30 August 2011

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria is an 18 year-old orphan, who is now homeless. But there is one thing that may save her; the language of flowers.

As we read through the book we discover there is more to her than we first thought. There is a bitter, hidden past that seethes underneath the narrative. there are some good memories too, but all of this has an undercurrent of guilt mingled with longing.

The book is written very well, with a lot of emotion being displayed as well as an interesting fascination with flowers and their meanings. The content makes the reader want to learn more about the main character and her past and she is so multi layered we wonder where her emotions come from. In fact, all of the characters are quite complex and realistic, making the reader feel like they know them personally.

One of the things that could be improved on is the ending. Although it is realistic enough, it comes as a slight shock. As it is written in the first person, the reader gains a good insight into the mind of the character. However, the change in her mind that we see seems rather abrupt compared to the thoughts we are privy to throughout.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is the context concerning the language of flowers. In the Victorian period, couples forbidden to see each other or marry would often use bouquets to send messages. Each flower had a different meaning that the recipient would find out before sending a reply. For example, in the book Hazel means reconciliation and a yellow rose means infidelity.

The way that this idea is entwined into the life of an orphan girl is simple and well thought through. As a young girl she learns the language of flowers and then later uses it in floristry to develop a good business.

The main themes of the story seems to be the lack or abundance of love and emotion, and how it affects people's lives. The protagonist shows a need for love, and yet a hatred of others. We see why in the many flashbacks from her past.

There are claims that this author could be the next Joanne Harris (the author of Chocolat). This may be a little bit too much of a presumption as it needs a bit of work to get to that kind of standard. Joanne describes foods to the point of you salivating, therefore we as readers need to almost smell the roses, so to speak. Unfortunately the authors style is in need of a bit of a fine tune, and as previously stated, the ending needs a bit of work as it didn't quite flow with the rest of the book.

Maybe with a bit of work, Vanessa Diffenbaugh could be capable of some very poignant literary works. As for now, The Language of Flowers gets an 8 out of 10.

For the Wikipedia page on the language of flowers, click this. For flowers and their meanings, click this.