My Mum picked this book up in a street library, and I remember saying to her “Oh that’s meant to be amazing!” when she did. Needless to say, she adored it and promptly handed it to me to read…it then sat unread on my shelves for the better half of a year. BUT I finally got around to reading it and oh boy I shouldn’t have waited so long!
Alice Hart lives in isolation by the sea, where her mother’s enchanting flowers and their hidden messages shelter her from the dark moods of her father. When tragedy changes her life irrevocably, nine-year-old Alice goes to live with the grandmother she never knew existed, on a native flower farm that gives refuge to women who, like Alice, are lost or broken. In the Victorian tradition, every flower has a meaning and, as she settles into her new life, Alice uses this language of flowers to say the things that are too hard to speak.
As she grows older, though, family secrecy, a devastating betrayal and a man who’s not all he seems, combine to make Alice realise there are some stories that flowers alone cannot tell. If she is to have the freedom she craves, she must find the courage to possess the most powerful story she knows: her own.
Blurb from Book Depository.
I’m not sure I’m going to have the words to encapsulate all the reasons I loved this book, and I certainly won’t have the words to tell you in the same beautiful way that Ringland has managed to write this novel.
First of all, the language throughout the book is absolutely stunning. Ringland has woven this story through such beautiful prose, and her descriptions of settings absolutely transports you. Not only this, but she has built such deep characters, all with their own histories and motivations that are slowly revealed throughout the story.
The relationships in this book are heartbreaking and heart-warming. There are stories of strong female bonds, my favourite of which is between Alice and Lulu, whose friendship is so true and honest. But all of the ‘Flowers’ at Thornfield also share special bonds, and what we see of their stories shows us how unique each woman is. Though there are also horrible, heart-wrenching relationships depicted in this book, and it should come with some trigger warnings around emotional & physical abuse in families and partnerships. These scenes were gut-wrenching to read and I got through them with a lump in my throat and watery eyes, carrying the characters emotions close to the surface. Though they were heartbreaking, these scenes were so well-written by Ringland who doesn’t shy away from the realities of these toxic relationships.
The language of flowers used at Thornfield, and carried on by Alice in her travels beyond, is such a beautiful addition and is where the true heart of this book lies. We have our first inkling of the power of flowers through Agnes when Alice is growing up in her secluded seaside property, but the language itself comes to shine in Alice’s time on the flower farm. It is a truly special piece of this book, and lends the novel so much emotion and originality.
Perhaps the one thing I wished to see in this book, was more of the ‘time-between’. We jump quite quickly from Alice’s childhood to her coming of age at 18, and there are other key time periods I felt I missed. Granted, they didn’t make the story feel lacking in any way, I think just wanted to drink in more of Ringland’s writing and the stories of these beautiful characters.
Overall, I adored this book to no end – it is such a heartfelt novel and took me on a rollercoaster of emotion throughout. I’m so glad I picked it up! (Thanks Mum).
Verdict: Written in beautiful language, Ringland has created a book that will suck you in and stay with you long after the final page has been turned.
Page Length: 400
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
All I can say is, pick this book up and read it. As someone who left it a long time before picking it up, I can tell you that was a mistake!
Have you read this, and what did you think if you did? Or have I convinced you to read it yet? 😉