unhygenic, penurious - and for some reason she seems to think they were always freezing cold, even though Germany has a mild climate and particularly nice summers.

I'm sorry, but if the characters would think that a pig's nostril was a delicacy, I want to FEEL that it's a delicacy while I'm reading the book. I don't care if the author personally thinks it's gross. By the end of the book, I wondered why she even chose to write about these people, since her opinion of not only their culture and lifestyle - but of them personally - was so low. Fritz Novalis is portrayed as faintly ridiculous and a cad, and his love interest, the young Sophie, as air-headed and ugly.

Both of their families come across as caricatures - one of the ridiculously strict and religious variety, and one of the jolly yet greedy and grasping type I can certainly appreciate books where the characters are all unlikable - but I didn't get the impression that these people really were, historically, that bad - just that Fitzgerald personally regards them with a kind of snide contempt.

There's no one in the novel that the reader gets to even really, feel that you know, due to the distancing style of the writing. Fitzgerald uses an odd style of referring to people using an article: I couldn't believe the multiple pages of rave reviews printed inside the front of the book - I really didn't think it was impressive in any way. Nov 08, Beni Morse rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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? This is a sad story about a doomed love and short lives. But it is a bit of a misfire if the central premise, the love story, does not work. Penelope Fitzgerald was a gifted writer who could make something out of very little and in unlikely circumstances.

With the The Bookshop she made a memorable story out of a middle-aged woman starting a bookshop in a disused, damp a telling detail building in a small English rural town against formidable opposition. Here she attempts something more ambitiou This is a sad story about a doomed love and short lives. Here she attempts something more ambitious.

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She seeks to flesh out the noble ardour of a real life historical figure Fritz von Hardenberg aka the philosopher poet Novalis in late eighteenth century Germany. Novalis himself lasted only a few more years. The story is told with great authenticity, from the domestic lives of the several families and the frustrations of key characters to the economics of the region and the high level of mortality, in that time. My edition has a portrait of a young girl in a reflective pose on the cover. It is one of my favourites. In the story, Sophie barely enters her own limited society before she starts to withdraw from it, as she ails.

Perhaps Fritz sees, in her, his blue flower, something frail but pure, unworldly but enchanting. In symbolic terms the search for the blue flower represents reaching for the unreachable. It becomes a problem if the unreachable is also the unknowable or perhaps at best, the intangible. The story has added poignancy because Fritz fails completely to see that there is someone else who loves him, who is objectively, far more sensible a match, but it is not to be. The Blue Flower does nevertheless leave an after image on my cerebral retina, because the striking world Fitzgerald creates, with its beautifully written practical details of rural life, especially regarding the responsibilities of the family, and the limitations within which people live and often, not for very long.

Von Hardenberg is the son of a family whose father who owns and runs several estates. They are therefore of the land owning class, but by no means rolling in money. Even the continuing education of his son is part of this financial equation. His father deals with this and other tribulations with some equanimity. He is equable, realistic. It is hard to be romantic when you have to be practical.

She makes an eloquent case, but does not persuade me. Es una delicia leerla. View all 4 comments.


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Feb 26, Natalie rated it liked it Recommends it for: How dare I refuse to give this book that was named Book of the Year by nineteen British newspapers in and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in anything less than a five? 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 How dare I refuse to give this book that was named Book of the Year by nineteen British newspapers in and won the National Book Critics Circle Award in anything less than a five?

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 upheaval, when even the prevailing medical orthodoxy ''held that to be alive was not a natural state.

Penelope Fitzgerald uses fiction to examine an 18th-century German poet and his doomed love for a year-old girl. Yet, For me The Blue Flower is at best a 3. That can actually work, be fun, and be fun to talk about in the bar afterward over drinks. The author sets 'em up and knocks 'em down just as life did but really, how funny is that? If I get ambitious I'll work up an animation of this with stick figures acting out all the parts, but til then this is all I've got to offer: Fritz aka Friedrich von Hardenberg He will later take the pen-name Novalis and become a German Romantic poet of lasting repute.

The Doctor -Who had never had the chance to hear the opening of "The Blue Flower" but if he had done so he could have said immediately what he thought it meant. Sophie's Tutor A man who could teach her nothing. Tabes mesenterica - Tuberculosis of the mesenteric and retroperitoneal lymph nodes. Sometimes manifests as Tuberculosis of lymph glands inside the abdomen. I read somewhere that it was thought to be an illness of children caused by drinking milk from cows infected with TB.

Now uncommon as milk is pasteurized Act One, Scene One: Do you want to drown? To audience while hauling his little brother into his arms , "How heavy a child is when it gives up responsibility". Fritz sees Sophie, falls in love. Sophie plays with her little brother, Gunther. To Fritz, "Your horse is an old nag.

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Mandelsloh to Sophie: People laugh, dogs jump about and Sophie coughs. A doctor enters with his black bag. The most usual signs and symptoms are the appearance of a chronic, painless mass in the neck, which is persistent and usually grows with time. The mass is referred to as a "cold abscess", because there is no accompanying local color or warmth and the overlying skin acquires a violaceous bluish-purple color. Scrofula caused by tuberculosis is usually accompanied by other symptoms of the disease, such as fever, chills, malaise and weight loss.

As the lesion progresses, the skin becomes adhered to the mass and may rupture, forming a sinus and an open wound. Lovely, odd piece of historical fiction packed with memorable characters whose seemingly minor actions congeal into a sweeping representation of the late eighteenth century. While Novalis's romance with a young girl is certainly the emotional core of the novel, I'll remember his siblings and the wonderful Karoline for just as long.

