Did you know that moss stands for maternal love? According to the Victorian dictionary of flowers, that is. Imagine putting a round of moss on the baby’s head before leaving her. That’s what the character, Victoria, in Venesa Diffenbaug’s book, The Language of Flowers, did.
The story is about the meaning of life told through the language of flowers. That a flower, a word can mean so much and replace the unnecessary. It is a lame simplification of the book really but that’s how I felt when I read the book. Sometimes words are too cheap. It is also a book about motherhood, friendship, love and family without convulusion and told simply. Mostly, it’s about the desire to have a child and the harsh reality of motherhood.
I often wondered about my mother, what she had in mind when she was pregnant and how she felt when the romanticism of being a mother met the harsh reality of motherhood. She made her choices and for years, I often asked myself if she ever loved me throughout the disintegration of our relationship till non-existence.
Then I read the book. The chapters alternates between Victoria at 10 years old and at 18 yers old. At 10, she was facing her last chance to be adopted and this is with Elizabeth who taught her the language of flowers. At 18, with no kin nor family since she was left at the orphanage as a baby, she was building her life with defiance with fierce defiance from social workers, the orphanage and the system. As a child without a mother, she was difyent, prickly. This is her way of hating herself when the eternal questions comes to mind. If your own mother does not love you, who else can?
Elizabeth turned out to be a patient and kind adoptive parent. Using the language of flowers, she own over the obstinate Victoria at 10 but the adoption did not go through. Cut to Victoria at 18, with her gift of flowers and a few kind people who were willing to give her a chance, she found a way to make a living. She in turn used her gift to help others.
The book is also littered with commercial breaks like a lady who came to Victoria looking for flowers ot help her love life. For that, she prescribed purple lilac, red roses and bounded with rosemary, first emotions of love, love and commitment. I have to say, I did the same last weekend but could not find rosemary.
It is a simple and strange book. The meaning of flowers alone makes it a curious read. What I most admired of this book is the author’s treatment of tricky relationships and her lack of attempt for a big bang ending to sugarcoat life or the temptation for a tragic ending that can turn into a tearjerker. The drama is kept in check and told simply, succinctly like the meaning of flowers. The characters and the future speaks for themselves, without any help for gimmicks. You just want to throw them a bunch of mistletoe, to surmount all obstacles.
As for me, I want tulips with baby’s breath. I won’t say what it means, you’ll have to read the book.