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This is my favourite of the three Fitzgerald novels that I ve read In common with Gate of Angels and The Beginning of Spring a wealth of research has gone into this novel Our reasons for liking a novel are often subjective and completely unreasonable And I do love this novel which for me has the sound feeling of an early piano playing Mozart sonatas, early Beethoven, and here and there something by one of Old Bach s many musical sons Am I too biased by the memory of a pizza eaten at Jena wai This is my favourite of the three Fitzgerald novels that I ve read In common with Gate of Angels and The Beginning of Spring a wealth of research has gone into this novel Our reasons for liking a novel are often subjective and completely unreasonable And I do love this novel which for me has the sound feeling of an early piano playing Mozart sonatas, early Beethoven, and here and there something by one of Old Bach s many musical sons Am I too biased by the memory of a pizza eaten at Jena waiting for a train one hot summer s day many year s ago without a doubt So in my case the place and time of the setting and the intellectual firmament of the characters overlap, and this gives me some happiness It is the end of the Enlightenment and the shattering of the Ancien Regime at least in mainland Europe that provides the intellectual background for this novel about Novalis Glancing up and down my bookshelves it is a period that captivates me.But it is not just about the intellectual stuff Romanticism and romance run up against day to day lifeHere among the table linen, I am disturbed by Fritz Hardenburg s young sister, thought Dietmahler This is the sort of thing I meant to avoidIt later turns out that she forgets him Optimism is defeated by realities as chance fails to create happy couples view spoiler or Cupid, feeling perverse, or perverser decides to save his arrows hide spoiler The scene is a small one, but a perfect foot in the middle of the puddle of our expectations, eyes do not meet across a crowded room, there will be no happily ever after, instead just a double helping of life all round.It is a novel with a distinct sense of place from Jena to Weissenfels, places were you might well hear Come, we re Saxons We can make a good dinner, even if our hearts are breaking before sitting to eat your fill The combination of place and time means that Goethe even gets to make a cameo appearance though not at the meal table, but then he was no Saxon by birth It is a bleak novel Which considering the plot is driven by Fritz Hardenberg falling in love with a girl of twelve when he was twenty two is not surprising but this isn t a Lolita story set at the end of the eighteenth century , the bleakness comes from the typical cause of bleakness in early nineteenth century lives, but cough, cough, this is too much of a spoiler, cough The novels final note is not resigned so much as bitter The fruit never ripened but withered on the branch 3.5 stars.This is my third Penelope Fitzgerald The focus of the book is the early life of Fritz von Hardenberg better known as the German Romantic poet Novalis and especially his infatuation for 12 year old Sophie whom he meets during an official visit he pays as apprentice engineer to the household of her stepfather, von Rochenthien The book begins by offering us a closer look at the Hardenberg family the weak and easily distracted mother, the capable elder sister, the boisterous, indepe 3.5 stars.This is my third Penelope Fitzgerald The focus of the book is the early life of Fritz von Hardenberg better known as the German Romantic poet Novalis and especially his infatuation for 12 year old Sophie whom he meets during an official visit he pays as apprentice engineer to the household of her stepfather, von Rochenthien The book begins by offering us a closer look at the Hardenberg family the weak and easily distracted mother, the capable elder sister, the boisterous, independent minded youngest brother The father makes his appearance a little bit later a born again Christian or the equivalent in 18th century Germany , and a member of the nobility but without funds or connections, von Hardenberg rules the household with an iron fist but, though not much loved, he is not hated either He is, of course, offended at the news of the French Revolution, and finds the idea a civil suit against the King of France brought by his own people scandalous, so he forbids newspapers at home.Young Fritz couldn t bedifferent He is amiable and sociable, a poet and philosopher at heart, with a love for nature and ideas He is certainly not the type to become a Salt Mine Inspector, the profession his father intends for him, but interestingly, he takes that into his stride when the time comes, and becomes a model apprentice without sacrificing his love for poetry or philosophy While an apprentice, he gets to know his tutor s niece, Karoline, and it seems that an idyll is on the cards Karoline is an intelligent and tactful woman, able to appreciate Fritz s poetry and personality Alas, this was not meant to be During a visit to the Rockenthiens, something happens to Fritz that he is unable to explain or resist In fact, the apparition he encounters is so intense that he tells his tutor Something happened to me, looking dazed and disoriented.The apparition is 12 year old Sophie a child who does not seem to possess either unusual intelligence or exquisite beauty Yet, Fritz spends the rest of his time at the Rockenthiens trying to win her attention, and hopefully a promise, that she s not indifferent to him He will come back to the house