The Language of Flowers
In The Victorian Era, The Language of Flowers was used as a cypher of sorts to express one’s feelings:
Honeysuckle stood for devotion, asters patience, and red roses love.
For Victoria Jones, it’s been rather more useful in expressing melancholy, distrust, and solitude. After an infancy in foster-care, she struggles to form relationships, and to get close to anyone. Her sole tie to the world are flowers and what they imply. Now at the age of eighteen, and free of the foster-care system, Victoria hasn’t a place to go. She sleeps in a public park, where she seeds a small nursery of her own. There a local flower vendor, Renata, discovers her talent for horticulture. Victoria recognizes she has a gift for helping others by the flowers she recommends for them. But an enigmatic vendor at the flower market incites her to question that which has been missing in her life. She’s forced to come to terms with a harrowing secret from her past. Now she must decide if a second chance at happiness is worth a tremendous risk.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the story of Victoria. It is narrated by interlacing two time lines: that of our protagonist at the age of 18, sleeping on the streets without any income, seeking a place to live – And that of Victoria at 10 years of age and her life with Elizabeth, the woman who teaches her the meaning of flowers.
Although Victoria is not always a winning character. She is broken and distrustful, a product of the foster-care system, who was abused and neglected. When she is taken in by Elizabeth as a child, she constantly tests her love. And it is often heartbreaking to see her sabotage herself. Elizabeth handles it all with it patience, until a horrid event severs the relationship.
No doubt seeing Victoria evolve, in the two time-lines, was one of the best things about the book, along with the nostalgia with which the story is narrated and the beautiful backdrop in which it takes place.
The way Victoria’s and Elizabeth’s story was interwoven was clever and provides much delight. Her talent with flowers gets her a job, and her employer Renata carefully treads the thin line between being Victoria’s boss and her friend.
Victoria meets Grant at the flower market. Grant is familiar with the language of flowers, but his interpretation of that language is a little different than hers. They begin to share their interpretations about the meanings of several flowers; to his first clumsy offering of a Lilly, she replies with a rhododendron (beware); he responds to that with a mistletoe (I overcome all obstacles). This prompts them to build their own Dictionary so as to avoid further misunderstandings. But being in a relationship proves difficult for Victoria, her reluctance to physical contact and her avoidance of commitment prove to be difficult obstacles. The hope of love is alluring to Victoria, but getting it in reality is a frightening prospect. Not only is it difficult for her to learn to love and to be loved in return, it is terrible. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a story about the meaning of love and the importance of second chances.