December 10, 2013

Book Review: Language of Flowers

Jonquils, the flower of desire
Since I have been writing about a lot of heavy topics lately, I am going to take a post to talk about something that makes me really happy.  One of the books I read this year and really enjoyed is called The Language of Flowers (2011) by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  The plot revolves around this woman, Victoria, who has come out of a painful past.  She was a foster child who only remembers one positive home experience.  She lived with this woman for a time who wanted to adopt her, but after a myriad of events involving this woman's own past, Victoria ends up moving on to the next home instead of with the woman she almost considered to be her mother.

Victoria is now emancipated from the foster care system, but has nowhere to go.  She ends up living homeless in a park.  She honestly feels more comfortable by herself, so it feels safer there.  Her path towards healing and love begins because this park is near a flower shop.  Victoria ends up getting hired to make floral arrangements.  The boss is very impressed with her skills.  But the business takes off like crazy when Victoria begins using her knowledge of the language of flowers to make special bouquets for her customers that say just the right thing.

This language of flowers thing is nothing new. 
It has been around for hundreds of years and was especially popular during the 19th century.  I am guessing this art will reappear after this wonderful, touching book.  Basically, each flower has a certain meaning, and you can say a lot by choosing just the right flowers.  The idea was that back in the Victorian times, sexual repression was quite high.  If I remember correctly, they used to put tablecloths over pianos and tables because the legs looked too much like women's legs.  Since you couldn't talk about passionate feelings, the language of flowers allowed someone to express their affections without having to say them out loud.  Here's an example of a flower dictionary.  One of my favorite parts in the novel happens when Victoria gives a woman a bouquet with jonquils.  The customer is a single lady who wants to meet her love.  Victoria gives her the jonquils and soon she is engaged.

I have honestly never been much of a flower person.  One of the reasons for this is that I never saw it meant much of anything.  There seems to be this thing in our culture that guys will give you flowers, but how much thought goes into it?  Sure, they might go and pick out a flower and see it's a pretty color, but it makes me feel all fluttery to think of someone taking the time to pick out a flower that gives a secret message just for me.

I want this art to re-appear.  There are way too many rose bouquets going around.  When is the last time you received some spider flowers (elope with me) or an orange mock (deceit)?  Yes, you don't have to use flowers for expressing positive emotions.  You can also send them to say, "Aha, I see what you've done, you louse."  Anyway, give it a try.  Next time you want to wish someone well, try using the language of flowers instead of relying on the tried and true roses and daisies you always go for.

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