again and again, hoping to earn Sophie s love, and later, as Sophie gets older, her agreement to marry him.It s a mystery to me why Sophie inspires so much love or is infatuation the right word here not only from Fritz but from another Hardenberg brother as well, even though this brother initially tries to dissuade Fritz from his folly She seems to have a command over men which the novel, unfortunately, doesn t shed light on It was this aspect of the book that I found disappointing What is it about Sophie that makes young men fall in love head over heels with her She can hardly write, she doesn t appear to have intellectual interests, or indeed anything to share with Fritz Fritz himself can t understand what s the matter with himI can t comprehend her, I can t get the measure of her I love something that I do not understand She has got me, but she is not at all sure she wants me It might help here if we looked at the romantic ideal of women Says FritzI think, indeed, that women have a better grasp on the whole business of life than we men have We are morally better than they are, but they can reach perfection, we can t And that is in spite of the fact that they particularise, we generalise The revered Goethe, who pays a visit to young Sophie during her stay at Jena says to Fritz s brotherI think I know what you wanted to ask me You wonder whether Fr ulein von K hn, when she is restored to health, will be a true source of happiness to your bother Probably you feel that there is not an equality of understanding between them But rest assured, it is not her understanding that we love in a young girl We love her beauty, her innocence, her trust in us, her airs and graces, her God knows what but we don t love her for her understanding nor, I am sure, does Hardenberg I would have loved if the book had explored this theme indepth Is this irresistible attraction that Fritz experiences love or something else How might it play out in the context of marriage and a long co habitation Might Fritz regret allowing himself to be carried away by his feelings Of course, that is a complex question for a Romantic, for whom feelings are guides to afundamental reality I really wish Fitzgerald had used this book to explore these questions.What we do get is a vivid and, I believe, accurate depiction of the intellectual atmosphere in Germany which was at the time divided into several principalities The famed Jena, a university town where the better known Romantics resided, is beautifully portrayed We get to know a lot about student life, which was not much different then from what it is today a lot of drunkenness and intellectual curiosity, despicable lodgings, and a fervour for life that is the hallmark of youth The Schlegels make an appearance, as does Fichte s philosophy Fitzgerald is at her best here filling in the characters and conveying a sense of life as it must have been at the turn of the century this is late 1700s Strong female characters Karoline, Sophie s elder sister provide the counterpoint to Sophie It is not impossible, after all, that Fitzgerald did want to write the feminist novel, not by proclaiming a thesis about Sophie and Fritz s infatuation , but through tacit comparison with the other female characters A gorgeous, elliptical book, which I was drawn to by its subject eighteenth century German philosopher and poet becomes obsessed with unattractive twelve year old girl I fell in love with The Blue Flower just like Fritz later known as Novalis did with Sophie, only the book s positive qualities are slightlyobvious It s beautifully written, understated, and perhapstouching than you would expect Fitzgerald never demands that you like her characters, and there s no sentimentalit A gorgeous, elliptical book, which I was drawn to by its subject eighteenth century German philosopher and poet becomes obsessed with unattractive twelve year old girl I fell in love with The Blue Flower just like Fritz later known as Novalis did with Sophie, only the book s positive qualities are slightlyobvious It s beautifully written, understated, and perhapstouching than you would expect Fitzgerald never demands that you like her characters, and there s no sentimentality, but you care about the von Hardenburgs and Sophie anyway, because they re so strangely endearing How can you read this book and not want the Bernhard as your younger brother If you approach it like aconventional novel, then you ll probably be disappointed, because the pace of the narrative is quite unusual, and occasionally the focus seems odd most novelists would struggle to keep the reader s interest with chapters on salt mining But somehow, it works The description s so minimal, and Fitzgerald evokes a society in a sentence withsuccess than most other writers could manage in a chapter How does she do it , asks A S Byatt Well, I don t know But as someone interested in writing, I m sure I ll find myself re reading this, in the hope that it becomes slightly less enigmatic I think any aspiring writer could benefit from The Blue Flower, not only as a rewarding novel in its own right, but as proof that you don t need long winded descriptions to convey settings and characters Or, indeed, to make the reader feel so inexpicably attached to your characters that the Afterword leaves them feeling devastated I ve had this on my Currently Reading shelf for ever and ever I think I was put off by the late 18th century setting and the focus on the poet, Novalis neither of which are my interest areas, but I ve read 5 or 6 of Fitzgerald s now and each and every one is Brilliant this one included.This is clearly an historical fiction novel the