Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Language of Flowers

Rate this book
Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fiction (2011)
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 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 with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger 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.
Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more.

323 pages, Hardcover

First published August 23, 2011

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

11 books2,945 followers
VANESSA DIFFENBAUGH was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she worked in the non-profit sector, teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities. Following the success of her debut novel, The Language of Flowers, she co-founded Camellia Network (now Lifeset Network), a non-profit whose mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. She currently lives in Monterey, CA, with her husband and four children.

Follow Vanessa at facebook.com/vanessadiffenbaugh

Follow Vanessa on Twitter @VDiffenbaugh

Follow Vanessa on Instagram @vanessadiffenbaugh

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
77,051 (35%)
4 stars
91,231 (42%)
3 stars
37,451 (17%)
2 stars
7,219 (3%)
1 star
2,020 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 21,319 reviews
Profile Image for oliviasbooks.
774 reviews515 followers
December 3, 2013
The elegantly worded The Language of Flowers made me invest quite a lot during the first chapters, but gambled all my affection away later on. I will try to explain how this unceremonious drop around the middle of the story came to pass after introducing Victoria to you.

There is nothing victorious about Victoria apart from the fact that she survived to see her eighteen's birthday. Even social worker Meredith sees her only as a failure she personally doesn't deserve. A dark blotch on her white sheet of professional accomplishments: For Victoria has been a foundling baby, abandoned at an age that usually makes finding families willing to adopt an easy task. But somehow Victoria left and was made to leave foster family after foster family, fought in between for affection, food and physical integrity among cruel or indifferent caretakers and fellow foster kids as emotionally messed up and adapted to the loveless situations of their short lives as herself, botched up her last and only chance at a permanent solution at the age of eleven, drove Meredith crazy for the remaining seven years by countless court trials and group home fights and now, on her eighteen's birthday, the day the State of California finally rids itself from the responsibily of its parentless ward's well-being, she does not react as frightened and subdued as Meredith wished her to. On the contrary: She does not use her final three months time in the transition home to hunt for a job and find a room. She spends her days stealing flowers from communal flower beds and people's gardens to plant them in milk cartons, unconcerned about flooding and molding the carpet. On the day of her eviction into unassisted adulthood Victoria takes her flowers and moves into the concealed shrubbery of the town's recreactional area. Hunger and cold do not drive her into wanting to change her homeless lifestyle, but fear of physical abuse does, when drunk men invade her fragile sanctuary at night. Though paperless she persuades an overworked Russian florist Renata to take her on as a weekend assistant by demonstrationg her astonishing knowledge about flowers and her extraordinary skill at creating bouquets. So far so good.

Now you would think you will see the friendship between Victoria and her new boss grow and grow and grow, some relapses to occur, love to enter her life in small, hesitant steps … Yes, I agree, that would maybe mean walking the edge of tear-jerker-like soppy, drenched in the sickly smell of forget-me-nots and red roses. But I did not expect the story to rely so heavily on flashbacks to Victoria's time on Elizabeth's vine-yard - which triggered her all-consuming obsession about the meaning each decorative plant used to have in European culture – that climax in revealing the outrageous reason for the planned adoption to go amiss and for Victoria to go finally - and understandably - feral.

My initially strong connection to Victoria slowly began to unravel, when she starts to get to know / date Grant, a young flower-farm owner she fleetingly knows from her childhood. I understood her reserve, her mistrust, her outstretched feelers. But I resented her self-centered, cat-and-mouse-style behavior . A friend of mine said Diffenbaugh's style reminded him a lot of the novels by Sarah Addison Allen. I do understand, because the works of both contain dark pasts and the woven-in magic of fruits or flowers or gardens. My association goes into a different direction, though: The heroine Victoria and her actions reminded me the most of is Carly from Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar. If you liked the romance in that novel, you might enjoy Victoria's and Grant's love-story as well.

The last thread between Victoria and me was torn when she declines everyone's help , but selfishly makes the persons around her maintain, support, sacrifice, worry, plan and work for her even more than if she had accepted being advised and assisted right in the beginning. Why does she stop working? She could have managed. And why does she start her own and illegal wedding flowers business – a bitter competition to her boss' business when she could have just asked Renata to integrate her unique service into her shop's palette for a more generous salary? Since she was still using Renata's wholesale card to buy the flowers she needed, Renata could have easily done her in by simply reporting her to the authorities.

I need to stress that I actually have thought maybe it's me, maybe I have just not enough stomach lining and empathy for the broken mind of someone with a devastating childhood. The author information at the end of the book mentions that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has personal first-hand experience with raising foster kids. Apparently she gave home to one or more. After reading the book I do not question that at all. But when I compare my reading experience of The Language of Flowers to that of other stories featuring difficult or hard-to-like main characters, I am sure that a truely skillful author can make me feel and ache and root for any protagonist, no matter how strange or evil. I have just finished reading Froi of the Exiles (yes, it is Fantasy, I know). Fact is, when I was reading the volume preceeding it, I would have never guessed Melina Marchetta would get me to like him. Now I love him fiercely. Maybe his personal growth is fantastical, unrealistic, but maybe it is simply magic. The kind of magic only the best authors can evoke in a reader's mind.

Because of that believe I do not feel any reservations to rate the second half of this book only with two stars in contrast to my four star expectation in the beginning.

