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Friday, September 02, 2011

The Language of Flowers

When I heard of this book, I was in two minds. I was most interested in reading the language of flowers that the story brings out. What excited me when I read the synopsis was that the protagonist Victoria plants her own flower garden. But I was apprehensive about the storyline fully expecting it to be a tearjerker. Also the size of the book was daunting.
However, the moment I started reading, I was drawn into the story line. Not only it unfolds the fascinating world of flowers to the readers, but it also tells a heartwarming story. Something that became totally unputdownable. I savoured every word in the book and didn’t want it to end!
The story alternates between 2 time spans from chapter to chapter. One that talks of the present- where Victoria is released from foster home at the age of 18 and is living on the streets and the other runs in flashback, covering ground on what happened before her present stage. The entire book is divided into 4 sections.
Victoria has spent her entire life in foster homes. She moved from one foster home to another, and ultimately finds herself living with Elizabeth, a single woman running a vineyard and an expert in the Victorian language of flowers. From Elizabeth she learns the precise language of flowers and gets her own dictionary of flowers.
Victoria is placed in Elizabeth’s home for a trial period of a year before formal adoption. She is distrustful and defensive, hates being touched, is wicked in her ways and seems to be having learning problems. Elizabeth has demons of her own to defeat. One by one, Elizabeth breaks her defenses and disciplines her in her own firm yet loving way. She home schools her above all, teaches her the language of flowers.
As the trial period comes to an end, Elizabeth gets cold feet. Meanwhile she is also on the verge of solving her own family problems. Victoria feels caught in the midst of these two changes in Elizabeth’s life and mistakenly connects the two incidents.
Things take a bad turn and Victoria is forced to move out into a group home.
Victoria moves out of group home at the age of 18. She lives in a corner in the park and has planted her own secret garden.
She applies for a job in a florist’s shop and puts her knowledge of language of flowers to use. She draws out people and they speak about their problems. She makes them bouquets that speak their heart and magically her clientele grows.
And amidst this there is a flower vendor who communicates with her using the secret language of flowers.
She discovers the connection between the vendor and her past life and their love blossoms. Together they consolidate a flower dictionary with pictures and meanings.
But soon, her old fears of disappointment in love catch up with her and she withdraws, despite the pain.
What follows is painful and heartbreaking. It also allows Victoria to banish her fears, come out of her childishness and become more responsible in her ways.
The book is as much about flowers as it is about the coming of age of the characters especially Victoria. Grant, the flower grower and vendor is too good to be true. Extremely loving and caring, he defies human behavior by being too nice in the face of disappointment and hurt.
A glossary at the end of the book summarises the meaning of flowers. Frankly I will never look at flowers in the same way as I did so far.
Highly recommended for a leisurely read, this book warms the heart in more ways than the obvious.

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