Monday, September 26, 2011

The Language of Flowers (2011)

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being aware that professional reviewers are not as enthralled with Vanessa Diffenbaugh's debut novel The Language of Flowers as readers are, I had to see what the fuss was about. And it is not a perfect book. More allegorical than gritty reality, we meet Victoria as she is being emancipated from the unattractive world of foster care. She makes terrible choices and is terrified that she is not worthy of love. But she was taught about flowers and their meanings and that provides the enchantment that will ultimately free her.

Victoria's story is told in alternating chapters describing her relationship with Elizabeth, who taught her about flowers, and her current life as she tries to make her way in the world.

The back of the book includes a dictionary of the meanings of flowers and that whole concept brought back from Victorian times is absolutely enchanting. And apparently the author is publishing a second volume that is simply about 'floriography'.

It is frustrating later in the book, when Victoria continues to make 'bad' decisions which seem unnecessary. And there is some repetition the author felt would create a frantic need for those decisions but I didn't always buy it and sometimes found Victoria very annoying. There's also a bit of 'then a miracle' happened feel, which is why I use the term allegorical. Some have said 'fairy tale' and that works too.

Read it anyway. The professional reviewers are probably right in whatever it is they are saying, but Vanessa Diffenbaugh has struck a cord with her readers and brings us a story we haven't heard before.

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