Completely off-track, but on my mind: If you like flower-shop-based plots, you might perhaps enjoy the Japanese movie Oto-na-ri. It is about a lonely thirty-something florist and a celebrity photographer, who dreams of shooting Canadian landscapes, living wall-to-wall in an apartment building without meeting each other. It is sad and funny and bittersweet. I loved it.

A lot of thanks go to Netgalley and to the publisher, Random House, for giving me access to an electronic review copy in exchange for this honest review.
Profile Image for kari.
848 reviews
October 25, 2011
Too much folding! “He folded himself into a chair. She folded her feet beneath her. He folded over in exhaustion placing his head on the table. She folded over in pain. She folded herself underneath the bush.”
How about: “He sat in a chair. She pulled her feet beneath her. He slumped over in exhaustion. She bent over in pain. She curled herself underneath the bush.”
Really, another verb is needed here and fold/ed was most overused. Yes, I am nitpicking, but since I was bothered enough to comment, the overuse of it was noticeable and bothersome.

Foster child ages out of the system, plants a garden in a city park, sleeps under a bush.
Meets a florist who gives her a job, meets a man, rents a tiny blue room.
Gets pregnant, runs away to sleep under the bush.
Has baby, runs away to sleep under the bush.
Give baby away.
Happy ending.

The problems I have with this are that there isn’t any reason for any of the people who help this girl to want to help her. She snarls and sulks and is so hard and distant that I was left wondering why any of these people wanted to be around her let alone assist her. No one knows her sad/bitter/hostile history and she isn't talking so why should they feel anything for her?
It didn’t appear that under all her anger that there was a gentle caring person. She seems more that if you scratched the surface, first of all, you’d definitely get scratched back, but that under that tough exterior, you’d find something even harder and more unyielding. Can’t say that I liked Victoria much.
So can you enjoy a book when you don’t really like the protagonist? I find it can be difficult, but in the hands of a crafted writer, you can still enjoy the story. I didn’t find that to be true here.
For me, the story would have been better told in third person. I think some distance between Victoria’s mean thought process and the reader would have helped. I didn’t much like being in this misanthropic head and I didn’t get any idea of anyone else’s motivation for caring for her. Why did Renata hire her? Yes, she’s a magical flower genius, but why would she want this girl around, glaring at her customers? Yes, lots of glaring.
And Grant, why is he attracted to her? Does he have a thing for mean women? More snarling and glaring. He seems like a very gentle soul to be that way, didn’t understand what he saw in her, other than her ability to send messages by flowers.
Victoria’s negativity was so over the top. She finds out she’s pregnant and hates the idea of a baby, but won’t get an abortion because the idea that someone else would have control over her body for the time it would take to get the thing out (that’s how she thinks of it) is too horrid for her to think about. She is offered medical benefits by her employer, but instead she runs away to live under a bush. No, I am most certainly not kidding.
Having decided to have the baby and afterward figure out what she’s going to do with it, she gets no prenatal care, not even bothering so little as to pick up a bottle of prenatal vitamins at the drugstore. No, she’s too busy hiding under the bush.
And she spent hours in the library comparing flower meaning dictionaries(and countless hours photographing flowers with old time camera which she spends money on the film development even though she has very little money), but didn't bother to read one single book on pregnancy or child care.
So, again, not that first doctor visit and she knows a midwife, willing and ready to help her, but she doesn’t want that either. She’s going to give birth at home, alone, all by herself, because ... I have no idea what is wrong with her at this point.
Many people have shown her that they care about her, that they’re willing to help her, but she can’t accept it. I get that we’re supposed to believe that she’s so broken(she was an abandoned baby who never found a real forever home) that she sees herself as unworthy of anyone’s concern, but how it came off to this reader is that she’s too selfish and stubborn to do what’s right. This is when my connection to her broke down completely.
Also, after hiding in the bush, she comes back, continuing to hide while also building herself an amazing floral designing business. Uh-huh. I believe my suspension of disbelief was at the breaking point by this time.
Well, what a surprise, she isn’t able to have the baby all by herself so she gets help and after a week(during which she doesn't bother to even name the child), she gives it away (not for adoption), even though she could have asked for help, could have at the very least told someone when that person is there, in the room with her, asking her how she’s doing, that she wasn’t doing well. But no, she cannot do that. I have no idea why. And no one, not one single person, asks her where her child went. Not one. Did she bury it in her garden in the park? Toss it in the ocean? Where is it?
I know this is fiction, but that can't excuse complete disregard for life as it is or common sense. It's based in the real world. If a woman had a child she didn't want and that child disappeared a week later, that woman is going to be getting a serious visit from the police. Yet, she comes back without the child, glares all round, states that she won't talk about it and they all accept it. Really? REALLY?
I can’t recommend this one. Too irritating in style, characterization and unlikely plot.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Anne OK.
3,485 reviews444 followers
December 4, 2013
Can't remember when I've read and enjoyed a story as much as Victoria's. She stole my heart from the beginning and I only grew to admire and love her more with each page. There were times when I wanted to shake her and yell at her to wake up and get a grip. Just when I thought she wouldn't, she did just that. Amazing story of survival, love, and strength. The flowers add so much depth and feelings to this story that I was enthralled by it all. Just an amazing and wonderfully well written book with a full bouquet of heart touching moments to remember and treasure.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 25, 2022
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers is the debut novel of American author Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It was published in 2011 by Ballantine Books.

The novel follows the fraught life of a Victoria Jones, who by the age of 18, had lived in 32 foster homes, and becomes a flower arranger. The novel was inspired by a flower dictionary, a type of Victorian-era book which defines what different types of flowers mean.

