The Language of Flowers is narrated by Victoria, whose story alternates between a challenging past as a foster child and a present in which she struggles to get by as young woman, recently sent out on her own by her long-time social worker, Meredith. Victoria is challenged by memories she believes have come together to define her personality and change her life. Her stories flow together to explain how an orphan who moved from one foster home to another eventually arrived at her ideal home and found love with a woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth teaches her to express emotion through the Victorian “language of flowers.” While Victoria’s struggles with poverty and loneliness are interesting, the outcomes were expected and predictable, while the concept of the language of flowers was ultimately the highlight of the text.
From the onset of this story, a reader doesn’t expect a book which was praised as heart-warming and romantic to be the sad story of foster child, moving from one home to another, year after year, unhappy, confused and alone. I wanted a different protagonist, with more initiative for change, despite what I knew about Victoria’s upbringing and how it might lead to negative future behaviors. Her past unfolds and reasons for her solitude are revealed. But none of it was a surprise, and both people involved and outcomes were too easy to decipher.
As story shifted from past to present, Diffenbaugh interweaves significance of the language of flowers into Victoria’s life. Her foster mother Elizabeth had once taught her to use this language, and Victoria had continued the tradition as a young adult, working at a flower shop preparing bouquets. She remembers first learning how Victorians used dictionaries to express ideas and emotions with flowers; each one had a corresponding meaning. Along with the author’s first explanation of the language of flowers, my expectations for its incorporation into the text were high. In the end I didn’t love the story that was attached to the brilliant idea.
I believe that this was a decent story, that many people might enjoy. It may not have warranted the criticism I gave it, but it was not the story I wanted to read when I read it. I guess I just wanted a different kind of love story and romance than was attached to idea of the language of flowers.
Final Star Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars