Consider this post a gift of a velvety, geranium. The geranium, in the Victorian language of flowers, means, “esteem”, and in high esteem is how I hold you, dear readers. In Victorian Europe men would present women with flowers and plants, each of which held a secret meaning depending on the variety and color, from the red rose (meaning love) to the marigold (meaning grief). Women would get flowers and rush to decode the secret message meant for them. Some would induce delight and some would crush hearts.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is delightful and crushing. It’s a beautiful tale of love, forgiveness and redemption. Victoria is a young woman who has aged out of foster care after spending her entire childhood bouncing from foster homes to group homes. While she is horrible at making connections with others, she comes alive in dealing with any flora. In her most important family placement, Victoria learns about the language of flowers and that language is more honest and tangible than any verbal communication she has ever known. She clings to the language of flowers and her passion for gardening all while trying to grow new relationships and weed out past mistakes.
The character of Victoria is hauntingly flawed but we sympathize with her inability to make friends and I found myself touched by her emotional honesty and celebrated her every small victory. In this novel, the language of flowers turns Victoria from a thistle and basil patch (misanthropy and hate) to a fennel and hyacinth bouquet (strength and forgiveness).
I loved this book with its flawed but gentle characters and the breath-taking descriptions of various plants and flowers and their meanings. The author even included an index of the meanings of many of the most well-known flowers and I admit, I spent an hour perusing that index and making mental notes of several of my favorites.
I highly recommend this novel and will certainly keep my eyes open for anything else from Vanessa Diffenbaugh. In the language of flowers, I would give her a white Dianthus, meaning, talented.