Acacia: Hidden love
Alaleh: Expressing love
Grapefruit: My frown will kill me
Yarrow: Healing for a broken heart
Violet: Think of me
Amin al-Dawla's turn: Compassion
Portulaca: Confession of love
Persimmon: Bury me in the beauty of nature
Moss: Motherly love
Khalang: Alone
Siavoshan's blood: you are trapped
Darwash: I overcame all obstacles
Clove Tree: I love you and you don't know it
White clover: Think of me
Dandelion: Simple inspiration, loyalty, happiness and honesty
Camelia: My destiny is not in your hands
Chrysanthemum The truth is, you are a great friend of mine

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهاردهم ماه اکتبر سال2016میلادی

عنوان: زبان گلها؛ نویسنده: ونسا دیفن باخ؛ مترجم: فیروزه مهرزاد؛ تهران، نشر آموت، چاپ سوم سال1395؛ در396ص؛ شابک9786003840157؛ چاپ هفتم سال1397؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

داستان دختری به نام «ویکتوریا» است، که پس از گذران دوران کودکی خویش، در پرورشگاه، نمیتواند با کسی ارتباط بگیرد، و تنها راه ارتباط او با جهان، گلها و معنی نام آنهاست؛ «ویکتوریا»، جایی برای رفتن ندارد، و در یک پارک عمومی میخوابد؛ جاییکه از گیاهان، باغ کوچکی برای خود درست کرده است؛ خیلی زود گلفروشی محلی، راز تواناییهای او را درمییابد، و ویکتوریا میفهمد، موهبت یاری رساندن به دیگران از راه گزینش گلها را دارد؛ در این میان فروشنده ای مرموز، در بازار گل، پاسخ پرسشهای ویکتوریا، و راز دردناکی از گذشته اش را میداند؛ و ...؛

اقاقیا: عشق پنهان
آلاله: بیان عشق
انگورفرنگی: اخمت مرا خواهد کشت
بومادران: درمانی برای قلب شکسته
بنفشه فرنگی: به من فکر کن
پیچ امین الدوله: مهرورزی
خرفه: اقرار به عشق
خرمالو: مرا در زیبایی طبیعت دفن کن
خزه: عشق مادری
خلنگ: تنهایی
خون سیاووشان: به دام افتادنت نزدیک است
دارواش: من از همه موانع گذشتم
درخت میخک: من تو را دوست دارم و تو این را نمیدانی
شبدر سفید: به من فکر کن
قاصدک: الهام ساده، وفاداری، خوشبختی و صداقت
کاملیا: سرنوشتم در دست تو نیست
گل داوودی: حقیقت، تو دوست فوق العاده من هستی

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 09/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 04/03/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
April 6, 2020
5 stunning stars!

This book was even better than I had hoped for (and I had high hopes!)!

I have had this book on my shelf for years and have read countless raving reviews. To be honest, I was worried this might end up being one of the many over-hyped books I’ve been reading lately. It is not! It fully lived up to the hype (and more)!

Exquisitely beautiful writing. Heart wrenching storyline. Endearing and unforgettable characters. This was done to perfection.

Victoria is a young woman who grew up in foster care system. Emotionally damaged by the back and forth between numerous foster homes and group homes, she is unable to maintain healthy relationships. She constantly chooses self-destructing behaviour and pushes herself away from those who care. Her one true connection is to the language of flowers which is how she makes her mark in the world. Each plant and flower holds a true meaning and when placed skillfully and precisely in an arrangement, conveys deep meaning.

I adored Victoria! She is flawed and insecure, yet strong and set in her ways. I had a deep connection with her from the first chapter and whole-heartedly enjoyed following her emotional and heart-wrenching journey. There is a strong theme of motherhood among these pages, specifically mother-daughter relationships, that will stay with me a long time. The relationships within this novel are complex and emotional. I was completely immersed within each of Victoria’s relationship, finding myself analyzing each scenario and situation the characters found themselves in. Though I did not agree with many of Victoria’s personal choices, I was committed to rooting for her to find true happiness and contentment.

This is a beautiful book that has earned a spot on my Favourites List. It is one to be savoured and not rushed through. I highly recommend and look forward to reading more from this very talented author.
Profile Image for Diane.
963 reviews
March 20, 2013
Sorry if I post this review twice. I somehow "lost" the one I was writing.

This book is the darling of book clubs all over the country but I found it to be insipid and flawed. It showed great promise for about the first third. Diffenbaugh seemed to show an accurate and heartbreaking portrait of a young girl who is let down by the foster care system. She is angry and damaged. This was believable and felt very real.

The rest of the book didn't make a lot of sense to me. This broken young woman is saved and loved by many people as she embarks into her new life as an emancipated adult. Why? She's dirty and slow to communicate. She disappears without explanation. She isn't at all loveable.

The author has quite a few errors in grammar (where was the editing?) and overuses some verbs. I was very tired of characters being "startled" for instance. I also felt that the use of foreshadowing was done with a very heavy hand. I didn't need to be clobbered over the head with it. A subtle hint would have been enough.

This author shows promise but this novel is over-rated.
Profile Image for Linda.
335 reviews20 followers
December 4, 2013
"The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I loved this book from the beginning and didn’t want it to end. I have always had a fascination with knowing the names history of flowers and plants and love finding them in natural surroundings. This book, The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, (whose name is similar to the dieffenbachia plant) had such a moving story line in telling the story of Victoria, from her abandonment at birth, through childhood abuse, to her orphanage experiences and her difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships. Victoria’s life is portrayed with a depth of a feeling that pulls the reader into caring about this strange and sometimes difficult young woman. The story moves back and forth in time and place within the span of her life which brings greater meaning to why she behaves the way she does with people she meets.

Victoria reminds me of several young people I have met and worked with over the years. They may be prickly but also may produce the most beautiful lives, just as some thorny plants produce soft and beautiful flowers. It is a story that can lift you up with expectation and hope, and than then bring you down and make you sad. It is a roller coaster ride of resiliency and success combined with sadness and disappointment.

The idea of pouring over dusty and seldom read book after book in the personal pursuit of creating your own book of flowers and their meanings struck a cord with me. What a quiet and resolved drive and passion Victoria kept mentally reconnecting to her childhood to find understanding and meaning in her own life. There was a personal relationship with the flowers Victoria worked with and it was evident with all those who became involved in her world.
“The flower you’re looking for is clearly the common thistle, which symbolizes misanthropy. Misanthropy means hatred or mistrust of humankind.”
“Does humankind mean everybody?”
“I thought about this. Misanthropy. No one had ever described my feelings in single word.”

I received this as an early reviewer copy and appreciate the opportunity to have read this book. It is hard to believe that this was a debut novel and Vanessa’s own experiences as a foster mother and teacher shine through in this novel. For me this was an outstanding selection and I will be recommending this book as a book club read. I rate it as a full 5 star book.
Profile Image for Terrie  Robinson.
397 reviews586 followers
May 20, 2021
Reading "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh I found it to be an unexpectedly beautiful read!

I was hooked in early by this story of a foster child who suffered through the system until she was emancipated at 18. Once out of the foster care system she continued to struggle through homelessness, her own rebelliousness and feelings of not being worthy in any of her relationships in her young life. Through of all of this, she displayed such strength and will to carry on through her darkness. Her knowledge & passion of flowers sustained her through it all!

This book made my heart smile at the end‼️ It is definitely worth reading!❤️ Highly recommend‼️‼️🌸🌻🌷🌹🌺🌼💐🌾🍀☘️🌳🌵🌿
Profile Image for Jo.
268 reviews946 followers
March 9, 2012
I have received many a horrified look when I have told people that I don't like red roses. Their expression of horror only got worse when I told them I much preferred yellow roses. I was always really confused as to why which flowers I liked would cause such a strong reaction.

Then I read this book and found out.

Translation Time.
"I don't like red roses" = "I don't like love".
"But I love yellow roses" = "But I love infidelity".


Now, I'm guessing that this wasn't actually the reason why the looked at me in horror because...um, well, not many people know that flowers have meanings behind them never mind what they were. But I still thought it was interesting because red roses are always associated with romance and lurrrve.

But anyway, that has nothing to do with this book.
Well, it kind of does because it just shows how unique and interesting I found it.

[FYI: My other two favourite flowers (Orchids and lilies) mean refined beauty and majesty respectively, so that's better :)]

Anyway, I really really loved this book. I wasn't sure at first and that's why I put it off for so long, but once I picked it up I was completely engrossed.
This book had a great dreamy almost magical realism feel about it. And magical realism is my favourite kind of realism. I love the characters, even when I hated them, and the writing was just glorious without being too... wait for it.... *cough* flowery.
Ms Diffenbaugh's story was perfectly constructed; with all these little layers added on and meshed together. I think I loved the 'past' chapters marginally more than I liked the "present" ones, for I adored Elizabeth. But then we have Grant.... oh Grant. ♥

"For years my message-laden flowers had been faithfully ignored, an aspect of my communication style that gave me comfort. Passion, connection, disagreement, or rejection: None of these was possible in a language that did not elicit a response. But the single sprig of mistletoe, if the give did indeed understand its meaning, changed everything."

*Girly sigh*

Without spoiling it too much, I really loved the ending. Victoria is a flawed character and she is not always likeable. AT ALL. But I really appreciated the ending that she was given. I think I could have gone either way, but Ms Diffenbaugh chose the right one.
Maybe it's just me, but I like it when books end with the beginning of a new journey.

This review has kind of been thrown together, I apologise. This book deserves better but I thought I'd finish off by sending Ms D a little message.... of the floral kind, about my feelings about this book.

*clears throat*

Dear Ms Diffenbaugh,

I present you with a trilliam to represent modest beauty. I was prepared for this book to lose me completely because of high-brow, literaryness, and get too tangled up in a vine-like metaphor. But it didn't. It's a very subtle and quiet book and it's wonderful.

And I present you with some lupine which means imagination because wow, this premise was brilliant. I also give you a few yellow roses because, as we know, they could also represent jealousy. And I am jealous that I didn't come up with this story. *grumbles*

I also present you with a purple rose, because this book had me enchanted.

I also have this can of tinned pineapple (I'm sure it counts) which means "You are perfect"... if you could just give that to Grant for me? Thanks.

And, nearly done, here is some raspberry. Not to make a fruit salad with the pineapple but to represent remorse that it took me so long to read this book.... but you can eat it if you want.

And lastly, I present you with a poppy because this book was fantastic.

I received a copy of this book from the publishers.

Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews17 followers
February 10, 2017
Update: $1.99 Kindle special today.
If any of my friends ( especially women friends), have missed reading this book....
now is a good time to buy it.
Vanessa, the author, truly wrote a book about something she has direct experience with :
The Foster Care System
The LANGUAGE of flowers
Location - San Francisco. Vanessa went to Standard- lived in the Bay Area ... and is very familiar with the SF Bay Area
It's excellent - Her first book. My favorite book she wrote.

I started this book today (On Valentines Day)....and its already warming my heart!

I read more than half of it already! (too hard to put down) -----but now my husband is waiting for us to eat dinner --- (we already exchanged gifts: very sweet)....

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this creative wonderful book! (I don't want it to end)

As I said.....I LOVE this book! (everything about it)!!!
April 9, 2020
The Language of Flowers is a mesmerizing, unforgettable hopeful story that beautifully weaves the past and present while exploring abandonment, love and finding what triggers a person to open up to others. In the past, we see Victoria’s self-destructive ways as she grows up in foster homes. Now through her connections to flowers, she starts to open up by speaking the language of flowers to help people find some joy through flowers. Flowers start to connect Victoria to others as she tries to learn to trust herself.

The characters are like a beautiful bouquet of flowers and Vanessa Diffenbaugh weaves a moving story here with the bonds between damage Victoria and the characters. Each brought some emotional conflict to Victoria while also bringing something heartwarming to the story. Victoria stole my heart and, left me heartbroken with her self-destructive ways. Victoria’s foster mother, Elizabeth, warmed my heart with her love, how she always saw the beauty in Victoria and her commitment to her. I rooted for each bond between the characters to bloom and fear the storms that threatened them.

The ending wrapped up so well and left me with the most satisfying feels. Just what I needed right now. I highly recommend it.

For more Traveling Sisters reviews can be found here

Profile Image for Suz.
1,099 reviews565 followers
January 26, 2016
This book was to me, the language of growth, acceptance, and love and of coming home. I have many books on my shelf, but this one stood out simply as I remembered a quick line from a friend, saying she loved it – thanks Jools for this, and for my book.

This was special, and did really suit me in the form of short intense chapters, alternating between the past and present. Tethering me somewhere between constantly feeling bereft yet hopeful, but precariously edgy. I did not put this book down on many occasions.

Lovely Victoria learns the art of flowers language from a young age, and we learn about her as she starts this life lesson. It was a continual blossoming, and the floral images amazing. I am not capable of even arranging a simple arrangement, but the imagery created for me was breathtaking and evocative.

“Even I didn’t know how I would react on any given day. About our deepening relationship, I felt fear and desire in equal, unpredictable parts. At the end of each night he walked outside to wherever it was he slept, and I locked the door behind him”.

I want to see these blooms: “I dipped my nose into the bouquet I’d assembled. There was flax, and forget-me-not, and hazel. There were white roses and pink ones, helenium and periwinkle, primrose, and lots and lots of bellflower. Between the tightly wrapped stems I’d packed velvety moss, barely visible, and I had sprinkled the bouquet with the purple and white petals of Grant’s Mexican sage.”

This story was almost wrapped up too neatly, but it fit so well. I hope some of you read it, it almost smells so good!

This author has weaved such a knowledge of her craft, and I now have my own copy of ‘Victoria’s Dictionary of Flower’s’ in the back of the book. No need to google images, this is better.
Profile Image for Karen.J..
214 reviews178 followers
May 1, 2021
“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I absolutely loved reading this book but I will warn you the main character Victoria will make you shake your head and want to grab her and knock some sense into her. Victoria was tossed around from foster home to foster home the majority of her younger years. The experience has left her in pieces, untrusting of everyone and deeply scared. The only thing she cares about is flowers and their deep meaning. I recommend when reading “The Language of Flowers” keep your tissue box beside you.
Profile Image for Katrina Passick Lumsden.
1,779 reviews12.8k followers
January 10, 2013
I don't really know what to write about this book. It was well-written, but I'm not sure I liked it. I didn't hate it, though. For me, it's one of those books that left me going, "Umm...OK...". I like the flower communication and all, but the whole story just sort of took some weird turns and ended up feeling like it wasn't going anywhere. And then it didn't. It just kind of ended.

Profile Image for Erin.
2,958 reviews485 followers
July 19, 2017
Hard to put down book about mothers and daughters. I feel completely emotionally exhausted but I had to stay up and find out how everything was going to play out. If this book has escaped your attention, remedy that right away and pick it up!
Profile Image for Aryn.
141 reviews30 followers
May 29, 2012
I received this book from Goodreads Giveaways.

After my recent horrendous experience with The Rose Labyrinth, which had me wanting to claw my eyes out after four sentences, it was wonderful to come across a novel with such a graceful writing style that was apparent from the first page.
For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them, oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Indian and Carolina jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused.

That being said, I was really torn as to whether this was a three star book or a four star one. In writing style it was a four. I really found myself sucked into it; it only took me 6 hours to read, and that in one sitting. In the plot, it was a three. The first half of the book's story was very good; the second half had sort of a nosedive as it became more and more predictable. In character development, it was a four. Victoria was well written and well explored. She had believable positive and negative quirks in her personality. In love interest, it was a three. Victoria is fickle and nonsensical and acts completely out of character when it comes to love and sex. I'm not sure she really truly loves him Basically, I was torn.

