Introduced by Neel Mukherjee
Illustrated by James Albon
Critically acclaimed historical fiction from the Booker Prize-winning novelist and biographer.
In his introduction to this edition, Neel Mukherjee describes Fitzgerald’s books as ‘slim, fleet-footed, at once weightless, like air, and immense with the worlds they contain’. Reading The Blue Flower is an ethereal and addictive experience, sure to be just the beginning of a literary journey with an underrated yet exceptional writer. Award-winning illustrator James Albon, working with reductive lino cuts, provides images that reflect the shifting nature of Fritz himself: energetic and melancholy, light and dark.
‘A work of exquisite, crystalline intelligence and angular polish’
The Blue Flower tells of the early life of Fritz von Hardenberg, the young man who would become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis. Brilliant and idealistic, his heart is captured by the young Sophie von Kuhn, an artless child he nonetheless describes as his ‘true Philosophy’. His family, alternately bemused and charmed, do their best to both hinder and aid this ultimately tragic betrothal. Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel is a modern masterpiece, a feat of immersion and sleight of hand; it is effortlessly light, reducing the great distance of history to little more than the turn of a page, whilst containing unexpected depths of poetry at its heart.
Repeatedly voted Book of the Year on its first publication in 1995, this is a novel as enjoyable as it is enlightening. Full of the detail essential to historical fiction, the society of 18th century Germany lives and breathes in its pages. From the delightfully obnoxious Bernhard, the younger brother who insists on rummaging through their guests’ luggage, to the long-suffering sister Sidonie, the fiercely intelligent Hardenberg family forms the web that connects this novel of illuminating snapshots. Fritz and his ‘heart’s heart’ sit at the centre, weaving a romance that is touching, sad, and as unattainable as the titular blue flower itself.
Penelope Fitzgerald was born in 1916, the daughter of Edmund Knox, who would become editor of Punch, and Christina Hicks, who was one of the first women students at Oxford. Her uncles were the theologian and crime writer Ronald Knox, cryptographer Dillwyn Knox, and Bible scholar Wilfred Knox, and her aunt was the novelist and biographer Winifred Peck. She achieved a congratulatory First from Somerville College, Oxford, and worked for the BBC during the Second World War, before turning to teaching to support her family. Her first book, published at the age of 58, was a biography of Edward Burne-Jones, which was followed by The Knox Brothers, a biography of Fitzgerald’s father and uncles. In 1979 she won the Booker prize for Offshore; other works include The Bookshop (1978), At Freddie’s (1982), Innocence (1986) and her final novel, The Blue Flower (1995), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She died in 2000.
Neel Mukherjee was born in Calcutta. His award-winning debut novel, A Life Apart, was published in 2010. His second novel, The Lives of Others, was published in 2014 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Costa Novel Award. He writes for the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Independent, and is a contributing editor for Boston Review. His third novel, A State of Freedom, is published in 2017. He lives in London.
James Albon graduated with a BA in Illustration from the Edinburgh College of Art, where he subsequently worked as an Artist in Residence. He is an Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter–Printmakers, who awarded him the Gwen May award in 2012. He illustrated Parade’s End for The Folio Society in 2013.
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Review by experi-ate on 29th Sep 2015
"A book unlike any other. The stunning illustrations beautifully complement this extraordinary text. This is the first of Penelope Fitzgerald's novels I've had the pleasure to read and the final she wr..." [read more]