"Humanity is a comic role," so said Novalis the German writer who Penelope Fitzgerald portrays in The Blue Flower. While I found the book to be enjoyable I wouldn't rank it as Fitzgerald's best as others have. It lacked the large dose of comedy that her other books contain.
My attention slipped countless times, but it was no fault of Fitzgerald's prose. It was, I think, the characters. Only Rockenthien, the father of Novalis' 12 year old love, demanded I read on.
He is succinctly described: "Frau Rockenthien had a special tenderness for small and insignificant young people, believing that they could be transformed, by giving them plenty to eat, into tall and stout ones."
Easily one can imagine him bellowing, singing, laughing, and slapping wooden tables in Fitzgerald's cold, damp 18th century Germany.
The whole of the book is somber, reflective, and confined--only heated by the odd mention of cabbage soup. Its general tone is as follows:
No-one in Weissenfels looked forward very much to the Hardenbergs' invitations, but they were so rare - this was not thought of as meanness, everyone knew of their piety and charity - and so formally expressed, that they seemed less of a celebration than a register of slowly passing time, like morality itself."
Who hasn't "registered" parties in this way?
I'm more at home in Fitzgerald's The Bookshop where tea is consumed while humanity plays its usual, comic role.