Florence’s book club: The Language of Flowers

This afternooon it’s Florence’s book club, returning with Rachel’s review of The Language of Flowersby Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I have a copy at home waiting for me to have spare time to read it and I’ve got high hopes so I’m looking forward to hearing what any others of you might think who have read it.

The next book is introduced at the bottom so make a note of it!

I really wanted to read this book. I’d heard lots about it, read good reviews by people whose opinion I trust plus a book about flowers and language, perfect. Yet…Like Victoria, our heroine, I was a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes loving it, sometimes bored, sometimes wondering what on earth could happen next and why was she spoiling something good in her life? It often felt that Victoria’s life seems to be getting better, have shoots of promise, making friends, working as a florist and then bang! Something else comes along and throws her story into another direction.

“I had loved, more than once. I just hadn’t recognised the emotion for what it was until I had done everything within my power to destroy it.”

The Language of Flowersis set in present day America, somehow I’d miss read the name Victoria and the role of the language of flowers in Victorian times, to think this would be a story passing between today and the Victorian era. It moves between the present day and probably 10 years earlier. Victoria’s traumatic life, unwanted from birth, sent from foster home to foster home until she turns 18 and has to fend for herself. From the beginning we know that she has been loved once but something terrible happened, this part of the story is slowly unravelled for us. We also know that somewhere along her journey she has discovered flowers, and the language of flowers.

“Now, as an adult, my hopes for the future were simple: I wanted to be alone, and to be surrounded by flowers. It seemed, finally, that I might get exactly what I wanted.”

I absolutely loved reading it in spring time as my new garden was coming to life. To feel and smell the flowers, see the buds of new life popping out whilst reading about characters who live, breathe and love flowers. To learn about the different meaning of flowers, at the back of the book is ‘Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers’. Victoria uses flowers to communicate. Her skill as a florist is partly in understanding her customers, their loves and lives, and choosing the flowers to express their hopes and dreams for when words have run dry, or when planning a wedding. There is a recurring theme about misinterpretation of definitions, how things aren’t always as they appear, meanings, and life, are not all as they seem. A rose is a rose is a rose…

“What does she mean, ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’?” I asked….
“That things just are what they are,” he said.
“’A rose is a rose.’”
“’Is a rose,’” he finished, smiling faintly.
I thought about all the roses in the garden below, their varying shades of colour and youth. “Except when it’s yellow,” I said. “Or red or pink, or unopened or dying.”

If you are planning a wedding, or recently have, flowers are important to you and are perhaps a worrier, now may not be the time to read this book. Some of our favourite wedding flowers appear to have uncomfortable meanings. This could also make planning your wedding flowers more fun, interesting or just add a different dimension. Or you could keep this in the world of fiction.

My final thoughts, when I was enjoying the story, had had a tough day at work, my brain and emotions ached from working too hard my first thoughts on commuting home were ‘oh good I can escape into The Language of Flowers – above twitter, blogs, and that says a lot about a book.

To try a development of Florence Finds Book Club and following on from conversations at Florence Finds London Afternoon Tea I wondered about whether to open up the discussion more. Please share your thoughts on this book but also any other novels about flowers or gardens that you’ve read and we can create a selection of recommended novels about flowers and gardens.

I don’t know about you but I like to read books about men and women, books set in the modern day to the distant past. I like reading a book that then prompts me to find out more about the subject by reading other books. This leads to our next Florence Finds Book Club. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. I don’t know very much about it but do know it’s about Ernest Hemmingway and his marriage, written from the perspective of his wife. I’m looking forward to finding out more about him, being tempted to perhaps read his autobiography A Moveable Feast and maybe being nudged into reading one of his novels. If reading this book doesn’t appeal then please think about fictional books you’ve enjoyed that are based on real people for when we meet again.

So, it’s time to hear from you! Have you read The Language of Flowers? Or can you make a similar recommendation? Maybe you love a certain flower for it’s meaning or chose/are choosing your wedding flowers for that reason? I’d love to hear…


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7 thoughts on “Florence’s book club: The Language of Flowers

  1. I must confess I haven’t read this month’s book – but I think I might give it a whirl after this post. It isn’t something I would choose for myself normally but I love discovering unexpected treats.
    Am super excited that the next book is The Paris wife though. Good Reads has been recommending it to me for a little while now (FYI if you haven’t been on Good Reads yet you should people!) so I’m going to pick up a copy ASAP so I can take part in the next discussion!

    Hollie x

  2. My Mum is very supersticious and when I was planning my wedding flowers I really loved the frothy look of lilac. Mum however thinks it is unlucky, not outside, just when brought into the house. I ended up driving poor Becky Hay mad with it and she eventually produced a book about the meaning of flowers and it turns out Lilac stands for a ‘broken engagement’. Needless to say, I did without the lilac!

    I do occasionally have some from her shop though in bouquets etc and love it. Touch wood, no problems so far 😉

    Looking forward to reading more from this book…

  3. I read this book a few weeks ago and loved it, so much so I finished it in about three days despite being a fairly slow reader. I’m quite glad I didn’t read it before my wedding though as I can imagine I might have turned into a bit of a nightmare choosing the flowers. Having read it I’m quite tempted to try and learn a bit more about the language of flowers (I may just use Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers from the end of the book!) and maybe plan my garden so it has a bit more meaning next year.

    • Emma your comment prompted me to look up the definitions of the seeds I’ve just planted.
      Sweet Peas – Delicate pleasures
      Poppies – Fantastic Extravagance
      What will you plant?

  4. Haven’t read this book yet, but definitely will now. I have read the Paris wife however and it’s fabulous. A real insight into a doomed love affair.
    I didn’t know much about Ernest Hemingway either but this book tells their story perfectly. Oh and it gave me a desperate need to go back to Paris!

  5. Hollie you have described the language of flowers brilliantly, it is an unexpected treat. It is really different but in a good way, one of those books you devour and then wish it wasn’t finished! Emma- like you I was so pleased I didn’t read it before my wedding though, I would have been a nightmare!
    The Paris wife- also immense, got so into the story I shouted at a character, that has never happened before! Both books highly recommended xxx
    Ps that shouting comment may make me sound slightly crazy, I’m not honestly! X

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