A biography/history/novel of Friedrich von Hardenberg - Novalis - a German romantic poet/philosopher at the end of the 18th century. Highly lauded, but somewhat odd.
I will need to read this again a few years from now to better appreciate how great it is. A very intimate look into the life of an impoverished aristocratic German family in the late 1780's (immediately after the French revolution and the rise of Napoleon) and the struggles of a young poet and the 12 yr-old muse of a girl. A very touching story.
An entirely original work, unlike any novel I've ever read. Though it's set in 18th century Saxony and includes some wonderfully tactile details of life in that time and place, The Blue Flower isn't a "historical novel." It's more concerned with conveying the interior state of poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis). Fitzgerald pens some beautiful, cinematic passages that mimic Novalis' romantic, mystical frame of mind. In Fitzgerald's hands, Novalis' love for a common 12-year-old girl is rendered as the mystery that it is, a reflection of his perception that's not entirely of this world. Particularly stunning is a chapter in which Novalis is walking in a graveyard and sees a vision. "The external world is the world of shadows," he reflects, "The universe, after all, is within us. The way leads inwards, always inwards."
Reading this brought home to me how little I know of German literature, society, and history, which is a pity because a sizable portion of my daughters' heritage is German (including their surname!).
This story of a young German philosopher and his eccentric family is told with wry wit, but there's a sad surprise at the end when we discover just how little time these whimsical creatures had.
Andrew Miller's top 10 historical novels
With very few historical details, Fitzgerald was able to take me immediately to 18th century Germany. Amazing. Rather odd story based on the life of the romantic poet and philosoper Novalis and his betrothal to 12-year-old Sophie. Charming. For those who enjoy an author who leaves room for the reader to figure things out.
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