The Language of Flowers (2011) is set in San Francisco. The narrator, Victoria Jones, is an 18-year-old girl, whose childhood in foster care has left her mistrustful of the world, so every word, thought, and emotion towards others is now expressed through flowers – the language of flowers.
Throughout her young life, she has been reading botany textbooks from the library and ‘thin paperback volumes of Victorian poetry stolen from quiet bookstores.’ Shakespeare was particularly bountiful with floral images. Each flower, and often each colour, had a meaning: red roses for love, rosemary for remembrance, poppies for imagination, and almond blossoms for hope.
Victoria is about to move into a three-month rent-free room near the ocean: ‘Wrapped in the opaque moisture of the coast, plants grew bigger, brighter, and wilder, eclipsing lower fences and garden sheds.’ Her plan is to find a job to pay the rent. But first, she decides to grow a garden.
A florist hires Victoria for weekend work. And life changes for Victoria. She fulfils wedding orders, and prepares flowers for love, gratitude blooms, and regular bunches for table displays. Flowers bring people together, and say more than people can.
This story is interesting and compelling, featuring floral descriptions and meanings that reflect Victoria’s life, new love, and customers. Victoria’s tough background and teenage life, with its inability to relate in the real word, are softened through the romance of flowers.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls