The Language of Flowers

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Macmillan) 978-0-230-75258-0

 

I’ve always had a problem with lavender. In fact, I’m allergic to it. I learnt in The Language of Flowers that lavender means mistrust.

 

This book is beautifully written. I have a new understanding of the Victorian language of flowers: ivy for fidelity, marigold for grief, honeysuckle for devotion, sunflowers for false riches, asters for patience, and red roses for love.

 

There are two stories that run in sequential chapters. Victoria Jones’s year spent with the foster mother she comes to love, and Victoria’s life now as an 18-year-old.

 

Abandoned at birth, Victoria’s childhood was spent in the foster care system of California. She arrives at her final foster parent’s home as a hurt, starving nine-year-old.

 

Middle-aged Elizabeth was rejected by her mother for not being a boy, who it was believed had the nose required for winemaking. She proves her mother wrong but never wins her love. Her elder sister inherits the flower farm, she inherits the vineyard.

 

Elizabeth and Victoria weave a relationship through flowers - their meanings, and their seasons. The year of learning to love and trust is forever destroyed by one final desperate act of a 10-year-old girl.

 

Victoria at 18 is released from the state system and sleeps in a public park, cultivating her own garden. Renata, a florist, recognises her talent and gives her a part-time job. Victoria makes magic with floral arrangements and becomes known for her healing bouquets. She meets Grant, a ghost from the past, at the flower market and they begin a relationship. But Victoria cannot accept love, and leaves him just when she should stay.

 

With the help of a baby named Hazel, which means reconciliation, Elizabeth, Grant and Victoria confront their past and start to heal their present.

 

This novel was the subject of a nine-publisher auction. Dubbed the Chocolat of 2011, it will be released in August. Highly recommended.  

 

Amanda Patterson

4.5/5

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