author has done her research making sure that dates, places, people and known events all tally If she had focussed exclusively on this I would have bee I ve had this on my Currently Reading shelf for ever and ever I think I was put off by the late 18th century setting and the focus on the poet, Novalis neither of which are my interest areas, but I ve read 5 or 6 of Fitzgerald s now and each and every one is Brilliant this one included.This is clearly an historical fiction novel the author has done her research making sure that dates, places, people and known events all tally If she had focussed exclusively on this I would have been bored, but the real focus of the novel is the von Hardenberg family, of which Fredrick was the eldest son He took the name Novalis from an old family name meaning clearer of the land , although I can only guess that Fritz his nickname would have intendeda cleaning of the soul I know nothing about Novalis not having read anything by him but I enjoyed Fitzgerald s novel.I started this book after a reading slump which for me is highly unusual I read the first page of this and sighed with relief knowing I was in safe hands I felt the same listening to my piano teacher perform I could sit back and enjoy knowing there weren t going to be any bloopers Just so with Fitzgerald I said this was researched, and historical fiction, and thus unlike the others I have read, but it has definitive Fitzgerald hallmarks the precocious child in this case six year old Bernhard who is always referred to as the Bernhard never explained why There is a funny sad little scene towards the beginning where the child almost drowns and Fritz rescues him thus establishing or defining the special bond between the two And I will reprint the scene here because it reminds me in various ways of Offshore The Bernhard has been told off by his older sister Sidonie for opening the bag of their visitor and the small boy runs off Fritz flies after him, knowing that he will go to the river The empty barges laid up for repair were moored at their station on the opposite bank Fritz pelted over the bridge Everyone saw him, coat flying Had the Freiherr no servants to send The barges wallowed on their mooring ropes, grating against each other, strake against strake From the quayside Fritz jumped down about four feet or so onto the nearest deck There was a scurrying, as though of an animal larger than a dog Bernhard I will never come back, Bernhard called.The child ran across the deck, and then, afraid to risk the drop onto the next boat, climbed over the gunwale and then stayed there hanging on with both hands, scrabbling with his boots for a foothold Fritz caught hold of him by the wrists and at the same moment the whole line of barges made one of their unaccountable shifts, heaving grossly towards each other, so that the Bernhard, still hanging was trapped and squeezed A pitiful cough and a burst of tears and blood were forced out of him like air out of a balloon.There is some difficulty in pulling the child up, and the two argue about the fact that the Bernhard is a dead weight and not helping It continuesMake an effort, do you want to drown What would it matter if I did squeaked the Bernhard You once said that death was not significant, but only a change of condition Drat you, you ve no business to understand that, Fritz shouted in his ear.And there you have it the six year old who has an inherent affinity with his elder brother who manages to become one of the notables of European philosophy and literature In the novel Fritz tells a short story to several of the people who understand him a cousin Karoline and his sister Sidonie and of course the Bernhard sneaks a look when no one is around, and offers his own wise counsel at the end of the book.The main story however, concerns Fritz s unusual love affair with the twelve year old Sophie, beloved daughter of a wealthy family in Gr ningen several days journey from the von Hardenberg s who live in the town of Weissenfels a real place I looked up all the place names on Google and started to fill in my sparse knowledge of this particular part of middle Germany the areas of Saxony and Thuringia also known as Mitteldeutschland which means central Germany Famous towns such Liepzig, Halle and Jena are mentioned because Fritz is sent to the universities there He is to be trained as a salt inspector Jena is of particular importance because it is where Sophie is taken when she needs an operation This university town is known for its concentration of medical doctors and has multiple boarding houses which thrive on the business of the sick arriving to receive their treatments I liked this aspect of the book it re creates how people lived paying attention to those practical details of daily life when there weren t any of the conveniences we now take for granted On one occasion Fritz s father refuses to send him money for a horse, and Fritz without complaint walks the thirty two miles back to the family home at Weissenfels This is one of several incidents in the book that highlights the differences between the von Hardenbergs, and that of Sophie s family the K hns The von Hardenbenbergs are landed gentry with several estates slowly rotting into the ground and barely a penny to cover everyday expenses, whereas as the K hns are rich materially if not spiritually the money coming from the wife s inheritances.This becomes a richly layered novel with many details of late 18th century life the difficulties of travel, the impoverished nature of medical knowledge, but at the same time it focuses on the well established facts which was that Germany at this time