Sunday, 11 September 2011

Review of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

** What it's about **

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, 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 discovered by a local florist, she discovers her 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 realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

The Language of Flowers is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.


** What I thought **
It is difficult to conjure up the right words to describe how I feel about this book.  It’s enchanting, yet tragic, and beautiful, all at the same time.  It’ll make you smile, and it’s sure to make you cry too.  It filled me with warmth and, despite the sadness it contains, left me totally and utterly satisfied.  Quite simply my new favourite book of 2011.

You don’t have to be overly-interested in flowers to appreciate the depth and beauty that Diffenbaugh portrays in this book.  It’s much more about seeing the hidden and deeper meaning, the romance aspect and an alternative way of communicating.  This is a story about a girl finding her way home; a story of friendship, romance, maternal love and the struggles of a young girl to portray her feelings and let her past go.
If you take the romance of the Victorian language of flowers, and combine it with the anger and resentment of a nine-year old child brought up in foster care and shifted from pillar to post, you are left with Victoria Jones.  What a wonderfully powerful combination.  Diffenbaugh fares just as well with her secondary characters, who pull everything together and don’t leave you feeling like anything is lacking.
This powerful tale is elegantly written.  I didn’t find the story predictable, in fact I was extremely impressed at how easily it flowed and dragged you in deeper and deeper with every page despite the lack of obvious hints as to the direction it is going to take.  The author doesn’t try to draw you in with forced cliff-hangers; it just seems to happen.  The detail is exceptional, and I often felt that it was more like reading an autobiography than a fictional story. The chapters alternate between Victoria at 18 (emancipation) and Victoria at 9 when she is deep within the foster-care system.  Despite the toing and froing, the book doesn’t feel fragmented, the pace is kept exceptionally well and you won’t want to put it down.
Diffenbaugh and her husband have been full-time foster parents for several years, and the experience has partly inspired her first novel, The Language of Flowers.  It doesn’t surprise me that this book comes from something much deeper than imagination.  If this is what Diffenbaugh can produce as her debut novel, I live in anticipation to see what will follow.  Absolutely stunning, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Throughout the book, I always knew this would be made into a film, so it was no surprise for me to read that Fox 2000 have already acquired the film rights to The Language of Flowers.  All I can hope for is that they do it the justice it deserves.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is launching the Camellia Network in order to create a movement to support youth making the transition from foster care to independence.  In the language of flowers, camellia means my destiny is in your hands.  You can find out more about the Camellia Network and get involved at 


Available in Paperback, Hardcover and Kindle Edition at

1 comment:

  1. What a splendid first novel this is. Unforgettable. As a reader who averages a book a week, reading for pure entertainment, I do not always remember the plots or characters in many stories for very long. This book is an exception. I don't think I will ever look at a flower again without thinking of parts of this novel. The same can be said for Victoria, the central character in The Language of Flowers. While you want to shake her for her the way she is living her life, you will hope for her and cheer for her, and most of all, you will never forget her. The writing is also extra ordinary, beautifully phrased and sparkling in dialogue. Aside from being entertained, it is so nice to be informed and educated. Reading this story taught me so much about flowers, about the effects of foster care and about human nature. It is to be hoped that we will see more from this fine writer.


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