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.

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.