The year is 1794, and Fritz - passionate, idealistic and brilliant - is seeking his father's permission to announce his engagement to his heart's desire: 12-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking? Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, The Blue Flower is a masterpiece of invention, evoking the past with a reality that we can almost feel.
In a small East Anglian town, Florence Green decides, against polite but ruthless local opposition, to open a bookshop. Hardborough becomes a battleground. Florence has tried to change the way things have always been done, and as a result she has to take on not only the people who have made themselves important but natural and even supernatural forces, too. Her fate will strike a chord with anyone who knows that life has treated them with less than justice.
On Battersea Reach, a mixed bag of the temporarily lost and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the tide of the Thames. There is good-natured Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by chance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, an ex-navy man whose boat, much like its owner, dominates the Reach.
It is 1912, and at Cambridge University the modern age is knocking at the gate. In lecture halls and laboratories, the model of a universe governed by the Mind of God is at last giving way to something wholly rational, a universe governed by the Laws of Physics. To Fred Fairly, a junior fellow at the College of St. Angelicus, this comes as a great comfort. Science, he is certain, will soon explain everything.
The Blue Flower is set in the age of Goethe, in the small towns and great universities of late 18th-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 Sophievon Kühn. It is an attachment that shocks his family and friends.
In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop, the only bookshop, in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town's less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors' lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence's warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted.
With the death of Penelope Fitzgerald in 2000, the literary world lost one of its finest, most original, and most beloved authors. Completed just before her death, The Means of Escape was Fitzgerald's first new book since the best-selling The Blue Flower. Never before have her short stories been collected in book form, and none of them has ever appeared in the United States.
"Not The Bookshop"