Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers

Genre: Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads):  A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating 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 meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Review: This book was recommended to me by a trusted friend as the best book she'd read all year, so my expectations were, perhaps, unreasonably high.  The writing style was lovely, and the first half of the book was engrossing, even given the complicated and not quite likeable personality of Victoria.  I enjoyed watching Victoria blossom as she worked in the flower shop, and was fascinated by the flower history and the magic Victoria causes as she finds the perfect flower arrangement for her customers.  The second half of the book left me feeling unhappy; I guess I would have preferred a sappy happily-ever-after ending, and that wouldn't have made the book nearly so interesting.  The real problems I had were twofold.  First, the relationship between Victoria and Grant was so one-sided that I couldn't see why Grant kept putting up with her.  And secondly, Victoria's decisions were so, so terrible that I lost all respect for her (if I were to be any more specific, it would be a complete spoiler).  I couldn't relate to her at all, given her terrible childhood in the foster system, and so it's possible that her reactions were completely understandable.  But while I felt sympathy and pity for her, I didn't like Victoria at all towards the end. 

Rating: 4 stars

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