Saturday, March 1, 2014

Speaking the Language

In The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Victoria is an orphan who was given up by her parents as an infant.  She floated between foster families until she was finally deemed to be unadoptable as a preteen.  When she was 10, Victoria was living with a woman named Elizabeth, who owned a vineyard.  Elizabeth had family problems of her own.  Her sister lived next door to her, on a flower farm, but they hadn't spoken in years.  Elizabeth and her sister were separated at a young age, but they learned the language of flowers so that they could write to each other, and their mother wouldn't know what they were saying even if she intercepted their notes.

In the Victorian era, people communicated through flowers, with specific flowers or colors of flowers representing specific words.  The yellow rose plays an important role in The Language of Flowers.  That flower is first said to mean "infidelity", but then later to possibly mean "jealousy".  Obviously, those meanings are very different, so it is important that the people communicating are using the same flower dictionary as a reference.  Elizabeth teaches Victoria the language of flowers.  Once Victoria becomes an adult and ages out of the foster and group home system, her knowledge of flowers allows her to find work as the assistant to a florist, Renata. 

Victoria is quickly in demand, as her bouquets are believed to bring out the qualities in the recipient that the giver is hoping to see.  Soon she is surprised when someone at the wholesale flower market begins to send her messages in the language that she believed only she could speak.

When I started listening to this book, I couldn't help but think back to White Oleander by Janet Fitch.  I mean, we had a foster child and flowers having secret powers that make them essential to the story.  The Language of Flowers is a completely different story, however, and is focused much less on Victoria's foster care nightmares than on her relationship failures.  Again and again Victoria has been let down, and has let down the people around her.  Though she knows how to fix her customers' relationships, she has no idea what to do with her own.

I loved listening to this story in audio form.  It was read by Tara Sands, and I can't imagine Victoria with any other voice.  While I was happy listening to the book, I got a little jealous when my friend, Kim, mentioned that the paper form of the book includes a flower glossary at the back.  As crazy as it sounds, I really want a flower dictionary after reading this book.  Not that I give people a lot of flowers, but I'd sort of like to know what messages I am sending with the perennials I've planted outside of my house.  Have I cursed us?  Should I plant something else to insure good health and eternal happiness?  There is a companion book to The Language of Flowers called A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby, with a forward by Diffenbaugh, that I'd like to own. 

Since I listened to this book in audio form, and checked it out of the library, I am counting this one for both the Audiobook and the I Love Library Book Challenges.

In Other News:   I turned 44 yesterday!  Yep, I did.  Recently I stumbled onto this obituary that got me thinking.  Remember?  I'm an estate planning attorney.  I read more obituaries than the average person!  Anyhow, I really liked this one.  In case you don't feel like clicking on the link above, it is an obituary of Toshiko d'Elia, who you, like me, have probably never heard of.  D'Elia is described as a "Gritty Runner" in the headline of the obituary.  The interesting thing is that she took up marathon running when she was 44, and was so good at it that she is remembered for it 40 years later.  Now I've talked before about Julia Child, and how awesome it is that her career as we know it began when she was in her 40s.  But an athlete?  To begin that late?  Amazing, and inspirational.  I'll just have to think of something besides running that I can start.

Next Up on CD:  The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Still Reading:  Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  I'm tearing through this one.  You'll be hearing more about it soon!

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