was at the forefront of developments in all fields of knowledge Fitzgerald refers to the family meeting G ethe Fritz sees the great man Schiller, other names occur in Friederike s daybook she is a married sister of Sophie s Here is an extract from July 1796 when they are staying at Jena Hardenberg s friend Friedrich Schlegel I think he is not yet a professor visited us yesterday evening He too is on the point of some journey or other I received him by myself Sophie had gone out with Frau Winkler, to see a military parade God knows I myself have seen my bellyful of them But as soon as the pain goes away a little, my beloved little sister is ready to find everything amusing She is then almost herself.Well, Friedrich Schlegel He is a philosopher and a historian I was not at all put off by his melancholy gaze He said to me, Frau Leutnant, your sister, Fr ulein von K hn, tries to make her mind work in the same way that Hardenberg s does, as one might try to teach a half tame bird to sing like a human being She won t succeed, and the ideas she had before, such as they were, are now in disarray and she hardly knows what to put in their place I asked him, Have you ever met my sister, Herr Schlegel He replied, Not as yet, but I believe she is an instance of a certain easily recognisable type I said, She is my sister Friedericke like nearly all the women in Fitzgerald s book is both tough, strong and intelligent and like Sidonie and Karoline and various others, takes on responsibilities and tasks that would rarely be asked of any young 20 something year old today But there again this is one of Fitzgerald s themes women saving the day At the end when Sophie is dying Fritz cannot bare to stay with her and it is the sister, the Mandelsloh as Friedericke is referred to, who must lie to the dying child.I can t resist including some of this last conversationIf you stayed here you would not be wanted as a nurse, the Mandelsloh replied You would be wanted as a liar Fritz raised his heavy head What then should I say God help us, from day to day you would have to say to her You look a little better this morning S phgen Yes, I think a little better Soon you will be able to go out into the garden Nothing is needed but some warmer weather After a moment Fritz cried out, I could not lie to her, anythan I could lie to myself I don t know to what extent a poet lies to himself She is my spirit s guide She knows that The Mandelsloh did not answer Shall I stay Still she said nothing, and Fritz went abruptly out of the room Where will he go the Mandelsloh wondered That is so much simpler for a man If a woman has something that is not easy to decide, where can she go to be alone So, there you have it Fitzgerald refuting the ideas of the Great Thinkers and raising the timeless questions of practicality and the roles placed upon women their inevitable ties to family, children and the responsibilities of both.This novel is awesome because our author recreates a whole specific era, of a very particular time and area in central Germany and then places into this setting such a real life mixture of two very different families I think there are nine children in Fritz s family and just as many in Sophie s and many of these characters are drawn into the central story Fritz s brother Erasmus, cannot understand his elder brother s strange enchantment with Sophie, in fact no one can but she represents a simplicity and naturalness which seems to have been slowly squeezed out of the intense thinking and developments of this Great Era in Germany, not just Germany but the whole of European culture The story ends with a couple of pages of factual details about what happens to the von Hardenberg family view spoiler They all die young of tuberculosis, except the mother s dearest little Angel the Bernhard, who was drowned in the Saale on the 28th of November 1800 , just one year before Fritz himself dies aged 29 hide spoiler And the Blue Flower is the story Novalis wrote, which only the Bernhard was able to understand ( Download Book ) ♳ The Blue Flower ♴ 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 K hn 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 I feel The Blue Flower, similar to the historical half of Ali Smith s How to Be Both, isn t and wasn t intended to be so called historical fiction Both writers use the frame of the life of a real person to hang their themes on though the characterization, usually through thought, is vivid Plot is not foremost, though the details of The Blue Flower are accurate as far as I can tell the research had to be extensive and is worn lightly Due to its style I felt a distance, which may be int I feel The Blue Flower, similar to the historical half of Ali Smith s How to Be Both, isn t and wasn t intended to be so called historical fiction Both writers use the frame of the life of a real person to hang their themes on though the characterization, usually through thought, is vivid Plot is not foremost, though the details of The Blue Flower are accurate as far as I can tell the research had to be extensive and is worn lightly Due to its style I felt a distance, which may be intentional The style is different from The Bookshop the only other Fitzgerald novel I ve read so far , except in that her humor is terse and easily missed, as is her deflection Each short chapter ends with a line or thought that propelled me to read on, yet at times I had no trouble putting the book down near the start of a consecutive chapter The book s opening is memorable, with a visitor s view of the family on clothes washing day and then the rescuing of a brother by the main character Fritz on a day beyond the novel s scope he will be known as the poet Novalis We are then thrust back in time after just a few short chapters By the time the book gets back to the beginning , I d assumed we were done with that time place and with the visitor, and I d been wondering what its and his point were I wish we d gotten back sooner when we do, it s a bit awkward and confusing.The two mothers are fertile, yet inert A niece and older sisters are the caretakers The men hang their own interpretations on the framework of the women The women mostly keep their thoughts to themselves When one speaks up, she asks a question Do you know my sisterShe does not say this to Fritz, though it would apply to him as well The question is unanswered, but the reader knows Fritz s story of the blue flower is read twice by him, to two different females, and then repeated in part and with slight differences a third time as a brother s reimagining The story of the blue flower now seems to belong, and easily, to someone else The dreamer does not know what his dream means and, sadly, is disappointed when another doesn t know either He silently judges that lack in one, but excuses the same in another Once again, the woman is burdened with the man s expectation and I started to believe that this is Fitzgerald s main theme.The dialogue between the brothers and their sister Sidonie probably my favorite character is delightful I have a soft spot for that kind of thing as it reminds me of my own siblings I ve seen such varying opinions of this book, and I feel so ambivalent toward it, I m forced to believe it s one of those that you get out of it what you already have The Blue Flower is another of the books my dear old dad got me at Christmas and, like the other one I read, What a Life by JB Priestley, it is a stone cold turkey I m not sure what my pa asked for when he went into the bookstore, but I m pretty sure it was I want to bore my son like he s never been bored before what books do you suggest The novel looks at the short life of Novalis, an obscure late 18th century German Romantic philosopher poet and his relationship with his 14 year old betro The Blue Flower is another of the books my dear old dad got me at Christmas and, like the other one I read, What a Life by JB Priestley, it is a stone cold turkey I m not sure what my pa asked for when he went into the bookstore, but I m pretty sure it was I want to bore my son like he s never been bored before what books do you suggest The novel looks at the short life of Novalis, an obscure late 18th century German Romantic philosopher poet and his relationship with his 14 year old betrothed, Sophie On the edge of your seat yet But wait, there sNovalis is also administrator of a salt mine and then Sophia dies at 15 of a brain tumour or something Novalis dies shortly after aged 28 Yeah, that sounds like something I d be interested in grumble Don t think I ve ever mentioned this guy or wanting to read about this era but whatever thanks dad I m really not sure what Penelope Fitzgerald was going for in this book Novalis and Sophie s story isn t very exciting and I m not sure what writing about it was meant to elicit in me I suppose it s a bit scandalous today that a twentysomething was interested in a child for his bride but it was acceptable back in the 18th century Why was he so obsessed with Sophie was he just a pedo albeit mentally he never actually sleeps with her No clue.I also didn t really understand much about Novalis work or its relevance to Western culture He kept calling Sophie his philosophy but I never really got what that meant or what his work and art was about Then again I was nodding off every other paragraph This 282 page book took nearly a month for me to get through because it s so easy to put down the pacing is so slow and plodding It s also annoying that the book has a lot of untranslated German, which I don t speak, and the characters and places have long German names and titles A common sentence went along these lines Johanturmhiem went to Turineingemain for the Polaintenurgin Werntingethenineign was talking to Desingtineoiengiengn about the Kolieingeinteininininin s Tuinhugjnguun at which the Versingintineugh was very much Gerugugunaeughuhunniinginging Say whaaaaaaaat 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 8books on the Christmas pile Oh no is that Proust Goes looking for noose This was an overgrown novella I think that actually Dostoevsky would have done this themejustice as it reminds me of The Idiot in some ways the girl s innocence and faux maturity perhaps Thing is if I am going to read about some man s infatuation can t really call it love, can you for a 12 year old girl, which is pedophilia of thought if not action, I want that aspect of it explored Obviously I wasn t going to get the depth of Nabokov with his distasefully wonderful Lolita but this This was an overgrown novella I think that actually Dostoevsky would have done this themejustice as it reminds me of The Idiot in some ways the girl s innocence and faux maturity perhaps Thing is if I am going to read about some man s infatuation can t really call it love, can you for a 12 year old girl, which is pedophilia of thought if not action, I want that aspect of it explored Obviously I wasn t going to get the depth of Nabokov with his distasefully wonderful Lolita but this was just too flimsy Poets, philosophers and all is maya doesn t do it for me.Two stars because it was just ok An extra half a star for an attempt at tackling a grand theme, even if ultimately it didn t go anywhere My thanks to Jonathan for pointing out a rather superior literary