It was like drinking a soda. I loved, loved, loved the beginning of the novel. It was fizzy and exciting and interesting (even though I've read a lot like it). Then somewhere is started to fall flat. The predictability stopped being endearing and the characters became more obnoxious.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books911 followers
January 17, 2018
I’m probably not the target audience for this book, but I’m not NOT the right audience. Thematically it reminded me a lot of Kitchens of the Great Midwest which I thought was superb.

The writing wasn’t bad, the pacing wasn’t a slog. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for another orphan story. Seems like every book has an orphan in it these day. Why? Are we in the midst of a global identity crisis? Maybe it’s just one of those random trends, like every novel having “Girl” in the title nowadays.

Anyway I wasn’t a fan of this one. I enjoyed being educated on the language of flowers, but felt no sympathy for the characters. I don’t need all my characters to be likable, but I don’t want them to be obnoxious and annoying. Just couldn’t end fast enough.
Profile Image for Brandice.
859 reviews
May 5, 2018
I love flowers although my knowledge of them is fairly limited, and I really liked this story, where flowers played a central role.

The Language of Flowers is a story about Victoria, now a young woman, who was recently emancipated from the court system at 18. She struggles with feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem, as a result of a series of events from her past, stemming from growing up as an orphan. She lives in San Francisco and works in a flower shop. She has no friends, limited relationships, and initially, pretty limited human interaction. Without directly stating this, it becomes clear that she’s afraid of getting close to people, for fear of hurting them as she expects she will yet again, be a disappointment.

The book shifts between Victoria’s life in present day, described above, and her life as a child, predominately in one of her foster homes at age 9. The story easily transitions back and forth between the two time periods. In addition to the flowers themselves, Victoria’s foster mother, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s nephew, Grant, are also central characters in the story.

At times I thought Victoria was intentionally dislikable, and constantly engaging in self-destructive behavior. I realized though that her abandonment issues played a big role in why she chose to do some of the things she did. Despite my dislike of Victoria for a fair portion of the book, I really enjoyed the story, although a bit darker than I was expecting. I did like the ending of the story too.

The Language of Flowers has messages of family, forgiveness, and learning to know one’s self, in addition to the interpretation of flowers’ various meanings.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
November 22, 2017
I received this book through a postal book swap and we were just permitted to post online as we are through our rotation.

When this book first came out, I kept seeing the hard cover everywhere with its very striking image of white blossoms and a black background. It kind of had the look of a romance novel, so I hadn't tried it. My friend Kathryn read and loved it, and that had landed it on my to-read list, but I hadn't gotten around to it. I was happy to do so when it ended up in my mail, because I needed a nudge.

This was a very readable book, and I read it all in a day when I was lounging around a resort in Orlando while my husband went to some conference sessions. It made for a very enjoyable vacation read!

Actual read date: 8 May 2017. Date listed is date review is posted.
Profile Image for jesse.
989 reviews100 followers
September 3, 2012

Flowery book jacket

edit: being made into movie

"for eight years i dreamed of fire. trees ignited as i passed them, oceans burned. the sugary smoke settled in my hair as i slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as i rose. even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, i bolted awake. the sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as indian and carolina jasmine, separation and attachment. they could not be confused.

standing in the middle of the room, i located the source of the fire. a neat row of wooden matches lined the foot of the bed. they ignited, one after the next, a glowing picket fence across the piped edging. watching them light, i felt a terror unequal to the size of the flickering flames, and for a paralyzing moment i was ten years old again, desperate and hopeful in a way i had never been before and would never be again."

[ kate greenways's 1884 language of flowers ]

vintage garden illustration

Profile Image for Jen CAN.
487 reviews1,363 followers
March 7, 2016
Orphaned at a young age, Victoria has been moved to different foster homes, rebelling with angry outbursts and never in one place long enough to establish any solid relationships. At the age of 10, she is taken in by a woman who teaches her the language of flowers and what each flower means. Through these teachings, Victoria is able to start positively communicating. However, when the relationship is threatened, she reverts back to behaviour that will cost her the safe haven she has found and she retreats back into her own cold, dark world. It is through her passion of flowers she lands a job with a florist and is reunited with her turbulent past which she has difficulty reconciling her worthiness as a daughter, lover and mother. This is a story of healing and forgiveness and the power of love that is inherent in nature. I found the meaning of flowers fascinating and how they were used during the Victorian era as a means to express one's feelings for another. Wonderful read ...an easy 4 ✮
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,164 reviews511 followers
July 16, 2016
Imagine a little baby as the seed of beautiful flower who travels from birth to fruition through orphanages, group homes, foster care and the social system of America, never falling in fertile soil to take route and thrive? But then, as destiny would have it, Victoria Jones lands on a flower and vineyard farm in California where the secrets of the Victorian Floriography of the plants is revealed to this girl who only understood the human language of rejection and unworthiness to be loved. She claimed that she could not read or write, yet understood, and collected, books on botany which was her only real connection to the world and also the key to her psyche when she met Elizabeth on her farm. For the first time in her young life as a nine-year-old girl, Victoria's soul can be unlocked by a person who understood completely and spoke 'her' language.

Through the language of flowers she reconnects to the world, learns to trust and forgive. The language of flowers was the only language she could trust. The one way of communication she could be totally honest in. As time passes and she becomes a young adult, she learns to write her own floral dictionary in which she re-evaluated the different flowers. She basically changed the destiny of the flowers by changing their meanings. But to get to that point, she had to first lash out and destroy, the only way she learnt how to cope with her world. A long road of redemption and forgiveness was her destiny.

