The Language of Flowers: A Novel

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Paperback, 2012



Call number

PS3604 .I2255



Ballantine Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, 334 pages


"The story of a woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own past"--

Media reviews

At first blush it sounds like something Dickens might have come up with, had Dickens been deeply interested in flower arranging.
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In this absorbing and delicately wrought debut novel, Diffenbaugh heeds the creative-writing maxim: Write what you know. She has been a foster mother and has taught art and writing in low-income communities.This experience is discernible in The Language of Flowers. The idea that an angry young girl such as Victoria would actually be interested in flowers and their meanings seems implausible on one level, and yet Diffenbaugh uses to good effect the belief that evergreen hope lies nascent within most damaged kids.
In the end, she offers a cautionary tale about what happens to kids who've grown without families, one that strives to be honest but still hopeful. Children like Victoria may be able to survive on their own, but in order to do better than that - to thrive - they need support. But it's never too late to learn how to love.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Litgirl7
This was an Early Reviewer book which I won. I really enjoyed the first few chapters- learning about the meanings of flowers (something I may actually investigate further, so thanks for that) The foster care stories were sad, but brief (I am not yet done with the book, but in the final third)

However,as is wont to happen with me and books, I started to get a little irritated at all of the coincidences in this girl's life- that she 'just so happens' to run into someone who is also into flowers (and gives her a job) and then more and more people-all into flowers and their hidden meanings- it seems at times like the whole town (in real time, and the past) are 'flower people'. And everyone -since she's aged out of foster care- is so overly concerned with her. She even starts curing people's love lives with bouquets, and then she meets a handsome man named 'Grant' (of coarse!), and now I realize this is going to be like a Sunday afternoon Lifetime movie -and so far it is.

She's 'afraid to love', but of coarse, Grant won't give up on her, trying to soften her up, or break her like a wild stallion. She gets pregnant (which came from left field, even though she begins having sex all of the time with Grant (Wake up, girlfriend! It's 2012!) She takes all of her belongings and goes to live in the park (!!) rather than tell Grant she's pregnant because he might be 'too happy' about a baby. I don't find this stoic- I find it mental! Run, Grant! (and yes- blame her upbringing, her 'get out of owning up to your own actions' free pass) She can't get an abortion 'because she can't be naked in front of strangers' (the Doctors) Really? That's loony-tunes, right there. (Say you're against abortion, or whatever, but please don't talk to me like I'm an idiot!) Her boss, who guesses she is pregnant is stern and decides 'we need to get you insurance young lady!' then tells her it'll take her all day to fill out the insurance paperwork she's already procured. (All Day? What kind of insurance is this? I could see maybe a half-hour....) but she flees- because- after all- the nerve of people, wanting to help me pay for a baby, who has a father that might be 'happy'. It's terrible. I tell ya!

At this point in the story (the page I'm on) she is literally watching as 'Grant' is searching for her ( she's looking out of a storefront attic's window!) - watching Grant asking the townspeople if they've seen her. 24/7 this is what he's doing, for months evidently- while she sleeps in the park. All he needs is to bring along a dainty glass slipper and have the females of the town all try it on, until only her delicate foot slips in!!This is a huge city, but he's right there in her line of sight. It's like a Harlequin Romance minus the bodice and petticoats.. If she REALLY didn't want him to know she was pregnant- why wouldn't she get out of the area altogether? Who would be homeless (like it's nothing, by the way, the book doesn't even discuss the awful logistics of that in any great length) rather than live with a handsome, rugged, 'prince of a man', who is devoted to her?? I'll tell you why she doesn't leave town-because she's a big drama-queen, and she needs him to really, really, really kiss up to her, BEG even. She thinks she's being selfless, but she's actually extremely narcissistic, keeping everyone running in circles over HER! It's so ridiculous. I'm sorry. I'll be back to finish this when I'm done. But who buys into this stuff? Next thing you know she'll have a kid and name it after a flower. It's all so pink bows and frosting flowers.... that it's making my teeth ache.
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LibraryThing member mckait
This is a story of of needing to learn how to love. That seems unbelievable, doesn't it?
Love just happens. We love our family, we love our friends, we love. We love. But, what if
we never had a family, or a friend. What if a child were abandoned by her mother, the first
person who would love her? What if she spent ten years with no one showing love, no one
to turn to, not even a friend? What happens to love then?

