Drawing together a delightful cast of characters, Ella Griffin brings her warmth, wit and wisdom to this captivating tale of the connections that bring us all together.
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
The Flower Arrangement is about love life and flowers, glorious flowers! It’s set in a tiny florist called Blossom & Grow in the heart of Dublin in Ireland. The owner, Lara, is almost 40, trapped in a frozen marriage; still grieving for the baby she lost five years ago.
She pours her heart into her flowers and into healing her customers, translating their deepest feelings into bouquets. But when her husband reveals a secret he has been hiding since the start of their marriage, her world is changed forever she must learn how to heal herself.
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Dublin was deserted at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning except for a pair of diehard Friday-night clubbers kissing in the doorway of the antique shop at the corner of Pleasant Street. Three purposeful seagulls flew along the curving line of Camden Street then took a sharp right along Montague Lane. Grey clouds were banked above the rooftops but the heavy rain had thinned out to a fine drizzle and a slant of weak sunshine cut through the gloom and lit a shining path along the drenched pavement ahead of Lara.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- Lara never knows who will walk through the door of her shop next. It could be a man who is madly in love, an uncertain bride planning her wedding, a woman who needs a wreath for her son’s funeral.
- Researching The Flower Arrangement was heaven! I got to swap my tiny office for the fragrant cool of my favorite Dublin flower shops. I worked incognito at two of them and came back with so many beautiful, funny, intriguing and sad stories. Lots of them made their way into the pages of the book.
- Blossom & Grow, Lara’s flower shop may imaginary, but its setting is real. I put it on Camden Street, right in the heart of Dublin. I used to live just around the corner, so I’ve walked past the spot where it’s set hundreds of times.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
I always knew that my heroine would be a florist but I didn’t want this to simply be career choice. I needed it to come from her heart. So I spent a lot of time coming up with her backstory and what surprised me was how deeply flowers were woven into it.
When Lara was twelve, she lost her mother and she turned to flowers to carry her through her grief. Then, in her early thirties, she lost the baby she was carrying at six months and left her career to open her flower shop.
So flowers helped to heal her when she was a child who had lost her mother. And again when she was a mother who had lost her child.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
It would be the moment when Lara realizes that she loves Ben. She has taken him to meet her mother, who died when she was a little girl, so the scene is set in a cemetery.
‘You want to know something funny?’ Lara, said, her words muffled against the heavy folds of Ben’s jacket. ‘My mother chose this place because of the view. How crazy is that?’
‘Not crazy at all,’ Ben said. ‘It’s kind.’
She looked up at him; his face was in shadow. ‘What do you mean?’
‘The view was not for her, Lara.’ He turned her around so that she faced the sea. ‘Look. It’s for you.’
The lights of the city were strung around the semicircular bay like the fairy lights in her flower shop. The moon was spilling a shimmering silver path across the water, stretching all the way to the sooty silhouettes of the Sugar Loaf and Wicklow Head.
Her heart leapt. She turned back to look at him. ‘How on earth did you know that?’
He shrugged. ‘She must have known that every time you turned away from her grave you’d see this beautiful view and maybe not feel so sad.’
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
I want readers to believe in the healing power of flowers. And to realize that the love we lose always comes back to us in a different form.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
I’m finishing my fourth novel right now. It’s called “The Memory Shop.’ It’s about Nora who opens a pop up shop in Dublin to clear her grandparent’s house. Every object holds a memory, a fragment, a secret from her grandmother’s past. And as she lets each thing go, she lets go of her own troubled past and changes her life completely.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Print copy of THE FLOWER ARRANGEMENT by Ella Griffin
To enter Giveaway: Please complete the Rafflecopter form and Post a comment to this Q: We live in a virtual world. We text, we tweet, we post status updates and pictures on our Pinterest boards. But we still turn to flowers to express our deepest feelings. To say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ Why do you think that is?
