The Language of Flowers,Vanessa Diffenbaugh


The Language of Flowers: A Novel

Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

First Edition: Ballantine Books, 2011

Original language: English


The Language of Flowers begins with the emancipation of Victoria when she turns 18 years old and no longer has to live in a group or foster home.  Victoria is ill-equipped for life outside the system, having never remained in one place for long.  Combative and unattached, Victoria continually thinks about Elizabeth, the owner of a vineyard whom she lived with when she was ten years old, and who taught her all about the language of flowers.

As Victoria stumbles into the world and slowly and painfully begins to make a life for herself, her past and a youthful mistake continue to haunt her until she finally and agonizingly faces who she is and what she has done.  Victoria’s knowledge and love of flowers save her time and again, in a variety of ways.



“I’m talking about the language of flowers,” Elizabeth said.  “It’s from the Victorian era, like your name.  If a man gave a young lady a bouquet of flowers, she would race home and try to decode it like a secret message.  Red roses mean love; yellow roses infidelity.  So a man would have to chose his flowers carefully.”

“My mother taught me to prune thoroughly the second week of October, so we would always have roses for Thanksgiving.”

“I wanted her to carry hawthorn, laugh easily, and love without fear.”



I cried my eyes out reading this book.  I don’t know if I’m a little over-sensitive lately, but the description of Victoria’s relationships with the women in her life brought a tear to my eye.  I don’t want to give too much away, but this book was inspiring and beautiful.  I loved the flower theme and locations.  Even though parts of the story were ugly and sad, they seemed to be always framed with flowers and their beauty.

Victoria was not my favorite character, but I think that this was the author’s intent: to have the reader completely understand the character but not love her- because above anything else, Victoria does not want to be loved, and is a difficult person to love.  I loved Elizabeth and Grant, though.  And I loved how they cared about her.  I also really liked Renata and her mother, and the unspoken bond between women.

The book also has a flower dictionary at the end.

Great book, great story.

Some of Victoria’s Flowers:

white rose

white rose (Photo credit: dosbears)

White rose: a heart unacquainted with love

A Yellow Rose.

A Yellow Rose. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milk thistle

Milk thistle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Jonquils (Photo credit: aussiegall)

Jonquil: Desire


Moss (Photo credit: [luis])

Moss: Maternal love

Flowering (sweet) almond tree

Flowering (sweet) almond tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

lily of the valley Convallaria majalis

lily of the valley Convallaria majalis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lily of the valley: return of happiness

English: Hydrangea bloom, Stop Street In the l...

English: Hydrangea bloom, Stop Street In the language of flowers the Hudrangea can stands for frigidity and heartlessness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hydrangea: dispassion