Whether you are new to the language of flowers or well versed in it, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel is intriguing and fascinating. During the Victorian era people used flowers to convey feelings, both positive and negative, and Diffenbaugh uses this language of the flowers to develop a story about a girl learning to trust, love, and believe in herself. Flowers and their meanings play a large role throughout the story and give the reader a good sense of how special the use of flowers to communicate can be.
The story follows the life of a girl, Victoria, who is abandon at birth and is put into the California foster-care system. Alternative chapters tell us about Victoria’s past at age 10, and Victoria’s present at 18, so we understand the factors that formed her during childhood and appreciate the situations she is facing as an adult. As a child Victoria’s life was full of abuse, violence, anger, and disappointments so it no surprise that at age eighteen when she is released from the foster-care system she is unable to form relationships, and has no faith in herself. One relationship during her childhood, however, allowed Victoria to learn the language of flowers and develop the special gift that helped her emerge into the adult world and ultimately find healing for the scares of her childhood. Victoria is a character that elicits sympathy as well as frustration throughout the book and empathy as she goes through the first weeks of being a single mother.
The the language of the flowers is an integral part of the story and especially interesting to those who love flowers. Victoria’s dictionary of flowers included at the end of the book adds even more and should not be overlooked. If you find this introduction to the topic interesting, you might want to explore more books on the subject such as Tussie-Mussies: The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers that will give you more meanings for each flower and visual examples of how flowers are made into bouquets for special occasions.
The Language of Flowers was a compelling book and I enjoyed it although sometimes it was not realistic and had a slight fairy tale quality at times. It is hard to believe, for example that Victoria found the perfect job with an understanding boss, a sensitive man that fell in love with her, and an able assistant when she began her own business, all within a relatively short time after she became 18. Equally hard to believe were the friends that came to visit her soon after she gave birth, none of which brought food or inquired about her needs. O.K, the story line had some weakness, but the book was still a good read.