Victoria was not a likable young girl and she did unforgivable harm to people, which she also had to forgive herself for. The word 'hate' came easily to her, but it would take a wise woman to teach her that hate can be passionate, disengaged, dislike, but also fear. Elizabeth taught her that her behavior was a choice, not who she was.

I was surprised by this book. It was so much different from what I expected and well worth the read. Of course I never believed in floriography since it resembled the human impulse to box everything up without consideration of the unfairness of the action. For instance, how cruel can it be to attribute 'Hate' to the cactus plant? Or 'Deceit' and 'Materialism' to the sunflower? I have been involved in botany throughout my adult life and revel in the beauty and magic of all plants. Floriography in all its splendor was never part of it and won't be in the future. I simply regard it as a waste of time.

However, planning the story around this theme was an unusual and perhaps ambitious undertaking which informed and entertained. Victoria's struggle to make it through a hostile world was very realistic and captivating. The author managed to mix fantasy and reality in equal measures without losing the plot or the intent. The latter being to capture the life and soul of a little girl lost in in a grown-up world where everybody else decided her destiny until she could finally make that decision herself. She rooted and blossomed. She learnt the language of love in all its different manifestations. However, for her rebirth she had to go through the pain of being born again.


Profile Image for Karen.
747 reviews4 followers
April 27, 2013
I had difficulty with "the willing suspension of disbelief" required by this novel. I was able to accept Victoria's behavior only because I felt she was in need of serious psychiatric counseling. However, the behavior of everyone else was completely unbelievable (possible exception was the social worker).

Why would Elizabeth, the foster mom who loves Victoria so much, risk losing her completely simply because, decades of estrangement from her sister, she decides she can't adopt Victoria without her sister's agreement? How could Grant fall in love with Victoria immediately after seeing her for the first time since she was 10 years old? How could Renata tell that Victoria would be a wonderful assistant after meeting this homeless looking creature just once. And how did Victoria learn to make such beautiful floral arrangements? There was no mention of this activity when she lived with Elizabeth. They just worked on the meanings. I don't think they even grew many flowers. The floral nursery and gardens belonged to Grant and his mother. How could Victoria get enough money to start her own business? And wasn't it a betrayal of Renata to go into competition with her? Furthermore, wasn't it too contrived that Victoria found the perfect assistance in her former group home? Plus, wasn't it too much of a coincidence that Renata's mother was a midwife? And what about the coincidence that Renata had a sister with a space to rent cheaply?

I won't even mention the illogical things that Victoria did because, as I said before, she truly was psychologically disabled. And the happy ending was so sappy. I didn't care to read over and over again the meaning of various flowers. Besides, I do not believe the choices she made for clients really caused all the good results. Actually, I did not believe that a florist could get so much business, so quickly, just by word of mouth.

Think I'll stop here. I can't think of anything I liked. Kept reading because it was a choice of my book group and it actually did not take too much time - considering I'd frequently skim mention of specific flowers.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,286 reviews2,205 followers
February 28, 2014

I've always believed that giving flowers meant something . I knew that red roses meant love and somewhere along the line I learned that Baby's Breath , almost always in a bride's bouquet signified everlasting love . However, that was the extent of my knowledge of the meaning of flowers , originating in the Victorian era - until I read this book . Do flowers speak to us in this way ? I really don't know but it's nice to think so and the author has creatively wrapped this language around this story.

Abandoned at birth Victoria is now 18 years old and "emancipated" from being a ward of the state . Her narrative alternates between her life at age ten, when she is taken in by Elizabeth and is finally looking at a chance to have a mother and present day, as she turns 18 and is being released from a group home. We learn of Victoria's " gift " for helping people convey their feelings , hopes and thoughts , through flowers and we learn what happened when she was ten.
The book, though, is about more than what the flowers mean . It is about what it means to belong , to be loved , to be able to love. It's also about family and forgiveness .

I grew to love Victoria and Elizabeth , in spite of their mistakes because I was moved by the sad events in their lives that may have promoted these mistakes. As for Grant , what can I say other than , I would give him a bouquet of Aster for his patience , Bluebell for his constancy , and cactus - yes cactus for his ardent love . 4 stars
Profile Image for Patty.
271 reviews82 followers
April 11, 2020
Moss doesn't have any roots, but it grows anyway, without any roots. That's what this book is about the roots that we have in our lives, or don't have. Who was your mother, what were her traits, where do you fit in, where did you come from, who are you connected to, your roots.

Victoria has spent her life in and out of foster care homes, abused, neglected, unwanted. The book flashes back to when she was in fosters homes, to when she went to live with Elizabeth at the age of 10, to her current day.

This book is beautifully written, some writers just have the ability to connect words in such a way that it almost feels like harmony, poetry. Prose!

When Victoria goes to live with Elizabeth, Elizabeth teaches her all about the language of flowers, what each one means. Later Victoria becomes a florist but not just a florist, she doesn't just make pretty arrangements, she makes arrangements with purpose, with a meaning, and her customers love her. Her customers come to her to fix their marriages, to fall in love, to make sure their marriage is going to work, to get their children to speak to them again and to be happy.

It is a beautiful story about how to connect to others, why it is important to have people in your life, to trust, to love. Read it! Just read it!
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews272 followers
September 22, 2019
“Perhaps the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved, could grow to give love as lushly as anyone else.”
― Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers

Everyone has their own way of coping with tragedy. Everyone has their interests and passions that can take them away from darkness and into the light. For some it’s music, for some it’s art, for others it’s reading and for Victoria, in The language of flowers, it’s flower arranging.

