Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Books Read: Vanessa Diffenbaugh - the Language of Flowers

Source - Received from the publisher to review

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love.  But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, a 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, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own.  When her talent is spotted by a local florist, she discovers a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.  But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realize what's been missing in her own life.  As she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past and decides whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance of happiness.

Thanks to the lovely people at Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book to review as it's likely to have slipped under my radar otherwise as probably not one I would have picked up off the shelf.

Victoria Jones has been in the foster care system since birth and has never found her true sense of belonging.  Her story alternates between life after leaving the group home at age eighteen and living on the street and her memories from the last foster home she lived in, at age 9, with Elizabeth who taught her about the Victorian language of flowers and what each flowers meaning was.

Whilst homeless she is offered some part-time work with a florist, Renate, who recognises Victoria's gift for working with flowers.  Soon she is making arrangements for customers and works hard to get the right flowers to match the occasion. 

Whilst going with Renate to the flower market she meets a trader,Grant, with whom she is able to share her language of flowers and it doesn't take her long to realise that this this is someone who knew her as a child when she lived with Elizabeth.  They soon start correspond using flowers and their meanings but her natural mistrust of people prevents her from letting him get too close.  Will she be able to let her barriers down and let Renate and Grant in?   

Overall I actually liked the concept of the book and I could understand why Victoria was portrayed the way she was having not really had a sense of belonging her whole life.  I particularly enjoyed learning about what flowers are suitable for different moods/occasions, there's even a useful dictionary at the back of the book to use as a reference point.

1 comment:

  1. This is an extremely moving, well-written book. Victoria is a completely believable character, a woman who has been so badly betrayed and damaged by the system, she is almost feral. She trusts no one, least of all herself. It is difficult, sometimes, to watch her making poor decisions or lashing out at well-meaning people - difficult, but absolutely understandable. People who are looking for a novel where the heroine shakes off everything or magically heals overnight from the trauma will not find that here. The casual way Victoria recounts years of abuse or neglect just make it that much more authentic and searing.