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The Blue Flowerby Penelope Fitzgerald
Synopses & Reviews
“An astonishing book . . . Fitzgerald’s greatest triumph.” —New York Times Book Review
The Blue Flower is set in the age of Goethe, in the small towns and great universities of late eighteenth-century Germany. It tells the true story of Friedrich von Hardenberg, a passionate, impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the Romantic poet Novalis. Fritz seeks his father’s permission to wed his “heart's heart,” his “spirit's guide”—a plain, simple child named Sophie von Kühn. It is an attachment that shocks his family and friends. Their brilliant young Fritz, betrothed to a twelve-year-old dullard? How can this be?
The irrationality of love, the transfiguration of the commonplace, the clarity of purpose that comes with knowing one’s own fate—these are the themes of this beguiling novel, themes treated with a mix of wit, grace, and mischievous humor unique to the art of Penelope Fitzgerald.
“An extraordinary imagining . . . an original masterpiece.” —Hermione Lee, Financial Times
In eighteenth-century Germany, the impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the Romantic poet Novalis seeks his father's permission to wed his true philosophy — a plain, simple child named Sophie. The attachment shocks his family and friends. This brilliant young man, betrothed to a twelve-year-old dullard! How can it be? A literary sensation and a bestseller in England and the United States, The Blue Flower was one of eleven books- and the only paperback- chosen as an Editor's Choice by the New York Times Book Review. The 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award Winner in Fiction.
Frank Reid is a struggling printer in Moscow. On the eve of the Revolution, his wife returns to her native England, leaving him to raise their three young children alone. How does a reasonable man like Frank cope? Should he listen to the Tolstoyan advice of his bookkeeper? And should he, in his wife's absence, resist his desire for his lovely Russian housemaid? How can anyone know how to live the right life?
In 1912, rational Fred Fairly, one of Cambridge's best and brightest, crashes his bike and wakes up in bed with a stranger - fellow casualty Daisy Saunders, a charming, pretty, generous working-class nurse. So begins a series of complications - not only of the heart but also of the head - as Fred and Daisy take up each other's education and turn each other's philosophies upside down.
In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop - the only bookshop - in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn't always a town that wants one.
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of eccentrics live in houseboats. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they belong to one another. There is Maurice, a homosexual prostitute; Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man; but most of all there's Nenna, the struggling mother of two wild little girls. How each of their lives complicates the others is the stuff of this perfect little novel.
Penelope Fitzgerald's first novel, THE GOLDEN CHILD, combines a deft comedy of manners with a classic mystery set in London's most refined institution — the museum. When the glittering treasure of ancient Garamantia, the golden child, is delivered to the museum, a web of intrigue tightens around its personnel, especially the hapless museum officer Waring Smith. While prowling the halls one night, Waring is nearly strangled. Two suspicious deaths ensue, and only the cryptic hieroglyphics of the Garamantes can bring an end to the mayhem. Fitzgerald has an unerring eye for human nature, and this satirical look at the art world delivers a terrifically witty read.
About the Author
PENELOPE FITZGERALD wrote many books small in size but enormous in popular and critical acclaim over the past two decades. Over 300,000 copies of her novels are in print, and profiles of her life appeared in both The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. In 1979, her novel Offshore won Britain's Booker Prize, and in 1998 she won the National Book Critics Circle Prize for The Blue Flower. Though Fitzgerald embarked on her literary career when she was in her 60's, her career was praised as "the best argument.. for a publishing debut made late in life" (New York Times Book Review). She told the New York Times Magazine, "In all that time, I could have written books and I didn’t. I think you can write at any time of your life." Dinitia Smith, in her New York Times Obituary of May 3, 2000, quoted Penelope Fitzgerald from 1998 as saying, "I have remained true to my deepest convictions, I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as comedy, for otherwise how can we manage to bear it?"
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