Monday, September 19, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

UK cover

 Published By: Pan Macmillan UK


About the book:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meaning.

Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her it for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what has been happening in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to confront painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

My Review:

This is high-end chick-lit. The amount of emotions that Victoria takes the reader through means stock your reading corner with imported chocolates and silk tissues (or a glass of wine and toilet paper in my case). I am not one for chick-lit; I have picked up Picoult for research purposes. But this is a beautiful book that borderlines contemporary drama. Victoria takes the reader on a journey of reckless abandonment and feelings of utter solitude even when surrounded by people. I was so absorbed in this book that when Victoria felt hollow, that no feeling or flower could fill, I felt empty empathy.

Victoria was abandoned at such a young age and could never escape that feeling that she was going to either be hurt by others or that she would torrentially harm others if they got too close. This idea is further highlighted when we are taken back in time and introduced to Elizabeth, the last chance Victoria has or she will stay in foster care forever. Although she portrays a very strong persona to the outside world, Victoria is a very vulnerable woman, susceptible to self-loathing and a desire to be loved but overcome by a nausea so strong when people do attempt to cross her personal boundary.

The book is narrated by Victoria, so the other characters can at times feel very one-dimensional and either too perfect, or too much like characters out of Oliver Twist. I also found the ending was a bit rushed and there was a point where I thought this would be a case of Happily ever after. Thankfully, Diffenbaugh is a bit of a realist at heart so knew to which lengths she could go to without it being confused with Cinderella.

I loved that every section of the book was broken down by the name of a flower. Granted, not the most original of ideas but that particular flower tied in to the theme and sub-plots of the section which I felt compelling and relevant.

This book is about love, from mother to daughter, from friend to friend and lover to lover. Love in all its qualities; it’s sophistication, the flaws, the betrayals, exuberance, the desperation and its honesty.

The Language of Flowers is a book filled with insightful analysis. We are all individuals, we have different ideas, different visions, separate minds. But we all-in our own way-want to love and want to be loved. A rose is a rose, is a rose...

Sending you all electronic sage; good health and long life.

About the Author

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband PK have three children: Tre’von, 18, Chela, 4, and Miles, 3. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millenium Scholarship. Vanessa and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

- Review by Tarryn Talbot


Shelagh said...

Great review Tarryn! I LOVED The Language of Flowers (review coming soon!) which surprised me in many ways. I am not much of a chick-lit/drama reader, but this book captivated me from the first page.

The Word Fiend

Sarah said...

I have seen so many good reviews for this book. Yours is another good one that makes me want to run out and buy the book.

Espana said...

This novel touched on many different topics that would encourage lots of discussion including forgiveness, love, heartbreak, despair, hope, and second chances. We all make mistakes, so shouldn't we all deserve second, or maybe even third, fourth and fifth chances? This novel makes you believe second chances must be given and received.

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