Excerpt from The Flower Arrangement:
As she swept the floor for what must have been the tenth time that morning, Lara wondered if she’d see him again. Customers were like flowers: they had their seasons too. Some only appeared once, but there were regulars who came in every other week. Alfredo from Havana, who bought his wife Dominga exotic plants that reminded her of home—succulents and orchids and kumquat trees. Dermot, a perpetually love-struck pensioner who hobbled over from Donnybrook on his Zimmer frame for a single red rose every time a new female guest arrived at his retirement home. Ciaran, who was waving at her through the window right now. He had been coming in to Blossom & Grow with his daughter pretty much every Saturday since the shop had opened.
Lara had met Zoe when she was only five days old—a tiny bundle strapped to her dad’s chest in a sling, her face tightly furled, like a rosebud. Zoe had loved flowers when she was still too young to see more than blurs of color. She would drum her tiny heels in her stroller until her dad took her out and held her up—a flying baby above the buckets of roses and irises and lilies. Once she was old enough to know not to eat it, Lara had given her her own flower to take home every week. A purple iris or a yellow parrot tulip or a bird-of-paradise cut short and wrapped in cellophane and tissue and tied with a ribbon.
Lara had watched Zoe grow up, week by week, year by year. Seen her take some of her first tottering steps. Now Zoe was the same age as Blossom & Grow. A skinny, long-legged five-year-old in stripy red and black tights and a navy duffle coat. She still had something of a rosebud about her. A saffron-tipped, creamy-centered Leonidas, Lara thought, with her milky skin and her coppery corkscrew curls escaping from under her bunny-ears hat. Seeing her warmed Lara’s heart the way the sunshine had warmed the back of her head first thing that morning.
“Well, look who it is!” she said, leaning on her sweeping brush. “I told the flowers you’d be dropping in this morning.”
“We’re late”—Zoe hopped from foot to foot in her scuffed black patent shoes—“because we had to take a long time feeding the ducks. We have to do everything extra slowly this morning because Mummy needs a long lion.”
“Mummy needs a whole pride of lie-ins.” Her dad yawned and rubbed the coppery stubble on his jaw. “She was up with Bugs Bunny here at the crack of dawn. Can you make us up a fifteen-euro bouquet, please, Lara?”
It was what he asked for every week, and Lara had already set the flowers to one side. Three deep-pink anemones with sooty centers, a single full-petaled ballet-slipper-pink Antique rose, half a dozen bluebells, a pale pink hyacinth, a spray of freckly green hellebores.
She made a circle with her thumb and forefinger and began slotting the flowers into it, spiraling the stems so they wouldn’t break when she tied them. She watched Zoe out of the corner of her eye. The little girl stopped to gaze up at a bright pink orchid, squatted down to sniff the narcissi and stood on her toes to touch the inside-out trumpet of a calla lily with her red-mittened fingertips.
“Careful there, butterfingers!” her dad warned her.
“It’s okay.” Lara smiled. “She knows not to squeeze them too hard.” She tied the bouquet with a pale green ribbon the same shade as the hellebores.
Ciaran whistled. “Wow! That is something else. You’re a genius, do you know that? It doesn’t seem fair that you make that amazing arrangement and I take the credit for it.”
Customers were always telling Lara that she had a gift, that nobody arranged flowers the way she did. Three years of graphic design college and seven years poring over a Pantone color chart had probably helped. The course she’d taken at the London School of Floristry had taught her the basics of conditioning and arranging. But the truth was that Lara was as amazed as anyone at how instinctive it felt, how easily it all came to her. She rarely had to think about what she was doing. Her eyes and her hands took over, weaving the flowers together, layering color and texture to create something beautiful and unique every time.
Zoe came over to examine the bouquet. “How did you know to pick those exact flowers?”
Lara bent down and tucked a curl back under the knitted brim of the little girl’s hat. Zoe smelled of outdoors and chocolate cereal. There were breadcrumbs clinging to the front of her coat. Up close, her eyes were the pale green of myrtle leaves.
“You want to know a secret?” Lara whispered. Zoe nodded. “I don’t pick the flowers, they pick me! Now”—she stood up and held out the vase of free flowers—“let’s see which one picks you.”
The small red mitten hovered over the vase and then settled on a bright pink gerbera. Lara folded a sheet of pale pink tissue into a fluffy froth and tied it with a snippet of pink ribbon.
“What’s the magic word?” Ciaran asked when she had handed the flower over.
