Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria Jones lives in San Francisco, where she has grown up in group care homes and has been passed from foster home to foster home, never managing to stay in one place for long. She has no family of her own. When she is ten years old she has her last chance at securing a foster placement, with a woman named Elizabeth. Moving forward several years, Victoria is leaving her last group home aged eighteen, and is now completely on her own in the world, without the support of her long-term care worker Meredith. In chapters alternating between the younger Victoria’s time spent living with Elizabeth, and what happens to Victoria from being eighteen and leaving the last group home, we learn about the experiences that have shaped her troubled youth and about how she now spends her days as an adult, including experiencing homelessness. As suggested in the title, the language of flowers plays a huge role in the novel. It is, or has been, a means of communication between various characters. For Victoria, flowers are the only things that she feels comfortable with, and through them she connects with life and with others. At the back of the novel is a brief flower dictionary for the reader, compiled by the author. This is a welcome addition to the book for the reader and I referred to it several times whilst I was reading the novel.

This is a moving, emotional novel. There is much sadness, but there is also hope. In particular, in Elizabeth and Renata, Victoria meets some kind souls who give her opportunities and chances to make steps into the world where it seemed like there would be none for her. I like the fact that the author has tackled motherhood from this angle, and her portrayal of how Victoria reacts. I also like the way she demonstrates through Victoria how hard and terrifying it can be to grasp potential future happiness and kindness if you have you not been used to it in the past and have come to feel that you must be undeserving of it.



  1. Good review. It is not something I think I would normally read and I haven't heard of this author before but if I saw one of her books I would maybe pick it up


  2. I'd never heard of this book before, but it sounds really good. The cover is gorgeous! Great review, thanks for sharing!

  3. Lainy, thanks, I think it is her first novel.

    Marie, thank you very much, it is a lovely cover, think it will be a popular book.

  4. Good review, book sounds good I have never heard of this author before, I'll look out for her.

    Thank you for joining my blog

  5. I've been hearing lots about this book - all good. Thanks for your input.

  6. Nicola, thanks for your comments and for following my blog :)

    Dana thanks again for visiting and for your comments :-)

  7. This is on my TBRS (to be read soon) pile and I can't wait to read it - great review, Lindsay. :-)

  8. Thanks so much Treez. I hope you enjoy it when you come to it.

  9. I read this book and thoroughly enjoyed that it was a relatively easy read. It had the right amount of drama, plot, and even romance for a young person who had grown up in an institutional system that left her feeling unloved. I especially loved the meaning of the flowers, which I think is a brilliant idea for a book. I also loved Victoria's passion for knowing and understanding them.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book.


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