book review: the language of flowers

Title: The Language of Flowers

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Genre: Fiction

Publishing date: 2011

Publisher’s summary: The story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of other even as she struggles to over come her own past.

book cover, the language of flowers
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh


Synopsis: As a girl, Victoria’s childhood is spent in and out of foster care and group homes. At 18, she’s finally freed and begins a life on her own with a simple goal of surviving. Isolated and angry, Victoria uses the only skill she has – a keen knowledge of flowers – to get a job at a florist. The story follows Victoria through her past and her present, revealing why she is incapable of love and watching as she struggles to overcome the mistakes that haunt her.

Opinion: The Language of Flowers is easy to read, captivating, and enjoyable. Despite her flaws, you’re rooting for Victoria with every turn of a page, hoping she’ll find the happiness that’s always evaded her.

I read this book across two very sleepless nights and found it a welcome respite from a more challenging book I’m trudging through slowly (The Luminaries, if you’re curious). What makes this book unique is its use of the meaning of flowers throughout to communicate emotions, messages, and sometimes healing. Diffenbaugh created her own Language of Flowers based on much research on classic flower dictionaries.

As a lover of flowers myself – thanks, Dad – I enjoyed seeing the often-surprising meanings associated with some of my favorites (hydrangea, jonquils, dogwood, lily of the valley). And watching how the interpretation and misinterpretation of those meanings greatly altered the lives of the characters in this book.

Although the language is not challenging and the writing not particularly beautiful or uniquely stylized, the plot is well drawn and Victoria’s feelings of desolation and turmoil are acutely expressed. As a reader, it is impossible not to sympathize with her.

Overall, 4 out 5.

Who should read this book: Anyone who loves flowers. Those trying to overcome their past. Anyone who feels incapable of letting others in. Those who sabotage their own relationships. Anyone who grew up in foster care. Those who enjoy reading an author’s first novel.

And anyone who cannot sleep and needs a break from a tough book.

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