Join BookBrowse today and get access to free books, our twice monthly digital magazine, and more.

Reviews of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers

A Novel

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh X
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2011, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2012, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

For eight years I dreamed of fire. Trees ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Indian and Carolina jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused.

Standing in the middle of the room, I located the source of the fire. A neat row of wooden matches lined the foot of the bed. They ignited, one after the next, a glowing picket fence across the piped edging. Watching them light, I felt a terror unequal to the size of the flickering flames, and for a paralyzing moment I was ten years old again, desperate and hopeful in a way I had never been before and would never be again.

But the bare synthetic mattress did not ignite like the thistle had in late October. It smoldered, and then the fire went out.

It ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?

  2. While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished often in her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her.  Why?

  3. Victoria and Elizabeth both struggle with the idea of being part of a family.  What does it mean to you to be part of a family?  What defines family?

  4. Why do you think Elizabeth waits so long before trying to patch things up with her long-lost sister Catherine?  What is the impetus for her to do so?

  5. The first week after her daughter’s birth goes surprisingly well for Victoria.  What is it that makes Victoria feel unable to care for her child after the week ends?&...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I would personally like to hand a red rose to Vanessa Diffenbaugh for her first novel. I loved it! She has managed to weave together her knowledge of the meaning of flowers with an in-depth look at the foster care system, weddings, marriage, heartbreak, and mending fences (Barbara S)...continued

Full Review (525 words)

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Washington Post - Brigitte Weeks
This novel is both enchanting and cruel, full of beauty and anger. Diffenbaugh is a talented writer and a mesmerizing storyteller. She includes a flower dictionary in case we want to use the language ourselves. And there is one more sprig I should add to her bouquet: a single pink carnation (I will never forget you).

The Scotsman
While Diffenbaugh's to be admired for not making Victoria a household saint, this novel, with its gooey fairy-tale ending, is more cherry blossom (impermanence) and violet (modest worth) than gentian (intrinsic worth) and laurel (glory and success).

Booklist
Starred Review. Enchanting, ennobling, and powerfully engaging, Diffenbaugh's artfully accomplished debut novel lends poignant testimony to the multitude of mysteries held in the human heart.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Fans of Janet Fitch's White Oleander will enjoy this solid and well-written debut, which is also certain to be a hit with book clubs.

Publishers Weekly
Struggling against all and ultimately reborn, Victoria Jones is hard to love, but very easy to root for.

Author Blurb Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
Devastating, hopeful, and beautifully written, The Language of Flowers is a testament to the tender mercies and miraculous healing power of love.

Author Blurb Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
The Language of Flowers gives us new definitions of human compassion in all its forms. Bouquets of laurel and trumpet vine await this beautifully arranged story!

Author Blurb Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you've burned every bridge behind you, The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition. I loved this book.

Author Blurb Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama
This hope-soaked, glorious book speaks to every once-broken, cracked, or poorly mended heart about the risks we take to heal, to be fully human, to truly connect. An astonishingly assured debut.

Author Blurb Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key
This heartbreaking debut novel about mothers and daughters, love, and the secret significance of flowers had me weeping with emotion and wonder. Victoria Jones is an unforgettable heroine and you will never look at flowers the same way again.

Reader Reviews

Cathryn Conroy

A Poignant, Thoughtful, and Insightful Book That Will Keep You Reading Far Past Your Bedtime
This book is so much more than a story about flowers. This is a book about what it means to love a child and the truly horrible things that happen to a child who is not loved—not enough food, no proper clothing, and worst of all, no self-esteem or ...   Read More
D. V. C.

Favorite Book
The use of flowers to describe Victoria's life is breathtaking.
Rosebolo

Stunning
A simply gorgeous read that was riveting & engaging from the very beginning. It had me pondering the significance of what it means to be a mother or a daughter. Stayed with me for days & captured my heart forever. By far one of the best ...   Read More
Anne Cater

Beautiful
What a beautiful book, both the story itself and the actual book. The cover is a stunning design, and different parts of the story have front pages with gorgeous calligraphy - it really is beautifully designed and presented. The subject of the ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Victoria's Dictionary of Flowers

While researching the symbolism of various plants for her novel, Vanessa Diffenbaugh The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh discovered that, "nearly every flower had multiple meanings, listed in hundreds of books, in dozens of languages, and on countless websites." This left her with the challenge of determining which meanings were most "correct," or at the very least, most relevant to her work.

With great care, Diffenbaugh researched the scientific definitions of many plants and herbs, and she learned how various flora came to hold social significance. She explains:

"Lining up dictionaries on my dining room table... I scanned the meanings, selecting the definition that best fit the science of each flower, just as [her character...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Language of Flowers, try these:

  • Watch Over Me jacket

    Watch Over Me

    by Nina LaCour

    Published 2022

    About this book

    More by this author

    Nina LaCour delivers another emotional knockout with Watch Over Me, the much-anticipated follow-up to the Printz Award-winning We Are Okay.

  • There There jacket

    There There

    by Tommy Orange

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More by this author

    Fierce, angry, funny, heartbreaking - Tommy Orange's first novel is a wondrous and shattering portrait of an America few of us have ever seen, and it introduces a brilliant new author at the start of a major career.

We have 17 read-alikes for The Language of Flowers, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Clear
    Clear
    by Carys Davies
    John Ferguson is a principled man. But when, in 1843, those principles drive him to break from the ...
  • Book Jacket: Change
    Change
    by Edouard Louis
    Édouard Louis's 2014 debut novel, The End of Eddy—an instant literary success, published ...
  • Book Jacket: Big Time
    Big Time
    by Ben H. Winters
    Big Time, the latest offering from prolific novelist and screenwriter Ben H. Winters, is as ...
  • Book Jacket: Becoming Madam Secretary
    Becoming Madam Secretary
    by Stephanie Dray
    Our First Impressions reviewers enjoyed reading about Frances Perkins, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's ...

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket
Half a Cup of Sand and Sky
by Nadine Bjursten
A poignant portrayal of a woman's quest for love and belonging amid political turmoil.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The House on Biscayne Bay
    by Chanel Cleeton

    As death stalks a gothic mansion in Miami, the lives of two women intertwine as the past and present collide.

  • Book Jacket

    The Flower Sisters
    by Michelle Collins Anderson

    From the new Fannie Flagg of the Ozarks, a richly-woven story of family, forgiveness, and reinvention.

Win This Book
Win The Funeral Cryer

The Funeral Cryer by Wenyan Lu

Debut novelist Wenyan Lu brings us this witty yet profound story about one woman's midlife reawakening in contemporary rural China.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

M as A H

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.