Reason 65 / Language of Flowers Review

There are a lot of reasons I haven’t finished my novel yet.

Most of them can be called excuses.

Some are valid.

You know like having a baby, losing my vision, that sort of stuff.

But a large part of the reason behind my lack of novel completion is that I lack sufficient motivation. I don’t have anything really riding on finishing it etc.

Unlike, say, the motivation to write a 861 word rant about a book I read four years ago and disliked on a Facebook thread.

I don’t understand myself sometimes.

Does it really matter to me if a bunch of people I don’t know like a book that came out 4 years ago?

Apparently it matters a little.

So… for those of who who are just dying to know what I write instead of my novel or short stories when I have ten minutes of computer time (usually while Ella is eating)…. I give you my no-coffee-yet-but-omg-someone-on-the-internet-wants-my-opinion rant about the book The Language of Flowers.

(Yes, my opinion was actually sought. I said I didn’t enjoy the book and was asked by multiple people to expound on that. I’m sure they regret asking, but It’s TOO LATE~!!!! Bwhahahahah!)

/from the FB thread of Lisa/

Ok, here are my thoughts on the book… my only caveat in sharing is that these ae my opinions (many shared by the members of my book club) and I totally understand that they are not universal… nor do I want anyone thinking that my dislike of the book in any way infringes on my respect for the author or my like and support of those who enjoyed it.
I found the prose and the story itself over simplistic, formulaic, and trite. While the backdrop of the flower language was a great concept and was tied together well, it became so much a gimmick that it was hard to take seriously. I lacked true empathy for the main character; she was downright difficult to root for… and having a protagonist we can root for (good or evil) isn’t necessarily a must, but it certainly helps. In this case, all the characters seemed one note, easily defined by a small bouquet and lacking much in the way of roots… none of them were well grounded. (See what I did there? Flower and plant puns are hard to resist.)
I like the narrative device of moving back and forth in time; parallel structure is a time honored way of telling stories, but the near mirror effect used in this novel made the movement repetitive and predictable.  And instead of building tension with the “what is the big bad thing that happened?” question we instead get frustrated with the plodding plot.
The childbirth,  breastfeeding, post partum psychosis part was… difficult to read because I felt that a very powerful thing was happening in terms of character development but it was lost in the excess of bloody nipples… and  battle of wills with the infant really struck a bad note for me. Actually, the entire unplanned pregnancy, childbirth, and new adoption aspect was downright eye rolling… again because not only was it cliché and overworked but it was so downright unbelievable. The lack of legal documentation of the baby at the very least is enough to make me want to rip out my hair.
Too much in this novel relied on plot contrivances… have a plot hole? That’s cool, talk about flowers and shoehorn something in and no one will notice.
Examples? Sure. The midwife who just happened to be nearby and well respected, the ability for this homeless teenager to work fancy weddings let alone get a job while sleeping in the park, the childhood connection found after years and in a hugely crowded city… even the idea of Victoria sneaking into restaurants to finish food off people’s plates and not getting caught. Really? As someone who was homeless for a brief period of time I find this entire part of the book really really problematic and borderline offensive. It, like how the book deals with the trauma of the foster care system, seems to be written for an audience who wants to cluck their tongues at these huge big bad issues from the comfort of our couches before the potluck begins. Yes, this book and the marketing and the companion flower dictionaries, are the epitome of the chick lit book club genre… in all the worst ways. Tortured female character searching for her happy ending? Check. Long lost love / perfect man brought back by fate to cure her wounded heart? Check. The magical power of a mother’s love that can cure all things? Check. The lack of logic when it comes to the actual things that happen in the book being overlooked because of pretty prose and an overly simple super tidy wrapped up in a bow ending? Check.
I feel like if the entire novel had been written as magical realism, then we could have forgiven these lapses, but having it attempt to be grounded in reality and to showcase a very real issue with the foster care system while striking this tone of fairy tale la-la-la, made it problematic.
A few final notes:
Elizabeth’s borderline abusive (definitely not consent respecting) announcement that she likes to be touched and so Victoria will have to get used to it is downright creepy and gross.
The sex scene was anything but sexy and there are some levels of consent worry here as well.
In fact, the plants and flowers get way more visceral descriptions… they are far sexier and more interesting than the people.
The shtick of the flowers gets so overdone that it invades even the characters names. Of course her name is Victoria. How… convenient.
The unforgivable act that is pretty much forgiven at the drop of a hat.
The ending felt rushed and overly sweet. Lifetime / Hallmark movie material for sure, but also predictable and cliché.

To sum up: I understand why this book was as popular as it was. It was written by someone who obviously knows how to structure a novel for maximum chick lit aplomb. And for those who want to pretend that their beach book has substance, this might be the perfect vacation companion. I, however, ended the book with a feeling of relief that it was over and I could move on with life. 
Yes, this is a photo link to the book on amazon, I welcome dissenting opinions!

Published by kayliametcalfe

Queer,loudmouth,skeptical-agnostic-pagan,book addict,coffee lover,wine drinker, SAHM,writer,editor,producer,podcaster. -She/her

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