Victoria knew the answer. She knew what happens when one spends ten years without love.
It becomes unattainable, or seems to. It becomes unbelievable, doesn't it? It becomes impossible.
Victoria knew that. She also knew that no one would ever love her, and she set out to make it so.

The sadness of Victoria and her spare, hollow life is a tangible thing. It is apparent to Renata,
the woman who looked at a gaunt and empty young girl, and decided to try to help. She was careful
to only help a little, lest she frighten Victoria away. She was circumspect and a little bit kind. She did
what no one before, had managed to do. Victoria allowed her to become a friend.

What happens in the days that follow are remarkable. The story grows like a vine around circumstance and
coincidence. But then, some say, there is no coincidence. Some things are just meant to be. The journey
that Victoria takes after meeting Renata, who is my personal hero in this story, is a journey with many twists,
many turns, and many obstacles. But most journeys end somewhere, even if it is only at the beginning of
a new journey.

The back story, where we learn the language of flowers has its own elegance and beauty. I liked this book.

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LibraryThing member oldblack
On one level this book is a trashy romantic perspective on the separation of parents from each other and from their children, which is 'worthy' of the "Womens Weekly Good Read" sticker that adorned my library copy. There's not much that's very realistic in this book - it's pretty much all a fantasy of how children from dysfunctional and broken relationships can make good if they're only given a chance by someone who accepts them without question. Clearly the world isn't as simple and people aren't as good as they are in this story. On the other hand, Vanessa Diffenbaugh is obviously a person who passionately believes in her cause and a lot of that emotion and passion is palpable in the book. If you're prepared to uncritically accept the unbelievable scenarios offered up, then there is an essential truth to be found about self worth and relationships.… (more)
LibraryThing member Nickelini
Victoria Jones turns 18 and leaves the foster care system where she has spent her entire life. Homeless and uneducated, she wanders the neighbourhoods of San Francisco, surviving on table scraps from restaurants. Using her one and only skill--a knowledge of flowers--Victoria wangles herself a job as a florist assistant. She soon meets a friend from her past and they strike up a romance over their shared love of flowers and their ability to communicate using the Victorian symbolic language of flowers.

Victoria returns to that past in alternating chapters where she goes back to when she was nine and had a chance of happiness living on a grape farm north of the city with Elizabeth. This second story has narrative and symbolic parallels with Victoria's adult narrative.

At first I found this book readable but sort of tedious. Victoria was a difficult character to empathize with, but then she's supposed to be damaged by her miserable childhood. After all, how can one love if one has never experienced love? I soon grew frustrated with the novel, however. Victoria's problems are caused by getting in her own way, and they are then solved by either coincidences or the kindness of others (who she has mistreated): Her boss routinely gives her packets of cash; Her roommate conveniently goes away so she can have the apartment to herself at a crucial plot point; She just happens to know a midwife when she has refused prenatal care or medical insurance, etc. Through all this she's pretty much a jerk to everyone she knows. Yet people constantly go out of their way to help her. I also rolled my eyes at how easily she started a phenomenally successful florist business.

In summary, [The Language of Flowers] was both implausible and predicable.
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LibraryThing member nfmgirl2
Victoria has struggled with life. Given up at birth, she has been tossed from home to home, never finding a family. Now aging out of the system at eighteen, it is time to make life her own and do with it as she please. She is lucky enough to have a few very important people enter life (Renata gives her a job, and Grant gives her his heart), and instead of following a traditional path, she creates a new one of her own.

The title of this book comes from Victoria's love for what flowers have to say to those that can hear them. Back in Victorian times, people would use flowers to send secret messages. Lovers would use them to communicate love and passion, or the desire to meet. People would use flowers to express grief and joy. The aptly-named Victoria understands their language and speaks it fluently. She can bring people's deepest desires to light through the use of flowers.

Victoria is damaged by her tragic childhood, and this has left her with a detachment disorder that doesn't permit her to connect with people. But she can speak to them through flowers.

I loved this story. Some aspects were a little far-fetched, such as the fact that a baby girl in the system would not have been adopted in a flash, and would instead spend her life in foster care, given up over and over again. But it was sweet and touching, Victoria was just quirky enough (I love quirky characters!), and I really loved the language of the flowers. My favorite moments in the book were the ones where Victoria and Grant debate the meanings of the flowers, when there is more than one documented meaning. Fascinating!

