A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it's been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now 18 and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what's been missing in her life, and when she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
©2011 Vanessa Diffenbaugh (P)2011 Random House Audio
“As a foster care survivor, I feel a kinship with Victoria Jones as she battles loss and risk and her own thorny demons to find redemption. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has given us a deeply human character to root for, and a heart-wrenching story with insight and compassion to spare.” (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)
"The Language of Flowers is a primer for the language of love. Vanessa Diffenbaugh deftly gathers themes of maternal love, forgiveness and redemption in an unforgettable literary bouquet. Book clubs will swoon!" (Adriana Trigiani, author of Very Valentine and Don’t Sing at the Table)
“A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you’ve burned every bridge behind you. The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition - I loved this book.” (Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet )
There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson
The best thing about The Language of Flowers was the way the Victorian concept that each variety of flower conveys a message was woven into the plot of this book. For example, purple dahlias convey dignity, and lavender signals mistrust. I had only vaguely thought about the concept before as in sending a red rose on Valentine's Day. So I really looked forward to the exploration of the idea in a novel. And this part of the story was the best and most creative part of the book.
If only the story itself had been that creative or fascinating. Instead it just seemed too overwrought. Victoria was too unbelievably damaged. She veered back and forth from one unbelievable decision to another. It almost gave me whiplash :) *** spoiler alert!*** Since she had been damaged by all her abandonment, it made some sense that she was messing up her life pretty badly, although most of the time it just made me roll my eyes in disbelief. The person whose choices did NOT make sense was her "step-mom" Elizabeth. The day when she was supposed to take Victoria to her adoption hearing and she just dropped out and gave up was TOTALLY unbelievable. I know Elizabeth was damaged, too, BUT she was an adult, and she KNEW that she had nurtured poor, damaged Victoria back to a kind of normalcy that would be RUINED by yet another abandonment - the worst one yet. It did not make sense, and I just kind of lost respect for the whole book from that point on. It all began to seem too contrived.
Of course, at the end, the pieces all fell back into a neat, tidy and loving ending, all nicely tied up. I did like the things Victoria said and had learned at the end, but they just seemed too pat. In a way, this book seemed like a young adult novel in its shallowness and need to hammer home a point.
I haven't read the print version, but I would probably say yes. THe choice of narrator for this book was phenomenal, capturing the bitter, jaded, fragile persona of a young teenager
Elizabeth, Victoria, and Renata, in that order. Elizabeth for obvious reasons, Victoria for the reason that you get inside her head and feel her pain and anger while still going on a journey with her that doesn't make you pity her (she'd hate that), and Renata for taking chances and being the best kind of friend.
As stated above, she captured the persona of all characters well - slight accents where needed, stronger ones is required, and the emotional drama of the story were pitch-perfect
This book was beautiful and wonderful and painful. Dramatic without being overly so, happy without being sappy, and an excellent read. I would have liked to see more male characters, but a minor quibble in a good read.
mom of 3
Easy to listen to. Enjoyably complex characters. Woven throughout with the language of flowers, of which I was vaguely familiar, vaguely interested, yet found thoroughly entertaining and inspiring.
Even though I ratcheted down the hype I've read elsewhere on this book, I was unprepared for how deeply, truly, dreadful I found it. The narrator, Tara Sands, handled the various character voices well enough, and the audio quality is fine. It's the text I found objectionable.
Very little in the "The Language of Flowers" rings true. Most of the characters are one-dimensional, and that dimension is preternaturally saintlike. The dialogue bears no resemblance to the way people speak, nor does it have any engaging quirks to compensate for lack of naturalism. While one or two scenes have some grit and are vivid, the rest of it reads like a poor excuse for a fairy tale. Using the language of flowers as an organizing principle of the plot may be good marketing (ooh, pretty, pretty), but it is, I think, the source of what's weakest in the book. I'm not going to give plot spoilers here, but most of what happens is a little too neat and tidy.
While themes of parenthood and childhood drive some very powerful literature, including fairy tales, don't bother with this one unless you like the taste of those cheap frosting flowers they put on grocery store cakes.
I listened to 32 chapters before throwing in the towel. The subject "the language of flowers" has potential but I couldn't warm up to the main character enough to care about what may or may not happen in the story.
I didn't think I would like the book - the title says to me says "Ladies' Book Club Book" and that's exactly why i selected it - we're discussing it tomorrow. I ended up finding it compelling and a really good story. A lot of negative reviewers did not like Victoria, but I really empathized with her - she had a rough upbringing but she knew herself and wanted to be better, for herself and other people in her life. The last book I read prior to this one was The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog - and it tied in beautifully with this book. It's non-fiction about children brought up in difficult circumstances and the resilience they displayed. I see Victoria in the same light. The backbone of this book, the meanings of flowers, provided an interesting base. Not 5 stars because the ending was melodramatic, sickeningly sweet and Hallmark Hall of Fame-ish.
I gave the performance 2 stars because the narrator seemed to be using what I consider to be "teen-speak" - if I had to hear the word GarDEN one more time...... I also felt that she had difficulty with the male voices - they sounded forced.
Avid listener, former reader. Especially enjoys Audiobooks on long road trips. They help us to stay alert and minimizes arguments.
My had read this in her book club and recommended it to me. It was well worth the 'read'. High up on my favorites list.
I didn't realize that each flower conveyed a message. Something I will have to consider in future bouquet gifts.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh introduces you to a young girl and gradually but surely adds layer upon layer to her character until the whole girl is shown with all her highs, lows, character strengths and weaknesses.
The way Vanessa moves between past and present is deliberately timed to give the listener a bit more insight into the young girl exactly as needed.
There was absolutely NOTHING about Tara Sands performance that was lacking. Her timing, energy and delivery were superb. She didn't just read the story, she infused it with life.
Tara Sands was the perfect choice for the narrator. She was able to make the reader believe that an eighteen + young lady was, indeed, telling her story.
One of the best I've listened to
She's Come Undone. By Wally Lamb and White Oleander. Also a great coming of age story when all the odds are against you. So beautiful. Moving. Takes you right in and holds you until the end.
I never understand why when women do the men's roles...they don't just deepen their voice, but they always make the men sound like loser dorks. This was well narrated, except for the fake male voice.
The author did not draw me in to care about what happened to the characters.
Her voice was too child like for me.
I really enjoyed the perspective into people's lives that this book provided. It made me see the world in a different light and try to understand the people around me more.
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