Book review of ‘A Language of Flowers: A Collection of Short Stories’

Tokaholi, author of the book ‘A Language of Flowers: A Collection of Short Stories’ with Dr Inakali Assumi during the book release on June 6.

Dr Inakali Assumi 
(Author, Researcher, Educator)

Tokaholi’s book, A Language of Flowers truly reflects the aesthete that she is. One thing that stands out in the book is her exquisite aestheticism. ALF is a celebration of beauty in all its forms; beauty that comes with self-realization of your inner self and choosing to live for your dreams, beauty that comes with knowing where you belong and finding contentment in the simplicity of life, and beauty that comes when we live with kindness and goodness. John Keats writes, “Beauty is truth and truth beauty” in his poem “Ode on a Gracian Urn, perhaps because of these reasons closely associated with beauty. ALF delves into the sensory richness giving an extraordinary experience to the readers to transpose into a tranquil world where the wild flowers bloom in nonchalance over the hills and takes you through sleepy towns to meet people who live ordinary lives and yet their spirits are extraordinary. 

Cover of the book ‘A Language of Flowers: A Collection of Short Stories.’ 

Aestheticism is a literary and aesthetic movement that emerged in the 18th and 19th Century. Its primary focus was on the aesthetic values of art, music, writing, and other creative pursuits with their slogan, “art for art’s sake” taken from the French term, “I’art pour I’ art”. Tokaholi’s aestheticism can closely be associated with Keats’ aestheticism. Just as Keats’ aestheticism was not limited to art for art’s sake, ALF has so much more to offer than just its aesthetic values and perhaps it goes along the path of art for life’s sake because life itself is an art meant to be beautiful and stirring at the same time. 

ALF offers three beautiful stories and each story being coupled with lyrical poetry is an additional treat for the readers.  It is worthy to note that most of the names of the characters in the stories are symbolic and nothing is placed arbitrarily. The stories in ALF revolve around female characters who are not only known for their beauty but for their wit and competence conveying a message that women, like symbolic flowers, are so much more than pretty faces. The storylines however are not limited to female characters. Flowers are often associated with women, yet, in ALF even men are interestingly named after flowers. Characters such as Penstemon and Oleander are male characters who adds beauty and meaning to the stories and perhaps they are named so because each of us irrespective of whether we are men or women are flowers that bloom gloriously in our own lands, giving light to lives that pass us by and because each individual embodies resilience, grace, inner strength, dignity, elegance etc. just as each of the characters are in the book.

This book also echoes the characteristics of postmodern literary works with profuse usage of symbolism, intertextuality, and a touch of metafiction which is truly remarkable. Aside from the fact that the major characters are symbolic representation of the flowers they seem to be named after, the author has also wittily brought in biblical symbolism of The Well in the story, “Fields of Poppy”, perhaps a modern day version of The Well where love and friendship was found in pure innocence just as The Woman at the Well found spiritual love and life at the well in the bible.

From referencing Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Shakespeare’s beloved heroine Ophilia to Robert Burn’s classic, “My love is like a red, red, rose” to the numerous handpicked songs playing in the background, the book keeps you engaged all throughout and every page has something interesting to offer. The line between reality and fiction is blurred when the author writes, “Soon after six months, the book was to be published, titled, ‘The silent Language of Flower” (p 46). This self-conscious narration inherently creates the prospect of metafiction as the words on the pages seem ever alive. In all, ALF entails stories of a dreamy world in amalgamation with the realities of life which are beautifully told by the author.