I’m ashamed to say that this rather attractive looking hardback copy was sent to me several months ago for review, but I have only recently got around to reading it – so long ago in fact that this has now been published in paperback. My bad. I win the prize for being the worst blogger ever over the last few months…
In fact, now that I’ve read the book, I’m even more ashamed of my tardiness, because I really enjoyed it.
The protagonist of the novel is Victoria, a woman who’s formative years were shaped by the care system – this has massive impacts on her behaviour as a child, as well as her outlook as an adult.
The book has an alternating chapter structure – switching between Victoria being a child on the brink of a placement with a potential adoptive parent, and as an adult on the verge of being emancipated from the care system. Throughout the novel, Victoria’s story at these two separate, but important points in her life, evolves, and it becomes increasingly clear that her childhood has had a deep impact on her – this in turn has potentially severe consequences for those around her.
Victoria as an adult, initially seems hardened to the world – she is a “survivor” of the care system, and seems to care about little, including her own well-being. It quickly becomes clear however that Victoria has an unusual interest in flowers, and the “Language” they convey. It transpires through the early chapters in the novel that Victoria has been taught to uphold the Victorian knowledge of the hidden messages conveyed in flowers – before reading the novel, I was aware of messages conveyed in precious stones/gems, eg opals being funereal. A similar system was well used with flowers, for example, yellow roses were included in a bouquet to indicate infidelity etc.
As a child, Victoria is clearly scarred by her experiences in the care system – as an adult these scars reveal themselves in a difficulty in communicating with other people – indeed Victoria is initially only able to use her knowledge of flowers to make any headway in the world. The full extent of Victoria’s childhood issues and their impacts, take time to slowly unfurl throughout the book, and this is beautifully done. Initially Victoria as an adult is difficult to understand, however as her childhood unfurls she becomes easier to empathise with, and even likeable.
The central themes and ideas of this novel are love – both parental and romantic – and forgiveness – Victoria and the people around her all carry their own flaws and at various points in the novel make mistakes which impact on themselves and those around them. This is also a book about friendship and family, and the different forms that that takes.
All in all this is a beautiful novel, and given that this is a debut, even more impressive – obvious care has been taken with the research, and the inclusion of a dictionary of flowers and their meanings is a nice touch. Vanessa Diffenbaugh is definitely an author I will look out for in the future.
I’d recommend this if you like your books to have meaning, and make you feel emotions about the characters – if on the other hand you are looking for a quick easy read, or an action packed page turner then this may not be the novel for you.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is available HERE, in hardback, paperback and digital formats, as well as usual bookstores.
DISCLAIMER – As states this was sent to me for review, however all opinions stated are honest.