Carol's Reviews > The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
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's review
Sep 06, 11

bookshelves: fiction, debut
Recommended to Carol by: Ann, BOTNS, NPR, book reviews
Recommended for: fans of beauty in all its forms, florist, gardeners
Read on September 05, 2011

I didn't know flowers had so much to say. Certainly, "I love You" but other emotions like jealousy, hate, sorrow, passion, mistrust, never entered my mind. I heard author, Vanessa Dissenbauch, talking about her debut novel The Language of Flowers on the August 27th NPR Weekend Edition. Her decision to use flowers to tell us the story of Victoria, an abandoned child, caught up in a foster care system, shuffled from family to family, but deemed not adoptable, seemed unique. I was lucky to be the first to grab this book when it hit our shelves.

As the story opens, Victoria is finally graduating out of the state care system but into what. Here's an eighteen year old so profoundly wounded by years of feelings of unworthiness, that it seems doubtful she can succeed. She takes up residence in a half way house and is told to get a job. Get a job? With what skills. In alternate chapters, Victoria reveals bits and pieces of the one year she lived with Elisabeth, the only person who had ever shown her any real love. Living with Elisabeth on her vineyard in the wine country of San Francisco, Victoria learns the meanings of flowers and for the first time feels hope. That is until the day Elisabeth is to adopt Victoria. Something goes horribly wrong and Victoria finds herself alone once again. In the present Victoria builds on the language Elisabeth has taught her, that of flowers, and takes a job with a florist.

At one point the author needed to get Victoria from point A to B and I did not like the choices either made. Did this spoil the whole for me? Not really. It will give me something to debate with friends who choose to read the book. I have to remind myself that it is not my book and the author can do what she sees fit to tell the tale.

It's evident that Diffenbaugh is passionate about her subjects, both flowers and the foster care system. I loved how Diffenbaugh weaved the meaning of flowers throughout. I found it very sensual, like the pleasure I got from reading Chocolat (Harris) or Like Water for Chocolate (Esquivel) with its use of cacao as a means to stimulate the senses. I do not have a floral garden but do appreciate the beauty of those created by others. I can appreciate the skills of a florist to create a bridal bouquet or floral arrangement. This story will bring new appreciation to my perception of the flowers that surround me.

Victoria's Dictionary of flowers in included at the end of the book. This in itself is interesting, In an author note Diffenbaugh states that she owned only one flower dictionary, The Floral Offering: A Token of Affection and Esteem; Comprising Language and Poetry of Flowers, written in 1851 by Henrietta Dumont. I'd love to get my hands on this. I never knew such a thing existed.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is launching the Camellia (meaning my destiny) Network in support of youth making transitions from foster care to independence. www.camellianetwork.org

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Beautiful, Carol! I think it sounds like a great book club book, lots to talk about! :-)


Carol Yes, I think book clubs will pick it up.

I think BOTNS (Ann) mentioned this too. I need to go back and see.


message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris She did, Carol, either last week or the week before. I thought you picked it up based on her review! :-)


Carol LOL, I usually listen to the podcast while cleaning and not always with full focus. I have been making an effort to note where I heard about a book. As books are my business, I read many reviews to choose for our library. I think you're right that Ann's review is probably what tipped the scales for me to read the book. I'll add her to the who recommended on my review.


Kate I just put this on my list, based on your review. I can't wait to read it as I am very interested to read about the foster care system as well as the flowers. Thanks!


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