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Sunday, August 28, 2011


Right. I'm back. Except I'm not quite. I've lots to do before I return to regular posts. This is merely an interjection.

We arrived home on Friday evening and I began reading. Snug in my sleeping bag on the living room floor, I was soon hooked. (Friends who'd looked after our house during our absence were in our bed. We had a year's worth of news to catch up with and wouldn't be letting them go till the following day.)

It's now Sunday and I've finished 'The Language of Flowers' - a novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Apart from sleep and chatting and beginning on the task of catching up with several millennia's worth of dirty washing, I've done nothing but read it, I enjoyed it so much.

When asked if I'd like to be a reviewer, I was reluctant. The jacket is off-putting to someone like me. The publicity description worse. The little gadget which enables you to send an email with a flower on is excruciating. Others have found the same but their reviews assured me it isn't sentimental so I gave a conditional 'yes'.

It might be that women will enjoy 'The Language of Flowers' more than men; maybe that's why its being marketed in this way. I don't know. But it isn't what I'd call 'Women's Fiction'. Perhaps it shouldn't have been called 'The Language of Flowers'. (?) Gardeners (and the author of this book) know flowers come from the earth and that even when rising from the same roots they can be both delicate and storm battered. They are flexible yet they snap. Some blooms break and die but others follow either immediately, or the next year or through seeds sown. Death looms but there is nearly always new growth in some form. But birthday cards give flowers a bad name. The publishers seem to be doing their best to do likewise with this book - which is why I am giving the neutral Amazon link. (Or is it cunning? The publishers (Panmacmillan) want us all to pop up and say 'No, it isn't like that; it's like this!')

I'll solve the problem by saying nothing more but if you'd like me to send you a copy, leave a comment. I'll do the usual thing of deciding who gets the book by getting someone to take a paper out of a flowerpot or ask a cat to walk over the names or throw them out of the window and see which lands nearest the new chocolate mint. If it's you - then I'll ask where you'd like me to send it.


P.S. 'The Secret Life of Bees' by Sue Monk Kidd is the nearest book I can think of to compare it with. That's another book I like.

P.P.S. Here's the Amazon Link in case you decide to buy it. (But try the comment route first!).

P.P.P.S. While reading The Language of Flowers, the novel, I had by me my own flower dictionary 'The Language of Flowers' by Mrs L. Burke so I could compare meanings. It was compiled in 1963 and there's a wobbly inscription inside the front cover

'To Esther
With Best Wishes
Mary and Andrew'.

It must have been for a birthday. I don't remember it - but I remember these small friends.

While I was leafing through the pages, a little newspaper cutting fell out. This is it.

"DELIGHTFUL SIGHT at The American Museum, Claverton Manor, Bath, is its herb garden. The museum has a booklet about the history and uses of herbs (2s. 6d post free). A whimsical old recipe "to enable you to see the fairies" requires wild thyme "gathered near . . . a hill where the fairies used to be"!"

Having no recollection of there being an American Museum near Bath (or anywhere else!) I looked it up to see if it still exists. It does!

We have, most of us, left the '60s behind so I don't suppose it is still selling recipes to help you see the fairies - but has anyone visited its arboretum or replication of George Washington's Flower Garden? Sounds interesting.
Entries closed, 22nd September 2011. Will throw the names out of the window soon. The winner will be the one which lands closest to the chocolate mint. Can't do this in a wind!

(And I'm looking around for the dust jacket . . . I put it somewhere to keep flat . . . )


Elephant's Eye said...

Welcome back - this post reminds me why, and how much, I enjoy your writing! BTW we don't want to post the book to me, I'll pass.

Mo and Steve said...

Sounds intriguing... :)

Janet said...

I loved the "Secret Life of Bees" We both still say "shitbucket" on occassions! I thought "the Language of Flowers" was a reference book... I think I'll pass too1

Janet/Plantaliscious said...

