The Language of Flowers



Title: The Language of Flowers

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Published: Pan Macmillan, 2011, Picador


I used the same flowers again and again: a bouquet of marigold, grief; a bucket of thistle, misanthropy; a pinch of dried basil, hatred. Only occasionally did my communication vary.

I placed a rhododendron on the plywood counter. The cluster of purple blossoms was not yet open and the buds pointed in his direction, tightly coiled and toxic. Beware.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey what words could not, from declarations of admiration to confessions of betrayal. For Victoria Jones, alone after a childhood in foster care, it is her way of expressing a legacy of grief and guilt. Believing she is damaged beyond hope, she trusts nobody, connecting with the world only through message-laden bouquets.

But when a mysterious man at the flower market responds in kind, Victoria is caught between fascinations and fear, and must decide whether she can open herself to the possibilities of happiness… and forgiveness.


After bouncing around foster homes and group homes her entire life, Victoria turns eighteen and is finally on her own. The book is written between the present where Victoria is eighteen and trying to make a life for herself, and the past where we go back to Victoria living in a foster home with Elizabeth, her foster mother who taught her all about flowers and their meanings. This is something that has stuck with Victoria, and she finds work at a florist, through which she comes across someone from her past. This makes her confront some things she probably hasn’t dealt with particularly well.

Over the course of the book we watch Victoria grow, learn how to build relationships, and integrate her history – and knowledge of the meanings and powers of flowers – into her new life. After she meets and gets to know Grant, she comes to learn more about what happened at Elizabeth’s. We watch her learn more about flowers, that they can have multiple meanings, and she begins to apply this to her life.

I loved that Victoria was trying to deal with her own stuff at the same time as she was using her talent to help others through flowers and their meanings. It gave me more dimensions to her and helped to break down the hard shell of protection Victoria was putting up. I really liked this book, it is well written and easy to read. As I watched Victoria grow I was rooting for her, I wanted her to win. This is a sweet book dealing with forgiveness and hope. Definitely recommend!


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