Fitzgerald, whose late blooming career is fascinating in and of itself, has a very light touch and a clear affection for the source material, which is presented seaml Lovely, odd piece of historical fiction packed with memorable characters whose seemingly minor actions congeal into a sweeping representation of the late eighteenth century. Fitzgerald, whose late blooming career is fascinating in and of itself, has a very light touch and a clear affection for the source material, which is presented seamlessly.

You wouldn't think from the description that this a breezy read, but it flies on by. Oct 08, carissa rated it liked it. I laughed quite a bit in a quiet way about Fitzgerald's handling of the silliness of love and the stupidity of genius. Apr 25, Julia rated it it was amazing Shelves: Ein Meisterwerk der Schlichtheit und der Akkuratesse! Mar 17, Vicky rated it did not like it Shelves: 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 year-old girl, but it doesn't help us to understand this strange situation.

Sometimes it seems to simply want to mock and diminish its characters or to display a minute knowledge of the period. German salt miner writes about poetry and falls in love with a girl half his age, and dies just old enough to be past the 27 Club.

The Blue Flower's elusive magic

Jan 05, Janetlnorrisgmail. An expose of daily life in Germany during the 's. Not the easiest book to read. I presume the author wrote this novel in this impaired style in an effort to replicate the clumsiness of authorship in the years of the 's in Europe. Too many non translated German words, resulting in one often losing the true meaning of various sentences. I had to ignore these limitations and try to enjoy the storyline.

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Sad story of love and loss in an era of a class systems of nob An expose of daily life in Germany during the 's. Sad story of love and loss in an era of a class systems of nobility and ignorance in basic medical practices. It was appalling how limited was the knowledge of how the body heals itself from trauma and disease. How backwards society in Europe was in the late 's. How well educated, advanced and fortunate today's society is.

The advancement in most elements of daily living, health and nutrition is truly remarkable. Our daily life is so easy relative to only years ago. Feb 12, Irene rated it liked it. I loved the droll humor and the use of language in this historical novel, but I was confused by the characters and uncertainly what the author was trying to get at. Tis about inexplicable love.

Such as directed at this novel. Sep 02, RH Walters rated it it was amazing. Begins with the house's biyearly laundry tumbling out the windows and ends in cold water. Quirky, sad and atmospheric. Read in June as a buddy read on IG. I found it quite difficult to get into the book at first. It took me about 50 pages before I could clearly grasp the characters, the subject matter and where the novel was going. Honestly, if it hadn't been for a book group read, I probably would have DNF'd after the first few chapters.

I found the prose a little clumsy and monotonous and none of the characters quite likeable. For a highly praised book, I did have a bit of a problem seeing why?? Quite a few Read in June as a buddy read on IG. Quite a few of my fellow readers mentioned their love of the subtle humor in the book. Again, I may be obtuse, but I didn't see it as humorous until it was pointed out. Many of the parts deemed as humorous I felt couldn't necessarily be pulled out of the narrative as examples.

In my opinion the humor was more of an undertone throughout the novel. Upon reflection and after finishing the novel, the redeeming quality of this book is Fitzgerald's writing style - there's something about it that does hook. I am up to reading more of her novels before I give my final verdict of yay or nay. Once I gave the book a chance, her understated writing style is riddled with wit, acute perception and a mastery of language that is quite beautiful. I also enjoyed how Fitzgerald rewarded creative effort, and the discovery of one's own self in the novel. I think my main issue was approaching this book as a standard novel with a typical layout.

By doing so, I wasn't able to grasp the narrative style as quickly as I would have liked, and made the reading a bit taxing. In Fitzgerald's own words in regards to the brevity of her novels, "I do leave a lot out and trust the reader really to be able to understand it.

It's just an insult to [readers] to explain everything. Jan 26, Chana rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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. 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 I loved this book a great deal.

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 story threading through it but each one is utterly charming, cleverly written with a dry wit and humour and depicting a remarkable family life set in the 's in Germany. The youth of the romantic German poet later known as Novalis is painted with such simplicity that it proves completely that literary effect does not always equal long and detailed description in order to touch you or cause profound impact.

The family depiction of Fritz and his parents and brothers and sisters was funny, entertaining and very endearing and in the few well chosen words so brilliantly written, came alive in this lovely book which I would keep and read again in the future. Apr 27, Luckngrace rated it it was amazing Shelves: 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 This Booker Prize winner is a fascinating study of life in late 17th-century Germany. The book is a biographical snapshot of perhaps the most important 3 years in the life and love of the poet known as Novalis. He grew up in so large a family that children weren't always watched and diseases of the time spread unchecked.

He wasn't suited for much other than poetry, but was forced to manage a salt mine because it was acceptable employment for impoverished royalty. But the REAL story revolves around the 12 year old girl he fell in love with. If you read The Blue Flower, you'll gasp at the ending This should be required reading for high schools everywhere. Dec 28, Audra Unabridged Chick rated it did not like it Shelves: 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 I don't consider myself an unsophisticated reader; I enjoy literary fiction and I like non-traditional stories. I disliked all the characters and failed to appreciate the way anyone behaved -- in part, I was very grossed out by a year old being a love interest even if historically accurate.

The Blue Flower - Chapters 28 - 55 5 9 Apr 11, Chapters 1 to 27 20 12 Mar 29, Penelope Fitzgerald was an English novelist, poet, essayist and biographer. In , The Times included her in a list of "The 50 greatest British writers since ".