January – The language of flowers

January is a great month for reading isn’t it? Curled up in a blanket on my huge armchair with candles flickering, the soft scent of Jasmine filling the room (I do like a scented candle), and a Gin & Tonic in hand I started to read ‘The language of flowers’.

The language of flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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I have no idea which club member chose this book, but I am glad that they did! Victoria’s story is at times hard to read, passed from pillar to post as a child in the care system in America, she feels that nobody wants her. The book tells two stories, the story of her childhood, and the story of her new life as an ‘adult’, out in the world, on her own. Throughout the book, and both stories, we learn a little of the Victorian ‘language of flowers’, the meaning of each flower, and the fact that sometimes flowers have been given more than one meaning. I knew very little of this before I read the book, only that my Gran told me that yellow roses mean friendship, and an assumption that red roses mean love.

The book is charming, and heartbreaking at the same time. Victoria’s childhood was certainly traumatic, and I was exasperated by the injustice of a system that gave up on her at age 10. I was frustrated by Elizabeth’s inability to function as an adult on many occasions, and though her relationship with Victoria was far from perfect, I wanted her to do the right thing by this broken child. I loved Victoria’s ability, in spite of her past, to create a life for herself, even if she wasn’t fully able to function in a society that she didn’t feel she was part of.

I found myself imagining the beautiful bouquets of flowers that Victoria created, and how they would look, and wanting to learn more about the meanings of flowers. The lovely thing is that at the back of the book there is a flower dictionary, which I have since used a couple of times. Yes I liked the book, I liked it a lot, but I didn’t love it, and I hated the end, it didn’t sit right for me. Having enjoyed the first 3/4 of the book so much, by the time I put the book down I was disappointed, however, I know that most of the members of the club did like the ending, so I think you should read it and decide for yourselves. As a group we gave the book 4.5* and I gave it a 4*, so all in all this was a good choice.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki – Murakami

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If ever a book was disappointing, this is it! Having read and loved ‘Norwegian Wood’, I was really looking forward to this book by Murakami, the reviews looked good, and the blurb caught my attention. Only two other club members read it, and the three of us were in agreement that this book fell flat, and didn’t even live up to the title, ‘his years of pilgrimage’ really were just a few weeks, and more a short trip than a pilgrimage, if I am honest.

The intrigue in the book is in the back story, just why did his friends freeze him out when he was a young man? Unfortunately I didn’t care, and when I found out, I still didn’t care, it made little sense, and, whilst I don’t want to spoil it here, is a huge plot fail. The story line was poor, the characters unlikable, the writing not very good (maybe that was the translator), and the pilgrimage was not a pilgrimage. In fact the best thing about this book is the cover.

OK, I admit I enjoyed a small part of this book, and this was the part where Tsukuru went to Finland. The description of Finland is glorious, and felt authentic, the characters he encounters here are, in my opinion, the most interesting in the book and I thought for a while that the story might be going somewhere, sadly not. This is not a book that I would recommend, I did however rate it slightly higher than the other two club member, purely because of Finland. As a group we gave the book 2*, I gave it 2.5*, my recommendation….go and read ‘Norwegian wood’ instead.

Have fun reading!

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