Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: August 23rd, 2011
Source: Personal Copy
Have you ever read a book that you felt would have been more enjoyable or relatable if your own life circumstances were different? That is how I felt when I finished The Language of Flowers. I even allowed some time to mull things over, and it only solidified my feelings. After seeing all the glowing reviews, I wondered why I didn't connect as much as other bloggers and reviewers did. For me, this book reinforces the idea that each reader brings his or her own life experiences to a book which greatly influences one's overall perception of the story and the characters.
The idea of the novel was my initial draw to The Language of Flowers. After being a ward of the state for eighteen years, Victoria Jones' solitary life is filled with anger, resentment, and mistrust. Once emancipated she must begin her life as an adult on her own. With no housing, no job, and no money, Victoria spends her time in a city park creating and tending to her own flower garden until she stumbles upon an opportunity to work for a local florist named Renata. Soon, Victoria begins to realize her talent for creating arrangements, and customers start asking for her by name. However, a chance encounter with someone from her past at the local wholesale flower market could change everything. Victoria must make a choice between a painful past or a potentially happy future.
Now, here's the part where I think my situation affected my enjoyment of the story and is a potential spoiler. At this stage in my life I don't have any children, nor do I plan to in the near future. That being said, the second half of the book is where I really lost interest. I guess I just lack that maternal instinct to really care about page after page of an infant's crying and feeding constantly. Also, I was not raised in the foster system, nor have I adopted a child so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but the protagonist's mean and spiteful attitude throughout the story despite being given multiple chances by genuinely caring people really started to bug me. I'm a firm believer that one's past does not define you or your future, but at every turn Victoria was quick use her years as a ward of the state as an excuse or justification. This is not to say that going through the system doesn't deeply affect a person, but I feel that with the right attitude and outlook on life that anyone can change their circumstances.
The Language of Flowers started out quite strong. I was a little skeptical about the main character's attitude, but was willing to play along. Diffenbaugh uses alternating chapters to tell two different storylines; one when Victoria is ten years old and the other in the present day. The idea that the Victorians actually sent messages through their flower choices to the extent that multiple flower dictionaries exist is fascinating. That was my original draw to the book, and I really wish the author had focused more on that angle. There was so much more about this topic to be explored, and I was really hoping to learn more than I did. Overall, I think my disappointment was a result of expecting a different type of book than what I read.