Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Copyright 2011; Ballantine Books, New York)

Vanessa Diffenbaugh has written a first novel in a most elegant and mesmerizing style.  Diffenbaugh has found that story line that has escaped other authors, the story of foster parents and the children they take in, and intertwined it with the Victorian language of flowers.

The latter was something I had little knowledge of -- the words assigned to certain flowers to express emotion or feeling to another.  Truly the Victorian period was one of art, music and expressiveness, and the dictionary of terms related to flowers is enchanting.

Diffenbaugh, herself a foster parent, brings honesty and truth to a difficult subject in our society today.  And yet, through the language of the flowers, she bares to us a painful yet beautiful love experienced on two levels -- parental and romantic loves.

First-time novelists are one of my favorite sources of good reads, and I can truthfully say that this is my favorite first-time writer since The Help came out.  There is little to compare between the two, other than the fact that each author has stepped out, taken the risk of telling uncomfortable stories about our society, both past and present.


  1. Sounds like a great book...I need to see if I can find it!

  2. Alida, hope you can find it -- it was such a good read!

  3. This book is a series of emotional adrenaline shots about women and their relationships with their mothers. A few guys are in the book, more like props than people, but that's ok. It works. The ballyhoo provided by the publisher touts the book as one about 'second chances,' and I suppose it is on one level. However, I wondered where Victoria's first chance was, and that a second chance was not nearly enough. It depicts people as better than we may think that they really are, but they too require second chances because they screw up too. In fact everyone hurts, some to hurt back and some just to get through the day. These nuances are explored, and with the language of flowers, we learn of absolutely unequivocal meanings of flowers. There it is! Right in the dictionary. Then we learn that even the flower meanings may depend on the dictionary--yet another stable reference uprooted just when most needed.

    1. Eesti, I appreciated receiving and reading your observations on this book. And you are correct on so many points. Not knowing the author's perspective from which she is writing, it is hard to know why she doesn't give Victoria a "first chance" or why she didn't give her more of a "second chance." Life isn't always fair, as we all know, and I feel this was an honest look at how life can play out. It's unfortunate but true.


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