This was my January read from my book club and a lovely book to start the year with. The Language of Flowers is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s very accomplished debut novel. I knew nothing of this novel before I started reading it so had no preconceived ideas about what it would be like – often a good way to approach book I find.
This is the story of Victoria Jones, an orphan with a troubled past and a childhood spent between foster parents and care homes. At 18 she leaves the care home system with nowhere to go and no one to care for her. A love of flowers and a talent for helping others choose and understand them develops as she finds a job at local florist. The story alternates seamlessly between Victoria as a child and Victoria as an ‘adult’.
Despite being shown otherwise Victoria believes she is too damaged to accept or give love and be part of a family. The story addresses themes of forgiveness and redemption, healing, mother-daughter relationships, and friendship to name just a few. It also has a healthy sprinkling of heartbreak. This is not only a tender story, it’s a riveting lesson in the meaning of flowers. I have certainly been looking at flowers differently since I finished it.
At the end of the book is Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers. I loved this and long after finishing the novel found myself pouring over the definitions of White Rose (a heart unacquainted with love), Ginger (strength), Honeysuckle (Devotion) and Red Carnations (my heart is breaking).
Just like flowers this is a book to give to those you love.