Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (3/5). Talk about a narrator that’s hard to like.

17 Jun

When one of the ladies in my book club recommended this to me, I was a bit hesitant but added it to my list anyway. When I saw it for 75% at a B&N closing sale, I had to pick it up. And then when the other bookie girls at work were looking for a book to read together, I volunteered my copy and they picked it. I’m glad I listened to that recommendation even though I was hesitant at first.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria is about to age out of the foster care system and frankly she couldn’t care less. She’s only ever loved two things in her whole life: Elizabeth and flowers. Since she lost Elizabeth, she clings to flowers as tightly as possible. Elizabeth taught Victoria that there is a language of flowers and that people can communicate with the flowers emotions as specific as misanthropy and secret love. Victoria finds herself a job in a flower shop to pay rent and be close to the flowers she loves. Her natural talent finds her in the flower market where she sees someone from her past who will profoundly change her.

And now the spoilers. The story bounces back and forth between Victoria at 18 and Victoria at 11 when she lived with Elizabeth. The story’s unwind simultaneously and we discover that Elizabeth almost adopted Victoria but didn’t feel she could give her the family that a child ‘should’ have. Elizabeth wants to reconcile with her sister, Catherine, and nephew, Grant, to give Victoria a family, but Catherine’s illness makes this impossible. Elizabeth feels at a loss and Victoria feels rejected. In rage, she burns Elizabeth’s vineyard and claims abuse. In modern-day, Victoria meets Grant who has continued to live in the language of flowers and growing the blooms on Catherine’s farm. The two connect over their shared past and become lovers quickly, but when Victoria discovers that she’s pregnant, she’s not sure she can face raising a family or spending her life with one person.

I was hesitant at first, but I enjoyed the book more as it went on, though I was disappointed by the ending. Thus the 3/5 rating. Victoria is very unmotivated and very misanthropic at the beginning when she shuts out the only person that’s ever taken care of her. When she’s offered help, she turns away from it preferring to rough it on her own. She grows to be a small part of a family eventually and becomes more likable. I thought the ending was too happy. For such a down book, it had a very upbeat ‘the world is smiles and rainbows’ ending. I didn’t buy it.

I’ve never intimately known someone who is a product of the foster system, so I’m not a good judge of how accurate Diffenbaugh’s portrayal of Victoria is. Diffenbaugh herself is a foster parent and I trust her judgement that Victoria is an accurate portrayal. My coworker and I started discussing the book a bit and she was expecting the book to mention sexual abuse at the hands of foster parents but Diffenbaugh stuck to verbal and physical abuse.

Grant was by far my favorite character. He was so loving toward Victoria even when she pushed him away. He loved his mother, too, in his own way while she was alive. He came off as such a good person, it was hard not to like him!

It was hard for me to relate to Victoria but I could find myself relating to Elizabeth. She wanted someone to love who would love her back unconditionally and I think that’s something a lot of people look for. I’ve known for a long time that I eventually wanted to get married so when I dated, I was looking for someone to love me back unconditionally and I’m lucky that I found him early in life. Unfortunately, Elizabeth took it a bit too far and wanted to develop a traditional family when one wasn’t needed, but I think her heart was in the right place.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I liked the flashback scenes to Victoria’s time with Elizabeth. It gave a really good background into her character and helped explain why she was acting the way she did in the present part of the book. I liked that the author told that story slowly because it kept me engrossed in the book and wanting to know more!

As I said above, the ending was really disappointing to me. Victoria’s story was so much about loss and abandonment that it felt wrong for it to have a happy ending. I felt it would have been more appropriate for her to have either Grant or the baby, but both seemed like a stretch. I don’t think her character was ready to handle both relationships and I think she would have snapped.

Overall, the book was about forgiveness. Elizabeth had forgiven Katherine but Katherine couldn’t forgive. Elizabeth forgave Victoria but Victoria couldn’t forgive her. Katherine’s loneliness killed her while Victoria was able to reconcile with Grant, her baby, and Elizabeth and have a happy ending. I don’t like how it was told, exactly, but it works.

Writer’s Takeaway: I loved how Diffenbaugh used the language of flowers to give the story guidance. The subject kept coming up in so many parts of the book and affected so many of the characters in different ways. It helped Renata’s customers find happiness, it helped Victoria establish a successful business. It helped Grant connect with Elizabeth. I loved how central it was to the book and that gave it a very ‘real’ feeling to me. Characters should be passionate about something the way I’m passionate about writing or my co-worker is passionate about golf. Victoria had a passion for flowers.

I enjoyed the meanings in the names. The daughter’s name Victoria who lost herself in a Victorian language of flowers. Grant even names their daughter after a flower (Hazel). It was subtle, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Slow start and slow end, but I enjoyed the middle. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Related Posts:
Book Review: ‘The Language of Flowers’ by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | dodging commas
Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | Bookmagnet’s Blog
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh | What Hannah Read

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2 Responses to “Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (3/5). Talk about a narrator that’s hard to like.”

  1. alenaslife June 18, 2014 at 9:20 AM #

    I’m with you on a few too many tidy conveniences, but overall I thought it was an excellent balance of the ugly and the beautiful. It’s a book I often recommend as being better than it’s book blurb. http://alenaslife.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/paperback-picks/

    Like

    • Sam June 18, 2014 at 9:38 AM #

      I think it will make for a good book club discussion as well. As I said, I liked it more than I thought I would. I’m glad I took the suggestion.

      Like

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