Before coming to this book, I had an interest in the Victorian language of flowers - I have two beautiful Victorian books on the subject already. I was intrigued to find out how an author would use this folklore to develop and add to a story. I was also expecting the story to be a little bit like Joanne Harris's CHOCOLAT, only with flowers instead of chocolates. What I discovered with THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS was something more.
The main character, Victoria, has grown up moving from one foster home to another. As a young girl, she is alone; angry at everyone and recoiling from the touch of others. Just before she turns ten, Victoria goes to live with Elizabeth and it is shut who teaches Victoria the language of flowers. Fast-forward to when Victoria turns eighteen, she is alone (again), with only her gift of floristry behind her. When a florist discovers the gift Victoria has, she not only offers her a job, but sets her onto a path which will culminate in her past catching up with her.
That is a very brief, vague outline of the plot. I don't want to give too much away with this novel. Diffenbaugh tackles a lot of themes - identity, love, family, motherhood and forgiveness to name a few. And throughout all of these, the Victorian language of flowers is used as a way for Victoria to express her emotions. Yet, even though the heart of this novel lies within the language and sentiment of flowers, there is nothing 'flowery' about this book. Diffenbaugh does not shy away from the darker side of human life and relationships - the selfishness of love, the fear of motherhood.
I really enjoyed this debut. I would recommend it to others and I will look at what Diffenbaugh has to offer next.
I may also go and add to my own collection of botany books, especially ones which look at the lanaguage of flowers. . .