treatment of blue flowershttps awoiaf.westeros.org index.phpI read this book as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness Tournament and also from intrigue Penelope Fitzgerald perhaps appropriately for an author who only began her literary career at 58 is an author I only discovered at 48 and enjoyed each of Offshore , Gate of Angels and The Bookshop however this is a book of hers which seems to divide opinion, generally lau My thanks to Jonathan for pointing out a rather superior literary treatment of blue flowershttps awoiaf.westeros.org index.phpI read this book as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness Tournament and also from intrigue Penelope Fitzgerald perhaps appropriately for an author who only began her literary career at 58 is an author I only discovered at 48 and enjoyed each of Offshore , Gate of Angels and The Bookshop however this is a book of hers which seems to divide opinion, generally lauded by fellow authors and critics as one of the great historic novels and definitely Fitzgerald s masterpiece but generating somewhere between dislike and indifference in most of the Fitzgerald fans I know on Goodreads.Fitzgerald is an author where I always anticipate with delight spending time in her company one can imagine her as a fascinating companion for a dinner party, and when reading her books I think of myself as to be a guest inside her writing.And this book a biographical tale of the young German Saxon poet and philosopher Friedrich von Hardenberg Fritz from the ages of around 22 25, and his love for Sophie von K hn from age 12 to her death at 15 contains much in perhaps may be the culmination of what I have come to love in Fitzgerald s writing, in particular her ability in only a few words to conjour up a place, a character, a feeling Here in a book which over less than 300 pages has 55 chapters, the book is really a series of scenes vignettes and her economy of description often with no real preamble comes to the fore Take for example this description of a Christmas treeInside the library, the myriad fiery shining points of light threw vast shadows of the fir branches onto the high walls and even across the ceiling In the warmth the room breathed evendeeply,resinously,greenlyOr a painter seeing his own vision and talent going to wastemaking a living by selling sepia drawings of distant prospects and bends in the river with reliably grazing cattleOr the capture of the entire inner life of Fritz s mother in three brief paragraphs in three separate chapters.Her thoughts when her brother comes to visit her equally proud and argumentative husbandThe Freifrau felt trapped between the two of them, like a powder of thinly ground mill between the millstonesHer reflections on her own role in the budding reputation of her sonWhen Fritz had been born, sickly and stupid, she had been given the blame and had accepted it When after months of low fever he had become tall and thin, and they said a genius, she had not been given any credit and had not expected any And her sudden and unrealised impulse when Fritz asks her advice before seeing his father for his permission to be betrothed to SophieAn extraordinary notion came to the Freifrau Auguste that she might take advantage of the moment, which in its half darkness and fragrance seemed ti her to almost sacred, to talk to her eldest son about herself All that she had to say could be put quite shortly, she was forty five and she did not see how she was going to get through the rest of her lifeA long standing official in the salt mines whoconsulted the ledgers only to see that they confirmed the dates and figures he had given They would not dare do otherwise thought Fritz However Fitzgerald has invited another guest Fritz who later adopted the pen name Novalis and unfortunately he comes to dominate the dinner party And unfortunately the actions, speeches and rather misguided attempts to tie mathematics and science to poetry philosophy of Fritz and the often similar tone taken by the omniscient narrator, rather ruining Fitzgerald s dinner invitation.Earlier in the book, the aforementioned painter who compares himself to a poet joins Sophie s family and her older and very down to earth sister for a mealI am glancing round the table and assessing the presence, or absence, of true soul in the countenance of everyone here said Hoffman Ach I should not think you are often asked out to dinner twiceAnd ultimately that is the failing of this novel normally when reading a novel with biographical details of an artist or their works for example Playing Possum , Now, Now, Louison , Winter , Summer just to pick a few recent examples I am drawn to research the subjectI will not be inviting Novalis to my reading table twice 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 12 year old Sophie Von Kuhn, who would become his fiancee The novel s genius lies in its complete lack of interest in explaining examining the WHY of Hardenberg s love 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 12 year old Sophie Von Kuhn, who would become his fiancee The novel s genius lies in its complete lack of interest in explaining examining the WHY of Hardenberg s love This is not a love story or a romance 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 the novel has its own ordering logic, but does not feel compelled to observe the laws of linear chronology the chapters are mere slivers of storytelling, each with its precise, almost aphoristic title the language is at times odd and elliptical, and so on, and so forth.Utterly captivating, and not quite sensical, much like the relationship at the novel s center