The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. ~Randomhouse.com
Book Club Ideas
Here are some great do-it-yourself floral invitation kits that you can send to your book club guests (click on the picture for more information and to purchase).
Once you read The Language of Flowers, you will inevitably become more conscientious about the meaning of flowers. As I searched for invitations I came across some disturbing wedding invitations. There were some with hydrangeas (dispassion), peonies (anger) and lavender (mistrust).
I used the glossary in the back of the book to find flowers that would welcome your guests and help set the mood for your book club party:
- Angelica: Inspiration
- Bouvardia: Enthusiasm
- Celandine: Joys to come
- Cowslip: Pensiveness
- Daisy, Gerber: Cheerfulness
- Freesia: Lasting friendship
- Lupine: Imagination
- Parsley: Festivity
- Peppermint: Warmth of feeling
- Starwort: Welcome
|For more flower ideas you can use the companion book to The Language of Flowers called A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby with a foreword by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This would be a fun book to have on the coffee table during your book club.|
Book Club Menu
Victoria chose the 5 foods she would want to eat for the rest of her life:
- Donuts, assorted, with an emphasis on maple
- Roasted chicken
- Butternut squash soup
Your book club menu can begin with this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, which is adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soups and Stews. This recipe has a touch of tartness from the addition of the Granny Smith apple. Delicious!
The main dish can be Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Rosemary. I tried to follow the dish made by one of the characters, Grant, in the book:
“He got out a baking sheet and washed the potatoes, then cut them into cubes and sprinkled on rosemary. Putting them on the tray with the chicken, he rubbed the whole thing with olive oil, salt and spices from a small jar.”
For some other floral ideas, here are some picture from our book club party for The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.
Book Club Resources
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 4.06 stars (134,509 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.4 stars (4186 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 4.3 stars (72 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4.5 stars. I felt Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s experience as a foster mother really came through in her writing and I have gained a new appreciation for flowers and their meanings. Even though Victoria made many poor decisions throughout the book, I found myself still rooting for her until the end.|
- Have your book club guests discuss their favorite flowers and their meanings.
- What flowers did your guests have in their wedding bouquets? Look up the meaning of each of the flowers. Are they surprised by the messages their bouquet was sending? Discuss other times you have given or received flowers and what the meaning of those flowers are.
- Vanessa Diffenbaugh was 23 and single when she took in 4 foster kids and this experience changed her life. Was there an event in your life that impacted who you are today? Did you know it would have such an effect on your life?
- Despite her flaws, do you think Victoria is a likeable character? Which of her characteristics do you admire?
- Maternal relationships is one of the themes in this novel. Discuss the relationships between mothers and daughters, as well as the caretakers and foster children in this novel.
- If you have experience with the foster care system, did you feel like The Language of Flowers was an accurate portrayal? How can the foster care system be improved?
- Discuss the significance of this simple sentence: “Moss grows without roots.”
Purchase The Language of Flowers at the following booksellers
To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experience as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel. ~from the book cover
Here is Vanessa talking about the inspiration for her book:
Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Isis Dallis Keigwin started Camellia Network, whose mission is to form a community of donors to help provide the critical support young people need to transition from foster care to adulthood. Camellia means My Destiny is in Your Hands.
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for The Language of Flowers? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.