36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
A good enough book with a bad central character,
This review is from: The Language of Flowers (Kindle Edition)
I was interested in this book because of the unusual subject matter and, having some experience working with young people who have been abused/in care, I wanted to see how this young woman's life would develop.
I continued to find the subject itself interesting and would happily read more on this once-popular topic. However, I think I am in the same boat as several others who, despite enjoying the book itself, just didn't warm to Victoria. It's hard to explain - I wouldn't necessarily warn anyone off reading the book, but I do think many readers will struggle to relate to someone who, regardless of the allowances we could make for her difficult start in life, presents as an unlikeable and unsympathetic character.
The point is, Victoria DOES have people in her life who care very much for her and who give her unconditional love and support, often inexplicably, as few of these people have any obvious motivation for doing so. For example:
Renata - happy to allow this sneering, scruffy stranger to lollop about her shop, risking her livelihood and paying over the odds for the privilege. Sticking around to support Victoria and her new baby when this help is consistently thrown back in her face. Continues to be a friend even when Victoria blatantly sets up a rival business to hers! Huh??
Grant - attracted to this stroppy thing who does everything she can to make herself look unattractive, and continues to pursue her even when she blows him out over and over again.
Elizabeth - appears to be in desperate need of some therapy for abandonment issues of her own, nonetheless channels all her love into the young Victoria, cultivating a bond between the two of them to the point where Victoria finally feels like she has a home... then for NO apparent or believable reason, Elizabeth decides to balls up the one thing that will cement Victoria's security and happiness. This part of the book really made me angry and was a particularly weak plot device on which much of the storyline seemed to hang.
As I said, having worked with vulnerable young people I am only too aware of how much they can lash out at life and seemingly want to hurt those who would give them what they fundamentally crave. However, this is not really explored in any depth and Victoria seemingly falls on her feet by the end. With no effort whatsoever, she creates a successful business of her own, yet leaves another vulnerable young person in total charge of it while she hides in bushes (not a joke!) and does nothing to credit the poor girl for all her hard work!
Additionally, having hidden both her pregnancy and birth, and refused all medical attention, Victoria manages to avoid the inevitable knock on the door from Social Services/the police and instead, fobs the child off - unattended for hours - to the baby's father who, hitherto, had been told nothing of his daughter's existence! He goes along with this without so much as a 'WTF??!' and forgives Victoria for everything, leading to a highly contrived happyish ending.
Admittedly, a sad ending to this tale would have been even more unsatisfactory, but it just felt that there was no character arc for Victoria, no journey of redemption whereby she could resolve her inner demons and accept the love that was there. I finished this book feeling very much like Victoria herself - as an outsider looking in with no vested interest in the outcome.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Jan 2013, 14:07:19 GMT
Miss H. J. Burrell says:
Couldn't have put it better myself. Sums up my thoughts exactly!
In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jan 2013, 12:37:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Jan 2013, 12:41:26 GMT
You have missed the point, it doesn't matter what other people think about her, she did not start her life this way the system made her what she became, and it is inside her head that the trouble is, she believes that she is worthless and nobody can possible care for her, because that is what the system has taught her, she has put her trust in people many times and failed and now cannot believe anyone can be trusted. Beleive me there are people out there who are just like her that have been damaged for life by the care system, but society still does not notice or care about them. The babys farther does not question her actions because he is one of the few people who does understand her. I myself am a very happy person and have had a very secure happy family life, but I know people like Victoria and beleive me it is very hard to gain their trust or become their friend, because they do not think they are worth anything. Well done to the auther for takling this very difficult problem.
In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jan 2013, 13:28:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Jan 2013, 13:30:52 GMT
Ella Belakovska says:
No, you have missed my point. I am well aware of how a child being passed from pillar to post in care can develop into a mistrusting and angry young person. I outlined this in my review. My criticism of the novel is that there is no resolution for Victoria. Her experiences after life in care do not appear to make any difference to the way she views the world, so what is the point of the story? My other criticism was the way the other key characters related to her. Their behaviours veered from 'gluttons for punishment' to completely inexplicable.
Had the author wanted to highlight the fact that some people with a history of life in care can never break that cycle of disappointment and distrust, it would have been far more realistic had Victoria fallen in with less caring and well-meaning folk. In my experience, young people with Victoria's background are far more likely draw the attention of those who would take advantage of her vulnerability, thus exploiting her and reinforcing the beliefs.
Ultimately, what happened with Victoria was neither one thing or the other. It was wholly fantastical that she would have somehow built up a successful business based on the way she ran her affairs. We met her as someone who had no faith left in humankind with a total apathy for life... and that is where we left her at the end of the book. Despite the journey she has been on and the changes that have happened, there is no character arc, no redemption, no shifting attitude. So really, what was the point??
Posted on 28 Oct 2016, 08:03:17 BST
Annie W says:
Brilliant review and response to criticism. Thank you very much.
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