Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Monday, June 25, 2007


I don't think that I can help with your query regarding Fritz' behaviour, Emily, as I don't think that this book gives sufficient insight into the personality and behaviour of its characters. It does paint Fritz as a person of rash and fanciful decisions, (capricious?), so trying to work out what motivated him is rather difficult. Sadly, as you say, the author does not make you care for the characters at all and the main surprise for me is that they are actually based on real people.
I do agree that the updating at the end is the best bit and suddenly makes one take the whole thing more seriously. Sadly, a little too late.
I wonder why the book was written as the author does not seem to care enough about the characters either.

The blue flower

While I found the book carefully written, it also seemed to me to be pointless and nihilistic. I didn't care what happened to the characters, and didn't feel the author had much affection for them either. The whole thing seemed unreal and pantomime-like. The central betrothal was founded on such misunderstanding/lack of point that I wonder if this infected the whole novella. The most interesting material for me was reserved in the afterword! How often do we see this? As if the author hasn't the courage of their convictions to deal with their (best) material. While a meaty afterword can, I think, work if the novel has worked, in this instance it just highlighted for me the vacuity of it all. I must admit that I find Fitzgerald an unduly dispassionate and bleak novelist. "The Bookshop" was even worse for this. She seems to go out of her way to make everyone miserable and frustrated (and, often, dead). I find precision of language to be no substitute for point/heart/purpose. I would, however, be grateful for your thoughts on the final separation: why did Fritz abandon her? Because he couldn't pretend that she'd get better? Was it this: "that [was] not the case" (when he speaks to her sister, has some sort of epiphany, and leaves), or was it that somehow she'd ceased to be his ideal? Help, please!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Blue Flower

I had just finished War and Peace, my objective for this year, as the book had been on the shelf for more than 35 years unopened, when I started The Blue Flower. I do not usually read the cover blurb before the end as it is mostly misleading ('constantly funny!'). 'Utterly gripping and involving novel' was so cleverly placed it was unavoidable. Now War and Peace was a novel that I found gripping and involving, except for the last 20 pages or so, even the detail of the Russian campaign. The Blue Flower certainly was not but it was lightly written and gave an interesting account of daily life in Lower Saxony. It was a grim reminder of the scourge of TB and the tragic loss of life of young people that was so prevalent when poor living conditions were the norm. Desperate to try anything, sufferers and the families laid themselves open to all sorts of quackery.

I struggled to believe that this was a story about real people. I did not find the characters were brought to life in a convincing manner and would have benefitted from more fleshing out. One knew that Erasmus was also suffering from TB, as there was a reference to him coughing, but actually he died very soon after Sophie. The story does not mention him being particularly unwell. Karoline and Sophie's elder sister both had some substance and one was pleased that the latter divorced her husband and hopefully made a better marriage, while poor Karoline had to marry the chap she disliked.

There was a little humour which was welcome but I think the structure of the book made it feel rather disjointed and ultimately an unsatisfying read. Novalis is not a poet that I have heard of before and it would have been interesting to have had more examples of his writing.