Monday, 18 June 2012
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I liked The Language of Flowers because of the main character, Victoria herself. I've read many a review of this book where the reviewer bemoans the fact that Victoria isn't likeable and that her actions don't make sense. And it's true - Victoria is a frustrating, passive individual who makes noises about wanting to improve her life but waits for said life to fall in her lap, that's if she's not busy pushing away people who care about her and rejecting opportunities. To a functional adult, this makes no sense. But I didn't mind that Victoria wasn't likeable or function because she was believable.
I don't teach children of Victoria's age but I've taught a few younger versions of her and for me, her character was completely plausible and I felt sorry for her. As a child she was violent to others and as an adult she's defensive and closed to the point where she can't relate to the people around her, even Renata, who offers her a job, and Grant, who tries to love her. She has many chances of happiness but at least early in the book, she throws them all away. I liked that Diffenbaugh chose such a complex individual to write about and think that she had some important points to make about the foster system and how a life lived in it can effect a person.
I found The Language of Flowers to be a gripping read. Diffenbaugh intersperses chapters about Victoria at eighteen with chapters about the time she spent at ten with the woman who nearly adopted her. I enjoyed both storylines and found the book hard to put down, even though at times it was like watching a car crash. The novel was effectively written and pacy, but the writing was secondary to the story and the story took a backseat to character development.
My only criticism is that things improved for Victoria too quickly; I don't think there's many eighteen year olds fresh out of the care system that have the opportunities that she does and I don't think there are many of us that learn to change the habits of a lifetime like Victoria did, even if she took her time to do so. I thought her character development was well written, but maybe overly optimistic. There's thousands of Victoria's out there that don't make it.
Source: Library (reserved)
First Published: 2011
Score: 4.5 out of 5