October 16, 2010

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

Date Started: October 6
Date Finished: October 14

Summary: Fritz Hardenburg, poet and philosopher, is looking for someone who understands the meaning of the Blue Flower in his written work. He is an eccentric and somewhat clueless man being forced into being a salt mine inspector, despite his passion for poetry. Much to everyone's surprise, he falls in love with Sophie, an innocent and a little bit dull 12 year old of a middle class stature. Despite their age difference (Fritz is 10 years her senior), Fritz is convinced that Sophie is his hearts heart, his Philosophy.

Likes: The writing of this story is so beautiful. Despite misinterpreting the story as something perverse (even given the era the story takes place) The subject matter is actually very innocent when you get to understand Fritz and his character and his thought process. He's actually kind of a moron in some ways. He is one of those people that has high ideals but can't seem to make the connection from fantasy to the real world. The other characters, especially Sidonie and The Bernhard (yes, he's actually referred that way in the novel) are funny. Sidonie is a sarcastic and witty woman and the Bernhard is a lovable little brat. Sophie, Fritz's love interest, is his complete opposite. She's a bit of a moron because she doesn't understand much of anything, which is to be expected, she's only 12 years old. Despite the age difference between Fritz and Sophie, their love is innocent and not perverse in anyway. It's a bit odd because he's so smart and she's so dumb that she doesn't get a lot of what he says. 

Dislikes: The ending is rather depressing especially given the lighthearted tone that was carried during the rest of the novel. Things start to go downhill and what makes the story even more sad is that its based on a true story about the writer Novalis.

Overall: It's an easier read than it looks. The writing is witty and engaging and the characters are unique and rather delightful. The ending is sad, but it's made worse by the afterword, which I suggest not reading in case you don't want to know what happens to the characters in the end. It is a fun read otherwise and is hilarious in this wry sort of 18th century writing style that is actually more contemporary. It's a really fun read in a way that I didn't expect. Edit: I recommend reading this book for a look in good writing and how to deal with a 3rd person objective narration. The writing is really nice. It may have a sad ending, but it would be worth anyone's while to read.

Recommended by: Professor Winer required reading for Survey of Contemporary Fiction

Acquired: Amazon.com

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Hey Najela-

Sorry I haven't dropped by in so long. Great review of The Blue Flower! Sounds like it was hard to review. I laughed at the sentence "he was a moron." I don't think I've ever seen that in one of your reviews! Must be true. Don't know if I want to read this one or not based on what you say at the end. But you do a really good job with the review. If not for the ending it would make people want to read it. A plus for you!

Buried in Books
You know what the weird thing is, I actually caught up with you through Twitter. Saw this there. Imagine me understanding a tweet???

Najela said...

Hey Heather,
No worries. I haven't blogged in a while. The Blue Flower is a really good book craft wise, but story wise it's a bit sad. That being said, I recommend it for people wanting to write a story where omniscient POV actually works.

Ha, ha, I forgot I had this connected to twitter. lol, I'm glad you got it though. =)

beth said...

This is interesting. I might have to check this out. It's rare to find a book that really works in 3rd person.

Wannabe Writer said...

I have to "ditto" Beth's comment (and her name for that matter). I'm really interested in reading great third person books. They're hard to find, although I do love Harry Potter.

Najela said...

@Beth and @Wannabe Writer: This is a good third person omniscient narrator and it head hops so seamlessly that it doesn't seem like it's breaking the rules, even though it is. It is a good study into how to set tone as well and subtly shift it without being too noticeable. On top of that, it's kinda funny too.

I hope you both get a chance to read it.


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