Join Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of the women’s fiction book, The Language of Flowers (Ballantine Books, August 23, 2011), as she virtually tours the blogosphere in September on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!
About the book…
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster 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 that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question 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.
About the author…
Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.
You can visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website at www.VanessaDiffenbaugh.com.
The Language of Flowers is a truly unique tale in which the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, tells a back story in alternating chapters within the context of her current plot. It is a literary device that works as we see Victoria’s life at 10 in a wonderful pre-adopt home with a single woman named Elizabeth and alternately at age 18 being emancipated from a terrible group home. Why didn’t Elizabeth adopt Victoria? How did she wind up back in the system? And what is the language of flowers?
The need to answer the first two questions and interest in the language of flowers itself, drove me straight into the plot of this book. Everything about Victoria’s personality and demeanor is “hard”–she is quiet, full of anger, full of contempt for the world. Yet she tenderly cares for flowers–their names, their “definitions” (apparently yellow roses don’t mean “friendship”), and helping people with their own issues by making meaningful bouquets when she manages to snag a job at a flower shop. Her social awkwardness is excused by her innate ability to match flowers to people’s needs.
Despite her love for flowers and plants, Victoria isn’t “girly” and I adore that about her. She doesn’t care how she dresses, if she smells, or how much she eats–even in front of guys! She is a refreshing protagonist, who at times, isn’t even likable. But as the reader comes to know Victoria and as Victoria comes to know herself, there is an increasing awareness of the depth and softness of her character. Though there is a romance in Victoria’s life, this book is far from romantic. Even though the world “flower” is in the title, this book isn’t flowery.
It wasn’t until I stayed up way past midnight finishing The Language of Flowers that I discovered “Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers” in the back of the book. Apparently, Diffenbaugh spent hours pouring over various conflicting Victorian definitions of flowers to compose this dictionary, even consulting with botanists. It would seem as if the author herself puts the same detail into her work as her characters put into the tedious task of growing flowers. The Language of Flowers is an excellent book, full of emotion, characters that have dimension, and a fresh premise in a world of tired story lines.
Visit Pump Up Your Book! to read an excerpt from The Language of Flowers.
*With thanks to Pump Up Your Book!, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and Ballantine Books for the review copy of this book.*
Have you ever heard of the Victorian “language of flowers”? (I hadn’t until I read this book!) Does this sound like something you’d read–why or why not? What do you find interesting about The Language of Flowers? If you read the book, what did you think?