So good to (almost) have you back - and your description of reading and chatting sounds the perfect way to recover from your travels. Pity the washing etc also makes demands. I love your "birthday cards give flowers a bad name" - personally I think Hallmark has done more to promote bad taste pseudo romanticism than perhaps any other company, with smaltzy cards for every occasion, but I do love the macro flower cards you get nowadays. I've always been a little prejudiced about the whole language of flowers thing, always makes me think of prim Edwardian ladies, but having taken a quick look at the book on amazon I can see that it might hold the attention. I can feel a rant coming on about book marketing, but will save you from my comments on blocking boys from reading perfectly good adventure stories by making them all pink and girly in the packaging...
PS I have to re-pot my little bay tree it is growing so well!

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Diana. If it is that you don't like novels, I won't put you 'in the hat' but if you are being nice about the postage to South Africa, don't worry about that. I know nothing of your tastes in fiction but I think you would probably like this book.

Hello Mo and Steve - glad it sounds intriguing rather than baffling! I think any description of the story will make it seem other than it is - and who wants to know much about a tale before they read it?

Hello Janet. This is one of the reasons why I am not sure 'The Language of Flowers' is a good title. There are dictionaries of flower meanings and that is the obvious name for them! But this one is definitely a story, not a list. (Though there is a list at the back too.)

Hello Other Janet. I'm glad the bay is doing well. My plants have remained in miniature during absence and I'm glad none of the bays have died. All available rain seemed to follow us around two countries and didn't keep much in reserve for my garden!

About flower meanings - when I first came across them, I thought it was a nice idea but soon abandoned it. I like to grow plants for what they are rather than what they mean - and to give flowers in the same way. There are a surprising number of flowers with unpleasant meanings and that spoils their attraction if you are too aware. When it comes to fiction . . . well fiction can do what it likes as long as it tells a strong tale - and this book does.


Bom said...

I think my wife has 'The Secret Life of Bees' (I know I've seen the book around a couple of times) but have never read it myself. LIke Diana, postage may be an issue so I will pass. So good to have you back and can't wait for more of your posts.

Ginny said...

I never pass up an opportunity to read an interesting book! And I liked "The Secret Life of Bees".

hurtlingtowards60 said...

Welcome back Esther - hope your holiday was a great one.

I have also been given a book to review, I never done a review before. As I am a slow reader, I am finding I am under pressure to get this read to write the review - silly really as no one has given me a deadline.

Bridget said...

Yes please, put me in the hat!

Benjamin Vogt said...

I've been eying this book for a week. C'mon whel of fortune, come my way. Have you read my book? Sleep, Creep, Leap: The First Three Years of a Nebraska Garden? Hmmm?

Esther Montgomery said...

Hi, Bom. Don't let postage be an issue when it comes to putting your name in the hat. If I thought that would be a problem, I wouldn't have opened the opportunity like this!

Hi Ginny - The Secret Life of Bees is an excellent book. (Thanks for becoming a follower!)

Hi, Hurtling Towards 60 (and beyond . . . ..!). Book reviews are certainly a challenge. I undertook to read The Language of Flowers on the understanding that, if I didn't like it, I wouldn't mention it. So much love and effort goes into writing, how could one bear to do all that work only to have people pop up and criticise? (Having said which - I value it when I get an honest opinion either way when I read reviews myself.)

Hi Benjamin. I've not started your book yet but I've bought it on my Kindle and it's there ready and waiting to be read!


VP said...

I have a massive booklog (= book backlog) so please don't put my name in the hat.

Just wanted to say I was thinking of you this morning and now here you are!

The American Museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, so amidst the planting on the roundabout we see when we go to Bath there's one of those wagons you used to see rolling across the plains in old western movies.

Note to self - must take a picture as there appears to be a transport themed roundabout picture series developing ;)

VP said...

PS I'm mainly reading 2 books at the moment (with snippets of others thrown in for good measure). 'We Bought a Zoo' which is one of tales of madcap things happening against the odds and the intriguing 'Fire Season' which is by someone who spends half the year on his own as one of those fire watchtower lookout people in a massive forest in New Mexico.

Katie Hertfelder said...

I'd love to donate this book to the library.

colleen said...

You're dead right about the appalling blurb about the book. If you had not said how much you enjoyed it, I would have wanted to avoid it like the plague ( just like the entirely over-rated One Day). But I trust you.

I visited the American Museum again this year but to see the quilts. Plenty of flowers in them, but alas did not venture to arboretum or garden. Oh, the shame...