The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A book about a troubled young girl, of her love of flowers and their interpretation. Throughout her ups and downs she clings to this fierce passion for all things floral - but is it enough?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Macmillan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0230752580

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The story see-saws a chapter at a time between the teenage Victoria and the child Victoria. The book opens with (the teen) Victoria leaving foster care for good. She's been a difficult child to place so, now at 18, she is a troubled and angry young woman with many unsolved issues. The constant link has been Meredith, the loyal social worker. But Victoria now wants shot of the lot of them, Meredith included. Victoria can now be as free as a bird and do what she wants, when she wants. Bliss. Or is it?

And as early as page 5 we witness Victoria's love of flowers but perhaps more importantly the language of flowers and which gives the book its lovely title. Victoria relates her own life story to the readers and she tells us that For most of a decade I'd spent every spare moment memorizing the meanings and scientific descriptions of individual flowers, but the knowledge went mostly unutilized. But this vast knowledge is about to be put to the test - and also used.

Although surly and a bit grubby looking Victoria manages somehow to talk herself into a job with a local florist. Her passion and flair is obvious to the female shop owner so Victoria is hired on a casual basis. The next chapter takes us back ten years or so as Meredith (I can feel her weariness) tries - yet again, to place the young Victoria with yet another foster carer. Perhaps a little surprisingly, this carer is a single woman called Elizabeth. I say 'surprisingly' only because I'm thinking why would a woman on her own with a nice life and a nice career choose to take in a troubled girl.

And from day one Victoria causes, well, trouble - and lots of it. But in amongst all this bad behaviour Elizabeth and her young charge seem to be able to rub along and Diffenbaugh gives us plenty of detail of their rather quiet domestic life and routine. I don't want to come down hard at all on Victoria. I felt for her most of the time. She was abused and treated to various forms of cruelty by former so-called 'carers' in the past. How can she be expected to be a model of good behaviour and manners?

Victoria is also savvy. She thinks that this latest set-up with Elizabeth won't last. Why should it? None of the others did. For a lot of the time Victoria is out of control, she's like some feral cat - only worse, much worse.

The teenage Victoria now has a bit of cash courtesy of her job. But really, she's living on the edge of society. She's not really a fully paid up member. She doesn't care if she sleeps under a bush, for example. However, she does manage to upgrade herself to a poky room where she buries herself away like a hedgehog. Then she meets a young man at a local flower market and her life takes yet another turn. But is this a good turn, for a change?

The story itself is good and engrossing, if not exceptional. But what does raise the book to a higher level, I think, is the whole flower theme. I think Diffenbaugh will gain many fans with this book. Most of us can relate to the very basic: red roses = love. But then the whole flower world and its language is opened up to us. Diffenbaugh helpfully and cleverly adds a flower-meaning appendix. It's all enchanting and charming and it's a lovely touch. All in all, an entertaining read. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult.

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Buy The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh at


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