The Language of Flowers: A Novel

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The narrative in this book is all from the main character's POV, and moves back and forth in time, though it's all told from her present-sense perception. Through such a narrow lens, it takes a while to get a picture of what's going on. I found it necessary but painful to pull away into a 3rd person observer position-- or even put the book down-- to try and get some distance from how hard it is to be inside Victoria's head.


Victoria has had a hard life when we meet her at age 18, it's affected her deeply, leaving her damaged in ways that aren't spelled out right away; the narrative goes back and forth as she eventually and painfully figures out how to live a life in a world that's inhabited by other people. The formal device of Victoria's relating to the world through the language of flowers, of using it as a way to communicate when other ways are so hard, and the ways in which her using that language (and learning that there are dialects, too) change over the course of the book are an important framing device when the main character is trying to hide from admitting how damaged she is. It's also a beautiful metaphor, and one that might have been strained with another character or by another author. Here, with Victoria, with the life that she's lived-- it simply makes sense-- and I'll never look at a bouquet of flowers quite the same way again.