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Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Language of Flowers (edition 2011)

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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2,2452632,855 (4.01)1 / 120
Title:Language of Flowers
Authors:Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Info:MacMillan (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Your library, Currently reading

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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


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English (258)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (267)
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
It's hard for me to know where to start with this book. It has been on my to-read list for quite some time. It finally came to the top of the list because it was my pick for the book club I am a part of. From the beginning, I was hooked.

The Language of Flowers is narrated by one of the principle characters, Victoria Jones, who is a former foster child in California. The story begins the day of her emancipation from foster care - a topic I'm rather familiar with. (I have worked for a nonprofit organization serving children, youth, families, and professionals in the foster care, adoption, and child welfare worlds for the past 13 years. Aging out, or emancipating from the foster care system, is a heartbreaking fact for far too many young people.) Chapter by chapter, Victoria tells her story; first in the present, then in the past. Through her voice, we meet Elizabeth, the woman who nearly adopted Victoria when she was 10 years old, and who Victoria has never forgotten. It was Elizabeth who taught Victoria the meaning and the language of flowers. She planted the seed in a young and troubled girl's heart that resulted in Victoria finally attaching to something in a way she had never been able to before.

As Victoria's story unfolds, she talks about many flowers and their meaning. I found myself pausing frequently to look up photos of the flowers so I could better visualize the description. (Sure, I know the basics, but I've long been fascinated with flowers. I try my sort-of green thumb at container gardening with okay results, but I know that I'm more passionate about looking at flowers and visiting gardens than actually gardening. And I'm okay with that.) I loved how Victoria, once she knew about the language and meaning of different flowers, used them to communicate - whether or not the recipients of her missives understood or not.

A lot of Victoria's behavior, I'm sure, seemed harsh and foreign to a lot of readers, but I really applaud the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, herself a foster parent, for painting a picture of a child with attachment difficulties with such a true brush. It was hard to watch some of the scenes play out within the story, but it was a realistic representation. Victoria, by the time she was 19 years old, had suffered so much that it would have been laughable to produce a well-adjusted, warm, easily-reachable adult ready to settle into her life and into relationships - whether it be between friends, co-workers, or lovers. It would have rung false and would have made me set the book aside, without a doubt.

I found The Language of Flowers to be moving, haunting, and, ultimately, a story of hope and redemption. As Victoria herself says, "Perhaps the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved, could grow to give love as lushly as anyone else."

(What I find even more moving is the fact that the author took her royalties from this novel - her first - and launched the Camellia Network, an organization working to create a nationwide movement to support youth making the transition from foster care to independence. It's commendable and it shows that not only was she inspired by her own experiences as a foster mother, but she's willing to continue to work for these at-risk young people who are aging out of the system at an alarming rate.) ( )
  Jenna.Czaplewski | Jul 3, 2014 |
Troubled former foster child Victoria Jones has a unique relationship with flowers and the meanings they convey. This relationship helps her navigate life after the foster care system. Victoria is a character you will alternately want to hug and shake. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has written a compelling story, with the added benefit of offering a course on the meaning of flowers that was so popular in the Victorian age. I highly recommend The Language of Flowers. ( )
  JoStARs | Jun 15, 2014 |
I really enjoyed this book and finished it quickly. I did not enjoy one particular section that felt belabored and a bit over-the-top with physical and psychological issues and pain mixed together. Other than slogging through that section, the read was a good one. While the main character was not easy to like at all times and a bit unrealistic, she was still enjoyable and I rooted for her throughout the book. ( )
  kimreadthis | May 25, 2014 |
Really, a 3.5 star for me! ( )
  patsaintsfan | May 23, 2014 |
Review first appeared on fefferbooks.com.

If you’ve been searching for a book that’s moving, thoughtful, and a little bit unexpected, The Language of Flowers could be just what you’re after.

I will tell you, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the publisher's synopsis. The keywords that stuck out for me were Victorian, flowers, mysterious, and gift. Would this be a historical read? …a little bit paranormal? (It’s not at all, by the way–it’s very firmly contemporary realistic fiction. And when I say realistic, I mean it.)

Diffenbaugh has an exceptional capacity to convey authentic human experience. The overwhelming impression I took away from this book, other than just sheer enjoyment of reading a complex, sometimes heart-rendingly dramatic story, was one of pure pleasure in the writing. This story is difficult, at times, and heavily mature, emotionally, but there is something about it that’s entirely captivating.

I could go into more detail about what happens, here, but I kind of want to allow you to experience it the way I did: blind, and allowing it to unfold without really knowing much about where it’s going. I will promise you, though, that it’s a little different than anything else you’ve ever read, and that it’s absolutely worth your time. The characters are fully-emotionally-fledged, and I found the whole novel fascinating and near-impossible to put down.

Some language (Kindle says 3 f-bombs), during intense scenes. Some sexuality. I gave it 5 stars, anyway, when I read it, which means I felt that strongly about my experience reading it. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 258 (next | show all)
At first blush it sounds like something Dickens might have come up with, had Dickens been deeply interested in flower arranging.
In this absorbing and delicately wrought debut novel, Diffenbaugh heeds the creative-writing maxim: Write what you know. She has been a foster mother and has taught art and writing in low-income communities.This experience is discernible in The Language of Flowers. The idea that an angry young girl such as Victoria would actually be interested in flowers and their meanings seems implausible on one level, and yet Diffenbaugh uses to good effect the belief that evergreen hope lies nascent within most damaged kids.
In the end, she offers a cautionary tale about what happens to kids who've grown without families, one that strives to be honest but still hopeful. Children like Victoria may be able to survive on their own, but in order to do better than that - to thrive - they need support. But it's never too late to learn how to love.
added by Nickelini | editSF Gate, Malena Watrous (Aug 21, 2011)
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Moss is selected to be the emblem of maternal love, because, like that love, it glads the heart when the winter of adversity overtakes us, and when summer friends have deserted us. 
   — Henrietta Dumont, The Floral Offering
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First words
For eight years I dreamed of fire.
You can't poison me or give me medicine I don't want. Or hit me — even if I deserve it.
Now, as an adult, my hopes for the future were simple: I wanted to be alone, and to be surrounded by flowers.
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Book description
The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like 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 eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what's been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she's forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it's worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. "The Language of Flowers" is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.
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When Victoria Jones starts working for a florist, she realizes her talent with flowers helps her change the lives of the people who buy her creations. But when she must confront her painful past, she has to decide how much she is willing to change.

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