My final word: Delightful! That's it. Just "delightful"!
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LibraryThing member am64547
Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers is engrossing novel following the heart-tugging story of Victoria Jones. Diffenbaugh has created an novel with a fascinating intertwining of character development and an education in the meaning of flowers.
The story begins as Victoria is aged out of foster care at 18. Having spent a lifetime in and out of foster families and group homes, Victoria is emotionally stunted, filled with suspicion and has an aversion to being touched. Victoria's struggles to become a self-sufficient adult are contrasted against the childhood heartbreak that has haunted Victoria. Victoria's loneliness and guilt draw you in as well as her extensive knowledge of the meanings of flowers.
After a florist takes her into her employment and care, Victoria is forced to reevaluate her suspicions regarding other people and her self-imposed alienation from others. An encounter and burgeoning relationship with a person from her past causes Victoria to confront her lingering guilt and heartbreak from a childhood mistake. Despite missteps and her own emotional struggles, Victoria is finally able to rectify her past and grow past her childhood feelings of anger and mistrust.
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LibraryThing member jstraws
I received this book as a part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's program, and found it to be an engaging literary debut—and a thought-provoking look at the lasting psychological effects of a childhood spent without a constant mother figure. The symbolic use of flowers to convey meaning here isn't subtle—it's the thematic and stylistic core of the story, as well as a lifeline for the main character, a young woman who has been perhaps irreperably damaged by the foster care system and clings to the Victorian-era dictionary of flowers and their meanings that was given to her by the only mother figure who ever made a brief appearance in her young life. The protagonist struggles to communicate her emotions in any other way, and so everyone around her who comes to care about her soon becomes swept up in the language of flowers.

I sometimes found it difficult to suspend my disbelief at points throughout the story--I don't want to include any spoilers here, so can only say that at times, the main character has little rationale behind her decision making (or lack thereof), and while I realize this was intended to be a function of her upbringing, I couldn't help but feel a disconnect between some of her most together, successful achievements as she comes into her own as an independent young woman, and some of her most confused, frustrating actions as she shows a complete lack of self awareness and failure to take responsibility for herself when it matters most. Still, overall I enjoyed the unique style and subject of this book, and found the conclusion to be a satisfying reward for staying with the story during some of its weaker moments.
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LibraryThing member iddrazin
This book, planned for release on August 23, 2011, should be an enormous best seller. The Senior Vice President of Random House, the parent company of Ballantine, disclosed that Ballantine won publication rights only after “a fiercely fought auction.” She states that “it is the main character, Victoria Jones, that makes this book exceptional. I can’t remember the last time I cared so much about a character.” Although still unpublished, “rights have already been sold in twenty-two countries.” This is not hype.

Victoria Jones is very likable both to readers and to the people she encounters in the novel. Yet she is profoundly disturbed. She is unable to relate to other people except, in a remarkable fashion, as she discovers later in life, through flowers. She is filled with feelings of inferiority, anger, suspicion, and an aversion to being touched, even though in many, but not all cases there is no basis for these feelings. She is raised in foster homes and she repeatedly sabotages her relationships, not wanting the new bond to succeed, although she doesn’t know why. She is supervised and watched closely by a caring, indeed loving social worker who tries repeatedly to explain life and people to Victoria without success. It is impossible to relate to and communicate with Victoria through reason, caring, or love.

Her story is told for the most part though alternating chapters. One is about her finally finding a foster mother she likes when she is nine and ten years old. She loves the love-deprived Elizabeth and Elizabeth clearly loves her and wants to adopt her. But something, which I will not disclose, which is not her fault, goes wrong. As a result, while Victoria had seemingly overcome her alienation from others, at least to some degree, she drops back into her feelings of anger and suspicion, reacts violently, and rushes off to be alone after the event. Her social worker places her in other foster care families, forever failures, with her always wanting to return to Elizabeth, but unable to do so.

The second series of chapters tell about her life after she is emancipated at age eighteen and is out of foster care. We read about her ability to understand the message or language of flowers, how each flower has its own unique meaning and ability to alter people. We read about her working for a very caring flower store owner and her meeting the nephew of Elizabeth and her difficult distancing relationships with both of them.

