“The Language of Flowers,” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, FIC DIFF
I can’t stop gushing about Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s first novel, “The Language of Flowers.” Apparently, I’m not the only one. Recently released (August 23), the book is garnering much praise, and is now a bestseller.
Victoria, abandoned at birth, gains independence from the foster care system when she turns 18. Withdrawn and lacking social skills, the only way Victoria knows how to communicate with others is through the Victorian “language of flowers,” which she learned from the only person she ever dared to love. Growing up, Victoria revels in the fact that no one appreciates the messages in her bouquets. When Victoria gets a job at a local flower shop, she becomes popular with the patrons through her use of the archaic language. Then she meets Grant, a vendor at the flower market, who challenges her solitude using the very language she covets.
The story alternates between Victoria’s present and her past, slowly revealing the reasons behind her insecurity and self-isolation. Diffenbaugh does a fantastic job of foreshadowing without revealing too much or beating the reader over the head with it. The time jumps are perfectly executed.
As both a character study and a critique of the foster care system, “The Language of Flowers” is a success. The characters are wonderfully complex, each with a back-story of his or her own. I particularly loved Grant, whose patient courtship of Victoria will melt every girl’s heart. Victoria’s experience as a foster child will provide readers with much to think about and discuss, as will Victoria’s perception of herself, the obvious result of her childhood experiences.
Victoria’s dependence on the language of flowers is the thread that ties the whole novel together, and is part of what made the book fascinating for me. I was delighted to discover Victoria’s dictionary appended to the book.
“The Language of Flowers” best suits readers who enjoy character-driven novels and stories of hope in the face of adversity. An interest in and appreciation of flowers is not essential, but adds another pleasurable component to the experience.