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The Language of Flowers book review

Written By Franklin V on Friday, November 18, 2011 | 7:36 PM

Book: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages, Price: 318 pages, Rs 499

Nightmares are a fact of living - everyone has them in some form or the other, some connected to a dimly remembered past, others caused by present trauma, a few for no discernible reason at all. Victoria Jones is one of these people, never sure whether she can be happy, never quite convinced that she deserves to be. A tale told with a matter-of-fact narrative style that increments its poignancy, ending on a note that possibly sounds as if it could be touched with sunshine and last forever. 

The story begins when Victoria is being taken to a new home by Meredith, her social worker. Abandoned when she was born, Victoria knows no other person long term, since Meredith is the woman who drives her to and from the 32 foster homes she has lived in. There is perhaps just one constant - apart from the social worker - that the girl has: Elizabeth, who wanted to adopt her when she was 10 years old but could not. Elizabeth teaches Victoria how to speak a secret language that few can understand but can say more than any words can manage: the language of flowers. Yellow roses speak of infidelity, pansies demand 'speak to me', lavender signifies mistrust, while daffodils herald new beginnings. There is more that Victoria can say with flowers than she can ever voice, but who will understand what she wants them to hear? 

When she is 18, Victoria has to leave the group home and find shelter in a city park in San Francisco. She creates a small garden of her own there, but soon starts working with a florist and makes enough money to rent a tiny apartment. And she finds a kind of love with Grant, a man who grows and sells flowers. He sends her blooms instead of notes, saying more with flowers than with words. And Victoria is terrified, albeit intrigued; not wanting to open herself to emotion that could, eventually, end in pain, but needing the warmth and belonging that comes from a relationship. Skittishly, reluctantly, gradually, she too blossoms, learning how to love...but that too ends tragically. But from all sadness comes a tentative new bud of something that could be called hope. If allowed to grow, if cherished, if allowed to, it slowly becomes a flower. Victoria finds her home again with Grant, with Elizabeth, with the baby that she gave up, and starts becoming whole once more. 

Rooted in pain, sprinkled with predictability and wrought with clich├ęs, the book is still worth a read. The flowers and their meanings bring a fresh magic to the story, and even if Victoria is not a believable character, her life is described with a simple prose that is in itself touching and meaningful.
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