Review: The Language of Flowers by Odessa Begay

A sumptuous, contemporary anthology of 50 of the world’s most storied and popular flowers, each of its entries offers insight to the meaning associated with the flower, and is a fascinating mix of foklore, classic mythology, literature, botanical information and popular culture. 

Following an introduction that provides a short history of the language of flowers, a fad which reached its peak during the reign of Queen Victoria, each uniquely illustrated and designed entry is an enjoyable read full of history and little-known facts. Here is the story of Tulipmania; how the pansy got its “face,” and why the most particular pollination process of a certain orchid has made the vanilla bean a very dear commodity. You’ll also dicover how Christian Dior’s passion for lily of the valley inspired his classic perfume Diorissimo and its extraordinary bottle; why Oscar Wilde had a penchant for wearing green carnations in his lapel; and how Greeks and Romans believed snapdragons could ward off witchcraft, so they planted them at entryways to their homes.

With more than a dozen two-page paintings evoking the romance of noteworthy Victorian gardens and symbolic bouquets, a cross-referenced index of flowers and meanings, and suggestions for further reading, this book is a must for lovers of floriology and Victoriana.

I don’t very often review (or indeed read) non fiction books but this book is so utterly gorgeous I couldn’t not.

The Language of Flowers is beautiful from the front cover to the back, the cover itself is a wonderful texture with Odessa’s illustrations the main feature. Those same illustrations continue inside, all the way through the book (the Snapdragon illustration is a particular favourite of mine).

Alongside these wonder artworks is a wealth of information on the selected flowers, not only their meaning but the legends and stories around each, the practical use of the flower if it has one and its history.

The love and attention that has gone into creating this book shine through and I’m delighted to have a copy on my bookshelf.

I received a copy of this book from Harper 360 as a prize. There was no obligation to review.

Blurb and cover image taken from Goodreads