Book Review: The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
ISBN: 9780345525543
Pages: 336
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Victoria Jones has been in the foster care system for most of her life, and now that she’s eighteen, she’s being emancipated.  She has nowhere to go, nothing except her love of flowers.  Flowers have a language of their own, and for years, Victoria has used them to convey her cynicism and mistrust of the world.  But when a flower shop owner gives Victoria an opportunity to work for her, Victoria realizes that she may have a second chance at life.

Review:

The Language of Flowers is the story of Victoria Jones, a girl who is struggling to overcome her past.  Victoria hasn’t had an easy life – she’s been abused by foster families and ended up in a group home for most of her teens.  The reader gets a firsthand look at these difficulties through the secondary storyline running through the novel, which consists of flashbacks to Victoria’s childhood.  After being removed from a vicious family that took pleasure in starving Victoria, she is given her last chance at adoption with a woman named Elizabeth.  While young Victoria rebels against Elizabeth at the beginning, she quickly realizes that Elizabeth loves her, and she is in it for the long run.  Why, then, the reader asks, does Victoria end up in a group home?  What happened between her and Elizabeth?  These questions keep the reader in suspense and drive the narrative forward at a steady pace.

Victoria herself is a difficult character at times.  She has definitely had a difficult life, but at the same time, her refusal to help herself can be very frustrating.  For example, at the beginning of the The Language of Flowers, her social worker sets Victoria up in an apartment, instructing her to find a job in order to pay the rent or she will be evicted after three months.  Victoria does nothing on this front, wasting away the three months, and ends up homeless living in the park.  It’s only after that that Victoria bothers to look for work at the flower shop.  I was completely baffled why Victoria didn’t try to help herself by finding a job before she was evicted, and this thread runs through the book.  As the book progresses, Victoria finds herself surrounded by people who care for her and want to help.  I could completely understand her lack of trust in others, considering what she’s been through, as well as her desire to keep her pride, but this character trait was very frustrating.

The focus on the Victorian language of flowers was a very nice touch.  Victoria communicates through flowers, and ends up helping others by selling them flowers that will assist with their problems.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn something and it gives the reader some insight into Victoria.  She learned about the language of flowers from Elizabeth, and it’s clearly something she’s held onto, even if she appears to have left Elizabeth behind.

Despite the fact that I often want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into Victoria, I very much enjoyed The Language of Flowers.  The main character frustrated me, but I felt deeply for her.  I wanted her to be happy, even if she seemed to sabotage any chance at happiness that presented itself.  I cared very much, and was impressed with Diffenbaugh’s ability to develop a complex character and weave a compelling story around her.  This is an engaging work of contemporary fiction that would make a great book club selection, as readers are likely to have strong opinions about Victoria.

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Comments

  1. I read this book recently and haven’t been able to write my review. Like you I enjoyed the book but was frustrated by Victoria’s actions. Reading your review has helped me gather my thoughts (I will link to your review).

    Glad you enjoyed this one!

  2. I read this book recently and haven’t been able to write my review. Like you I enjoyed the book but was frustrated by Victoria’s actions. Reading your review has helped me gather my thoughts (I will link to your review).

    Glad you enjoyed this one!

  3. I have no idea why I haven’t picked this one up to read. I have always loved the meanings of flowers and sending messages by which ones you give someone. On the other hand, a character who doesn’t help herself might drive me crazy. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll be giving this a go.

  4. I have no idea why I haven’t picked this one up to read. I have always loved the meanings of flowers and sending messages by which ones you give someone. On the other hand, a character who doesn’t help herself might drive me crazy. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll be giving this a go.

  5. I have this book and it has been sitting on my shelf for months now just waiting for me to get to it! I have heard really good things about it and have heard it’s quite an emotional read, but I just haven’t had any breathing room to pick it up yet. I am going to try to do that within the next couple of weeks though, as I need a really good read to balance out my year. Fantastic review today, Swapna! I really enjoyed it.

  6. I have this book and it has been sitting on my shelf for months now just waiting for me to get to it! I have heard really good things about it and have heard it’s quite an emotional read, but I just haven’t had any breathing room to pick it up yet. I am going to try to do that within the next couple of weeks though, as I need a really good read to balance out my year. Fantastic review today, Swapna! I really enjoyed it.

  7. After I read this I had a fun discussion with some other recent blogger readers all variations on the theme of wanting to shake that Victoria!

  8. After I read this I had a fun discussion with some other recent blogger readers all variations on the theme of wanting to shake that Victoria!

  9. Thanks for your beautiful review. I liked this book very much, here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/10/07/73-review-the-language-of-flowers/

  10. Thanks for your beautiful review. I liked this book very much, here is my review: http://wordsandpeace.com/2011/10/07/73-review-the-language-of-flowers/

  11. Despite the desire to shake the hell out of the protagonist, most people seem to really love this book. It appeals to me, even though I basically look at flowers and they die.

  12. Despite the desire to shake the hell out of the protagonist, most people seem to really love this book. It appeals to me, even though I basically look at flowers and they die.

  13. I keep seeing this on CD at my library, so I may pick it up next visit.

  14. I keep seeing this on CD at my library, so I may pick it up next visit.

  15. Great review – I agree with you about wanting to shake Victoria. I got to meet Vanessa when she came to speak in Kansas City – here’s my blog entry about that if you’re interested: http://www.chaosisafriendofmine.com/?p=998

  16. Great review – I agree with you about wanting to shake Victoria. I got to meet Vanessa when she came to speak in Kansas City – here’s my blog entry about that if you’re interested: http://www.chaosisafriendofmine.com/?p=998

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