Throughout the Victorian Era, flowers were used to express romantic sentiments, including honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience and red roses for love, according to Random House.
But in Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel “The Language of Flowers,” the main character Victoria Jones uses this flowery symbolism to express feelings of sadness, mistrust and loneliness.
Diffenbaugh is speaking at the Hilton on Prospect Road tonight at 7 p.m. The event is free and will conclude with a book-signing and sales.
“(The novel) is about someone who has really never been loved and who learns to love and trust again,” Diffenbaugh said of her New York Times Bestseller. “It’s a really good balance between intense, dark, difficult topics (and a) really beautiful soft side.”
“The reader can enter a really dark world without feeling overwhelmed,” she added.
The story follows Victoria, an 18-year-old who was just emancipated from the foster care system. She finds herself with nowhere to go and ends up sleeping in a public park and planting her own flower garden there.
Jamie Ford, the author of “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” said the novel is “a deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you’ve burned every bridge behind you. ‘The Language of Flowers’ took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition.”
Victoria’s skills with flowers are recognized by a local florist, and she learns that she can powerfully communicate with and help people through the flowers she gives to them.
“The flower element came naturally with the story, so I just went with it,” Diffenbaugh said.
According to a book review by Janet Maslin in The New York Times titled “A bouquet of petals and thorns, all defined with meticulous precision,” “The overriding emotional message of ‘The Language of Flowers’ has to do with family. Victoria desperately wants one. But she thinks that she is too damaged to learn how to love.”
In addition to her love of writing, Diffenbaugh’s inspiration for the story came from being a foster parent for more than five years.
Her foster children are older now; one currently lives in Colorado Springs and another attends New York University. But she said they’re still very much part of her family.
The novel, which came out in 2011 and includes an appendix consisting of a flower dictionary, is currently printed in 40 translations.
“I was shocked (about the selling success of the novel),” Diffenbaugh said. “It was quite a thrill that it sold so well.”
She also said she is excited to come to Fort Collins tonight because she grew up in Chico, a college town in northern California.
“It think Fort Collins will have a very similar feel,” she said. “It’ll feel a lot like going home.”
Entertainment Editor Courtney Riley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.