When the emotionally disabled Victoria deals with passionless, empty women searching for love and love-struck brides and groom who seek a long lasting enjoyable marriage, she is able to speak to them for hours and to pick just the right seemingly mute flowers that will assure the love and the relationship. Is it something invisible within her that brings about the results in her clients or is it the essence of the flowers that contains the magic in their sturdy stems or pleasing pedals? She builds up a large clientele based on word of mouth. She is so successful and so busy that she has to send some potential clients to other florists. But, like a right hand not knowing what the left is doing, she still needs to understand that she is not the only human being who is flawed, who was hurt almost to the breaking point, and become whole.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh describes her character Victoria Jones as “angry and afraid, yet desperately hopeful, qualities I saw in many of the young people I worked with throughout the years.” Readers will identify with her and be drawn into her life in this brilliantly understated, powerful, and moving novel.
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LibraryThing member TheLostEntwife
Normally, I'm a bit hesitant to start books which focus so specifically on one certain idea or gimmick and this time was no different. I have had The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh on my shelf for months, but was intimidated by the actual language of flowers that it held - I wasn't certain I was in the mood, every time I picked it up, to be overwhelmed with information about flowers and, since I have the closest thing to a black thumb a girl can get, I was more than a little intimidated by it.

What ended up happening was when I finally made the choice to pick the book up and dove into the story, my heart was captured by Victoria. She was tough, ruthless, and the complete opposite of me, making decisions I couldn't comprehend. Every time I expected the story to take a predictable turn, Victoria made a decision that shocked me - and it happened over, and over again. So I thought maybe that would be predictable - but then it just wasn't.

There are several stories in this narrative: the story of Victoria finding a place, Victoria's history, the stories in miniature of those who needed Victoria's help, and more. Each story was spun slowly, which meant that the resolution of the book came even more sweetly.

I don't recommend this book if you are looking for a feel good, happy story. It's more about healing, finding oneself, and examining the failings of a corrupt system which takes advantage of a young child who desperately needs a home.
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LibraryThing member GaltJ
I received this book through Early Reviewers and it completely took me by surprise. I loved it, couldn't put it down. It is a heart-wrenching story of a very tough character, who does some very difficult and disturbing things - yet you root for her and want her to succeed and be loved. The connection between flowers and their meanings and using that to communicate was really wonderful. I just recommended it to a large group of reader friends.… (more)
LibraryThing member allenkl
A lovely book. I'm an avid gardener, really made me look at my many gardens, made me a little uncomfortable at what I had chosen to grow at certain times of my life ....hmm
LibraryThing member GreatImaginations
Not too many books have made me cry this year. That's not a normal thing as I am usually an emotional person who cries fairly easily. But not this year. Perhaps it's because I've toughened up and become desensitized, I don't know, or perhaps it's because I've gotten pickier and liked much less of what I have been reading this year. But this book. OH, this book. It had me on the floor with the Kleenex *cough* toilet paper *cough*, rolling around like Nancy Kerrigan screaming, "Why, why?" before I had closed the last page.

Victoria, you were one hard-to-like protagonist. There were times when I wanted you to be real just so I could slap you and tell you what an idiot you were being. There were moments--few and far between--when I sympathized with you and really felt so badly that the world had let you down. I say few and far between because a lot of what happened to you you brought on yourself. And I tried, I REALLY DID, to understand you, but you were just incorrigible and oh so frustrating. The people around you loved you and you just couldn't see it. They would have done anything for you, regardless of the horrible things you had done. Being given up repeatedly by so many foster parents and getting lost in the system must have been a horrible, horrible thing to go through. And yet I cannot imagine CHOOSING to be homeless because I was scared that I would disappoint someone. Even if that were true--and call me selfish if you want--but at some point you have to look out for #1 first. And yet, as ridiculous as I found your actions most of the time, I fell for you, heart and soul, and just wanted everything to work out for you. Maybe I am a masochist. I think I would have been Grant in this story.

Now that I am done addressing Victoria *slaps her and then hugs her*, I want to talk about the rest of the characters really quickly. Grant was a wonderful character but I never really felt like I knew him.It's not that he wasn't developed well because I don't find that to be true at all, but he was more of the strong, quiet type who was just willing to lay back and accept what happened around him. Too laid back. I liked him but he also frustrated me because he never spoke! Well, hardly. I don't know. He was an amazing character but the type of character you don't come across often because he was not so in-your-face as most characters are.