This work of historical fiction was a book club selection and that is how I came to read it. It is without a doubt a must read for historical fiction readers as well as people who as with Victoria may seek joy in flowers by arranging them , smelling then, or just looking at them. This is the story of a girl who matures into a woman while dealing with some of the darkest times a human being can deal with and triumphing with a little help from her flowers.

At the end of the book there are definitions for just about every flower and plant out there and what they mean. This is a joyous and unforgettable read that I recommend to everyone.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews654 followers
December 3, 2016

This child, this self-admitted odd-bod, Victoria has been in the foster system since birth. Ask her who her parents are and she will say the Foster System. At age ten, she has been in thirty-nine different foster homes. She is used to, at a moment's notice, being removed or rejected by her foster parents. She travels light, everything she owns is in a small canvas bag which includes her Dictionary of Flowers. The story is told in two sequences of time; when she is ten, going to a new foster home, and when she is eighteen, upon her emancipation from the state foster system. She uses meaning of flowers to convey what she thinks and feels. Over the course of the novel, Victoria creates her own dictionary of flowers using paste cards, definitions, dried flowers and illustrations. My abridged version of Victoria's dictionary as follows:

Almond Blossom - Indiscretion,

Azalea/Rhododenron - Fragile and ephemeral passion,

Baby’s Breath - Everlasting love,

Bougainvillea - Passion

Camellia - My destiny is in your hands,

Carnation, Pink - I will never forget you

Chrysanthemum - Truth

Daffodil -New beginnings

Fuchsia - Humble love

Gladioli - You pierce my heart

Hibiscus - Delicate beauty

Hyacinth, Purple - Please forgive me

Iris - Message

Jonquil - Desire

Lavender - Mistrust

Magnolia - Dignity

Marigold - Grief

Petunia - Your presence soothes me

Rose, Yellow - Infidelity

Snowdrop - Consolation and hope

Wisteria - Welcome

The author includes many common and uncommon flowers in the story of Victoria's life and the people she meets. That in itself would probably make the story well worth reading. For me, I would have liked more description of the flowers but that is just my own personal feeling. A lovely inclusion at story's end is Victoria's Dictionary of Flowers. Quite a good effort as a debut novel; an author to watch. 3★
Profile Image for Chantal.
52 reviews5 followers
April 2, 2013
Do you ever read a book then look at all the other reviews and wonder if you've read the same book? This is that book.

I know some readers have to 'like' or care about the characters to enjoy a book. I don't: loved 'Gone Girl' for instance which I don't think had one likeable character in it. But the main character in this never felt fully fleshed out to me, I couldn't quite believe in her.

The idea of an emotionally damaged child/woman who can only really communicate through the Victorian language of flowers is essentially a good one but even that turns out to be quite an arbitrary medium with various possible meanings for each flower depending on the source. So the core of the story is a bit far-fetched and lots of things that occur seem unlikely, including how NICE everyone is to the main character who generally doesn't reciprocate.

The writing itself was ok, and a few parts were quite beautifully rendered so in the end I'm giving
2.5 stars rounded up to 3. I did want to know what happened enough to keep turning the pages but not enough to be rushing out for V. Diffenbaugh's next book.
Profile Image for Jeannette.
Author 13 books2 followers
November 21, 2019
This "review" forces me to think about the five star rating system. Since a number of stars reflects my own personal assessment then I need to be honest about how I feel about a book. Here is a chance to define my rating system: five stars means that the book is fascinating, readable, attention holding, has a plot, well defined characters and is well written, lyrical or poetic even.
One star means I should not have read the book, why did I bother? But I did read it because it was recommended or I picked it up by mistake. A one star book is poor enough that I feel I can skim passages and skip to the end.
Two stars means the book tells a good story.
Three stars means that the story had a good plot as well as good characters. Usually that's enough for me to like a book
Four stars mean good story, characters and plot PLUS good writing.
The fifth star is awarded for depth, concept, exceptional language, memorability.

In the case of The Language of Flowers, I loved the idea of the book, messages sent with flowers. The book is a romance and as such, the characters were all well defined but just a bit unbelievable. Why was such a horrid, aggressive, uncommunicative, misfit like the "heroine" tolerated, let alone loved by people who hardly knew her (about one year of acquaintance)? How could they be so devoted when the side they saw of her was mostly bad and her misdeeds were plentiful? The plot was cleverly done, weaving together the few skills the girl had and her destiny in flowers. But the plot felt contrived too what with the tolerant flower seller, the pregnancy and hiding out in the park then the ugly apartment. The heroines emergence as a potential butterfly after years of caterpillaring existence didn't ring true. Her inner growth and blooming needed more development in the story. Her lover man's devotion was really a puzzle - she was so awful to him.

I wanted more about the flower language throughout the book; the author gave us a bit but I wanted lots more. Also the descriptions of places were were not evocative enough to give me a real sense of time and environment. This was partly because place references were overburdened with details about feelings and behavior - mostly of the "heroine". It was interesting that there wasnt very much about current events - this created a sense of timelessness, probably intended. The story revolves totally around just a few people. This is a fascinating and desperate tale of one orphan's struggle to survive adjust and blossom. Fine, and the story achieved that. I liked the book but I cannot recommend it to all wholeheartedly and cannot give it a five. Sorry Vanessa and Victoria (and why didnt you give her a flower name?)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 21,319 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.