Quick Take: Emancipated from the foster system at 18, Victoria has a passion for flowers, and the Victorian language of flowers. She begins working for a florist and has to decide whether she is capable of getting close to people, not just flowers.
Makes Me Want To: Download Victoria’s flower dictionary, and buy myself flowers.
My Thoughts: I’d heard about this book and was interested in it, so I snapped it up when it was on my library’s New Fiction bookshelf. Victoria was a foster child, a ward of the state, and on the day designated as her 18th birthday, she is emancipated from the system. She has never been able to connect to people, but she loves flowers, especially the Victorian language of flowers. She learned the language from a foster mother, Elizabeth.
The chapters alternate from the year Victoria lived with Elizabeth, and the present day, when she is homeless and begins working in a florist’s shop. It’s a quiet, understated story, and a bit melancholy, which matched my mood when I began reading it. There was nothing particularly remarkable about this novel, but it was a fine read, a solid B. I was discussing it with a friend who had read it for her book club last month. We both agreed it was fine, but there was nothing amazing about it.
I have been fortunate to grow up with loving, supportive parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, many of whom are still with me. While I can sympathize with a person like Victoria, who’s only constant has been her overworked case worker, I cannot empathize. Azar Nafisi wrote in Reading Lolita in Tehran that empathy is at the heart of a novel. This is why we read fiction, to learn to empathize. Perhaps because Victoria is missing this empathy, the novel is also lacking empathy.
Incidentally, her flower dictionary also lacks a flower for empathy. According to this site, balm is for compassion and empathy. So here is some lemon balm, Victoria: