Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beach Read: THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, for the first time in my life this year I joined a book club.  Not a mystery-reading book club—that would be too comfortable--but a literary fiction-reading book club.  I needed expand my horizons and read something outside my genre of choice. I can honestly say that never in a million, billion, ga-zillion years would I have read this book of my own accord.  But I also have to say, as literary fiction goes, it wasn’t overly painful. 

Book Title: The Language of Flowers
Author:  Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Genre:  Literary Fiction
Setting:  San Francisco and surrounding area
Format:  Large print (not that I’m “that old”, I just clicked on the wrong version when I placed a reserve at the Library) hardcover edition
Pages:  524 (but remember, that’s the Large Print edition)
Publication date:  August, 2011
Publisher:  Thorndike Press, arranged with the Ballantine Publishing Group, a Division of Random House, Inc. 
Opening Line:  For eight years I dreamed of fire. 
Favorite Passage:  A bare lightbulb illuminated an empty blue room, blue as a painter’s palette on a boat in the middle of the sea, bright as illuminated water.  The carpet was white fur and almost looked alive.  There were no windows. The room was big enough to lie down in but not big enough for a bed or a dresser, even if I could have found one that fit through the small door.  One of the walls held a row of brass locks, and when I looked closer, I saw that the locks bridge the space between the wall and a full-size door.  Light seeped through the seam.  Natalya was right; this room was literally a closet. 

  Beach Read Rating: 3 out of 5 Beach Umbrellas


Review: Victoria, the protagonist of this tale, is a victim of the foster care system.  She has issues, which make her an emotional vacuum whose sole purpose in life seems to be to hurt people who are trying to help her.  The book seesaws back and forth between the child Victoria and the 18-year old Victoria as she aged-out of the foster care system.  The two stories are woven together with a bit of floral ribbon as the flashbacks focus primarily on one foster mother, Elizabeth, who taught child Victoria about the language of flowers, and how each flower has a meaning and can be used to send a message.  For instance, Mistletoe represents the message I surmount all obstacles.  The book includes a 15-page appendix of flowers and their meanings for those who are interested (I was not.)
          While this was a quick read, it was ponderous at times, full of anger and hate and distrust and more anger (there was too much anger) to make the protagonist likeable. You do feel sorry for her, but you’d be hard-pressed to like her.  This was more of a touch-feely book vice a humorous action book (my favorite) which is why I see it more of a rainy-March-Monday-curl-up-on-the-sofa read than a beach read.  It’s getting rave reviews on all the lists, so what do I know about literary fiction?  I’ll admit, not much.       

Flap Copy: 
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The 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.

1 comment:

Danmark said...

The Language of Flowers" is one of the saddest books I've read in quite a while. It is written beautifully, but beware, it's a very depressing tale of a girl abandoned by her parents at birth. The main character is self distructive and along the way, comes close to destroying the lives of those who come to love her. Although the author writes beautifully, her technique of moving back and forth in time, can be distracting and disrupts the flow of the characters' lives and relationships. This is a touching story that left me teary eyed at times and is a clear commentary on the needs of children whose parents leave them to fend for themselves in a system that is heartless and uncaring. If you want a little cry, read this book.