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Flower Power   2 comments

It’s difficult to like a character who doesn’t like herself, especially when
as a reader it is just as easy to see the positive qualities as the foibles.
Victoria Jones is Vanessa Diffienbaugh’s problematic protagonist in The
Language of Flowers.

Granted, Victoria has every right to be troubled. Abandoned at birth, in
and out of foster care most of her life, and emancipated at age 18, she has
no skills or acknowledged support system. Yet, on those few occasions
when things do go her way, Victoria is a master of sabotage.

However, this is no victim of the system story. Rather, it a poignant look
at what makes a family (for better or worse) and how people communicate
when words fail. There is, in fact, a language associated with flowers. It’s
known as floriography. Each flower has a meaning that goes beyond its
shape, color or bloom. Victoria knows this, and her knowledge isn’t just
a marketable skill, but a way for her to express herself.

Ironically, Victoria is the narrator. The short chapters alternate between
her past, which includes life in foster homes, group homes and a near-miss
adoption, and her life as an 18-year-old trying to survive alone on the streets
of San Francisco.

Unfortunately, Diffenbaugh throws in a few clichés, like the over-extended
social worker, and abandons several likeable characters. Nonetheless, this
novel is a bouquet of peonies, primrose, ginger, mustard, moss, amaryllis
and fennel. They may seem an unusual grouping, but Victoria reflects all
their meanings.

The Language of Flowers
Three Bookmarks
Ballentine Books, 2011
322 pages (including “Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers”)

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2 responses to “Flower Power

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  1. Going to have to add this to my growing list of books “to read next!”

  2. Ok, four months later and I finally read it! Yes, I loved the language and thought it was a very good first novel. I didn’t want to put it down, even when the plot slowed two thirds through, and I would recommend to my fellow book club members. Thanks for opening my eyes to this author.

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