The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


10032672The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.


I don’t do contemporary literary fiction. There always seems to be tragedy on top of heartache, betrayals, pregnancies, and tears. I read to escape the awfulness of daily life so I’d rather not go there.

The Language of Flowers was introduced to me as a romance and confused my radar. On one hand, the idea of using the Victorian meanings of flowers (and the detailed dictionary in the back of the book) was appealing. On the other hand, once I got into the story complete with foster homes, abuse, and teenage pregnancies, I was out.

What caught my attention more than anything was the location. I lived in San Francisco for a couple of years so I knew every place Diffenbaugh mentioned. While most writers get overly specific she stuck to generalities in such a way that it was impossible to pin down the street corner, or even the decade the book is set. The action could have taken place any time from the 60s or 70s to the present day creating an ethereal, timeless quality.

So while I did not care for the book it’s due more to my own prejudices than to the quality of the work. If heartache is your sort of thing dig in!