Elizabeth, though. Elizabeth broke my damn heart. If there was one character in the book that I wanted to hug and take care of, it was her. Perhaps it was because I saw some of my grandmother in her, but she was just a generally wonderful and caring person. She truly loved Victoria and wanted to make her her daughter more than she wanted life itself. I often say about myself that I am not an easy person to love, but I think Elizabeth would have been able to love just about anyone because her heart was so pure. I can't even begin to describe the buckets of adoration I had for this woman. She just NEVER gave up. She was so strong for everyone else but never herself. Hard to explain, but this is the type of person you want in your life, and if you have ever been lucky enough to have one, you know what I mean.

This book--if you are patient enough to not throw it at the wall--will have you looking in the mirror to check how puffy your eyes are. You'll be at the sink, loading up the dishwasher when all of a sudden you will think about something that happened in the book that made you cry, and oh, oh, there go the waterworks again. *%!!

The writing was beautiful and the prose flowed in a way that just really connected with me. I truly enjoyed the author's voice. It's not a book that will be an all-time favorite, I don't think--see me in a few months--but I still really, truly enjoyed it, and I think for the right person, this book could be a life-changing experience. If you haven't had a chance to read this one yet, you should pick up a copy. It's in softcover now and fairly affordable. If you have, I would love to hear your thoughts.
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LibraryThing member BLBera
Vanessa Diffenbaugh said she wanted to write a book about foster care. In [The Language of Flowers], she succeeds with her portrait of an angry Victoria Jones. Victoria is 18 when the book opens and has lived her live in foster care, mostly recently in group homes. On her eighteenth birthday she is emancipated, free to leave the group home and make her way in the world.

Diffenbaugh alternates the present with the story of the year Victoria was almost adopted, the year she learned the language of flowers. This works well; we want to find out why Victoria is angry. While the stories of the abusive foster parents are heartbreaking, the little details are the most telling: Victoria gets her first new dress when she is ten years old. Every time she acts out, she's ready for the social worker to come and take her away.

We keep reading to find out whether Victoria can find a place in the world. The book does end on a note of hope -- maybe not very realistic, but it is satisfying. We come to care about Victoria and wish her a happy ending.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
A poignant tale of incredible anguish - made even more painful because the protagonist starts as child... The bitter reality of numerous foster homes, one after another, not knowing one's identity or origins... Then a ray of sunshine, a hope on the horizon - only to be thwarted again. In the end all the misery does pay off, reaffirming the power of goodness. And all of this is told with the flower language as the background, interlacing this appealing craft with the plot. Beautifully written - almost improbable for a debut novel. It goes without saying that I shall never look at my garden's flowers with the same eyes again. As soon as I read this novel, I couldn't help but start looking for a dictionary of flowers and their meanings.… (more)
LibraryThing member jo-jo
I loved this novel that brought us into the life of young Victoria Jones. Victoria is lost and alone without any friends or family as she prepares to live on her own. Now that she is eighteen she is no longer allowed to live in foster homes, leaving her with the responsibility of finding both a job and a home for herself.

Diffenbaugh did a great job of presenting Victoria's life to us within the pages of this book. The chapters alternated between Victoria's current day struggles and times from her past when she lived in foster homes. The majority of her past glimpses were from when she lived with a single woman named Elizabeth, who planned on adopting her. Victoria only lived with Elizabeth for a year, but their time together was special and it left quite an impact on the person Victoria would become.

Victoria turned into quite a tough cookie, never staying in one house too long, and usually not being treated very nicely either. This shows through as she tries to start her adult life, living day to day, not making any plans for the future and just falling asleep wherever her head may lay. How could she know that the knowledge of flowers that Elizabeth taught her all those years ago would help her get a leg up in this hard world.

One day while wandering the streets in search of a job, Victoria is drawn to a small flower shop called Bloom. After showing the owner, Renata, a sample of the floral gifts she can create, she is offered a temporary job. This allows Victoria the chance to express herself in a way that helps her find the person that she wants to become.

This story flowed very nicely, making me want to get back to reading it right after I set it down. So much more happens in this book than I have described above, but I don't want to give any more away. I found myself pitying Victoria as she made foolish mistakes as a young woman, but then cheering her on when she figured out what she needed to do to make things right. It wasn't all rainbows and butterflies, but it did leave me with a happy feeling as I read the last page. With themes of love, forgiveness, family, and survival this book would make for a great book club discussion or just to read at your own leisure. I don't hesitate in recommending this novel.
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LibraryThing member yeldabmoers
I’d like to give a kind warning that parts of this review may reveal significant parts of the plot.

I wholeheartedly hoped to give The Language of Flowers four or five stars. What a compelling concept: the relationship of a woman with flowers; her own secret language (she also happens to grow up in a challenging foster care life). The story synopsis alludes to the Victorian legacy of each flower having a meaning, with the giving and use of flowers as a novel way to express emotion and send messages to others.

Ultimately, I felt there wasn't enough of that language of flowers in the novel. It's too bad because I felt that the author had an incredible keen knowledge of this topic and could have weaved more of it into her plot. The story began believable, with the first person voice of the narrator pulling the reader right in. But as the story progressed, it began to disintegrate with its farfetched and unrealistic developments until it wasn't believable to me anymore.

The main character Victoria, barely getting by after fleeing her foster mom, is hired in a flower shop though she has no work experience or education. She gets pregnant, leaves her job, and ends up spending some time in a nearby park, sleeping on the ground. She plans to labor alone in her small apartment, with no prenatal care, like the Virgin Mary who gives birth alone under a tree.

But Victoria miraculously gets interrupted by a midwife knocking on her door, who then delivers the baby. The heroine eventually abandons her infant daughter in a basket in the home of the child’s father while he’s not even there. Numerous times Victoria leaves the child alone, which is hard to believe for any mother. If Victoria is capable of doing all this, we needed further development of her character to understand these almost cruel streaks. I didn't find this story believable, and though I found Victoria's passion for flowers believable, there wasn't enough of it to carry the story forward.
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LibraryThing member ParadisePorch
(Fiction, Women’s)

From Amazon:”The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions . . . 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 . . . 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.”

Bottom line: I shouldn’t read women’s fiction with happy endings, no matter how well-written.

3½ stars
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LibraryThing member WeeziesBooks
The Language of Flowers

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 andI will be recommending this book as a book club read. I ate it as a full 5 star book.
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LibraryThing member amandacb
I did enjoy this book until the very end. The main character is obviously an angry individual with a rough background, but I felt her treatment of her daughter was selfishly neglectful. If she spent her life in "the system," the she had the means to know how to get help; yet she refused, spiraling deeper out of control. The language of flowers is only secondary to the plotline, and only serves as a mechanism for some of the characters to communite with one another.… (more)
LibraryThing member halo776
This beautifully written novel follows the life of an 18-year-old girl named Victoria who has lived her entire life in foster/group homes. Now 18, she is on her own, alone and with virtually no resources. After being homeless for a short while, she finally finds a place she belongs: working as a florist's assistant. With flowers, Victoria is able to express herself in a way she couuld never do with words. Things are going well for her until the day she meets a young man from her past, a past she is desperate to put behind her. Grant, however, is persistent, and before long, Victoria finds herself facing her deepest fears. She is falling in love, but if Grant only knew her secret past, he would not be able to love her. Even worse, Grant is related to the one woman who wanted to adopt Victoria, until the accident.... Although she pushes away everyone who loves her at first, she eventually forgives herself and dares to hope that her future can be different from her past.

I was excited about this book from the moment it arrived in the mail. This is a beautiful book. At the end is a Q&A session with the author, and a copy of Victoria's dictionary of flowers. (This comes in handy, as you'll frequently want to look up the flowers mentioned in the book.) I'm not much of a gardener, and I certainly know very little about flowers, but that in no way lessened my appreciation for this story. The writing is so engaging that I could not put it down. Victoria is so real that sometimes I wanted to scream at her, and at other times I cried for her. This book definitely takes you on a roller coaster of emotions, but what you're left with at the end is a beautiful, timeless story of one woman's journey to find forgiveness, love, and happiness.
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LibraryThing member MartyJo
I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the very start. The Victorian language of flower meanings is brought to life in an unlikely contemporary setting. It follows the life of a troubled young woman who was abandoned as an infant trough flashbacks to a satisfactory and almost believable conclusion.
LibraryThing member signrock
I received this book from Early Reviewers-
My initial reaction was very hopeful. Victoria begins as a very troubled young girl who has a life of disappointment and hurt. The excitement of what her future holds carries you along with her in the early phases of the story, flip flopping between present and childhood. But after that initial connection, she begins to annoy more than intrigue. All of her life connections are through flowers rather than people. Although she has been dealt a difficult hand in life, she cannot allow herself to attach to anyone.. even hurting those who have given her the most. While some of these actions would seem understandable, others just seem over the top. Victoria comes across as more self centered than damaged. Everyone around her, on the other hand, is selfless and limitlessness in the understanding of her unusual needs. It becomes increasingly redundant. While the story was entertaining, I do not feel it lived up to the praise it has received.… (more)
LibraryThing member astridnr
Simply delightful! The Language of Flowers made me want to drop everything and open a flower shop! The main character, Victoria, is a young woman, whom we meet on the day of her emancipation from the foster care and social services system. We learn that over the course of her eighteen years she has developed an understanding of the meaning of flowers. During her time living in a park in San Francisco as a homeless person, she gets to know a florist, who offers her a part-time job. One by one clients come into the flower shop asking Victoria to make special floral arrangements for them. With her knowledge of flowers and their special meanings, she makes bouquets to bring people the fulfillment they are yearning for, be it love or happiness. This novel explores the inner life of a child growing up in the foster system. Some parts of the book are very difficult to read, but the author's examination of the issues at hand is very realistic and truly significant. This is a book I will recommend, but I am going to hang onto my own copy. I am inspired by the flowers and their meanings and will continue to use the reference section at the end of the book when selecting bouquets for my friends and loved ones in the future.… (more)
LibraryThing member klburnside
Enjoyable enough, but not sure it will stick with me. I liked it a little more after discussing it with my book club. 3.5 stars.
LibraryThing member Bookish59
On the surface seems like a sweet book about a young woman who has been through the wringer of the foster care system. But once an adult she manages slowly to find herself. And that is what I had expected.

But... The Language of Flowers is nothing like that. Victoria Jones is rightfully angry at Meredith, her social worker, as well as the mostly abusive foster parents and the other foster children with whom she is placed. I believe Meredith did truly care about Victoria when she was abandoned as a baby but now she hardly ever believes anything Victoria says. Meredith is tired and angry at Victoria acting out and needing to be retrieved and found a new home again and again. (Maybe if the social workers spent time living in the homes they place vulnerable children in they would understand the depravity and nastiness of what really goes on. Wonder how long they would last.)
Victoria is placed with Elizabeth a vintner who provides love, comfort, wisdom about life, teaches Victoria all about flowers and plants. She passes the abusive tests Victoria subjects her to. After a year Elizabeth is ready to adopt Victoria who has slowly learned to trust a human again. But Elizabeth's efforts to reconcile with her sister Catherine, to get her to acknowledge, accept and love Victoria as part of their family has been unsuccessful.

Elizabeth's depression results in her inability to meet with the state authorities for the adoption proceedings on the day scheduled, frightening and enraging Victoria. Also prompts Meredith's return believing Victoria has done something awful! While Elizabeth does not relinquish Victoria to Meredith this time, before long Victoria is returned to the foster care system, angrier than ever and carrying the huge burden of guilt.

At 18, Victoria is on her own. Manages to find job at florist where her skills and intuition make her work popular with owner and customers. Her insistence on privacy, her inner anger and turmoil, and hardened outer shell make her nearly unapproachable. This is where my issues with this novel begin. How can someone as damaged, anti-social, border-line feral create the magical floral arrangements that touch the hearts and souls of sad single women giving them a fresh positive perspective?

And why do all the people in Victoria’s life love and help her despite her viciousness, disrespect, her hostility? Why do they all accommodate her? She’s an adult but still acting out and hurting those around her. Why doesn’t someone read her the riot act, spank her, shake her, get her counseling, instead of tiptoeing around her? Her locked in pain is so egotistical; doesn't she care bout anyone else? Why isn’t Elizabeth furious at her?

And perhaps because of these issues I found the ending weak. A big cleansing fight with Grant and Elizabeth, with Victoria apologizing would strengthen the ending and make more sense.
… (more)


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Physical description

7.99 inches


0345525558 / 9780345525550
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