Zoe thought for a moment, then waved the flower like a wand. “Abracadabra!” she said imperiously.
After they’d gone, Lara stood at the counter for a long time, twisting a stray length of ribbon around one finger while her mind probed nervously at the ache in her heart the way a tongue explores a broken tooth. Seeing Zoe every week was always a blessing, but sometimes it was a cruel reminder too. Five years, she thought, staring down at the ribbon but not really seeing it. Seeing, instead, the life she and Michael could have had if things had turned out differently.
The sadness didn’t mug her the way it had in the beginning. Then it had knocked her down every day, worked her over and left her limp and shaking. Now it could leave her alone for a week, then suddenly slide up behind her, pull and prod at her, looking for a way to drag her down.
She forced herself to pick up the phone and make some calls, then check her emails. She swept the floor again. She moved some of the flower buckets around and organized the counter and replaced the till roll. Then, when there was nothing else to do, she dug out the squeegee mop and marched herself outside to clean the already clean window.
One of the girls from the betting shop next door stopped to say hello. A chef from Pizza Heaven who was having a quick smoke by the Dumpster bins in the lane gave her a wave. Ketut, the solemn Balinese man who owned the furniture store two doors down, emerged and asked in his elaborately polite way for Lara’s advice about his window display. She spent a few minutes pointing and nodding and shaking her head while he rearranged the gilded Buddhas and the intricate shadow puppets and the brightly painted wooden gods and goddesses who had found their way from Indonesia to keep watch carefully over this tiny corner of Dublin.
As she went back to Blossom & Grow, she glanced over at the Camden Deli across the street and saw the owner behind the gleaming plate-glass window. Glen was fortyish, with a closely shaved head and a mid-Atlantic accent. He had gone to the States on a J-1 visa when he was twenty and come home a year ago when he’d inherited the café from his mother. He had transformed the place from a greasy spoon to a glossy black-and-white-tiled New York–style deli. Brought in real American bagels and French pastries and Italian espresso and a coffee machine as big and complicated as Lara’s brother’s motorbike.
Lara raised her squeegee to wave at Glen, but he turned away quickly, in a way that seemed almost deliberate, and ducked out of sight. He used to call over to Blossom & Grow at least once a week, bringing Lara chocolate and raisin twists and cappuccinos with flower designs traced in chocolate dust on the foam. He’d hung around admiring the flowers, complaining good-humoredly about Dublin’s lack of decent baristas and gay bars. But it was at least a month now since he’d dropped in. She tried to think back to their last meeting, hoping that she hadn’t said anything to offend him.
A flurry of customers arrived, and by the time the shop emptied out again it was after two o’clock and there was still no sign of her brother. She usually liked to do her own deliveries, but today, without Ciara to look after the shop, she’d asked Phil to do the run.
His phone was about to ring out when he picked up. “What?” He sounded groggy.
“Please tell me you’re not still in bed.”
“Oh shit! I said I’d come in, didn’t I? I forgot to set the clock.” His voice was husky. He’d sounded like this every morning since the age of thirteen, when his voice broke: as if he’d been drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes in his sleep. “I decided to take a run down to Kilkee on the bike last night.”
“I don’t know. Because it was there. At least I think it was there. It was too dark to see it properly. I could hear the roar of the Atlantic, though.”
“You took a six-hundred-kilometer round trip just to hear the sea?”
“It was only five hundred and eighty-four kilometers,” he yawned. “And it’s an ocean. I’m not sure I’m in a fit state to drive around Dublin.”
“I’ll do the deliveries if you look after the shop.”
“Any chance Michael could do it?”
“He’s working on a job in Howth all day.”
Michael had started taking on freelance projects after Lara opened the shop. He worked in his corporate landscaping business Monday to Friday, designing rolling parklands around newly built apartment blocks, dreaming up streams and waterfalls to break up the concrete jungles of business parks, color-coordinating plantings of shrubs and bushes to create pleasing harmonious blurs on the hard shoulders of motorways.
At the weekend, he went back to what he’d been doing when they met—landscaping gardens. Digging out borders, building rockeries and raised beds. Moving earth. Losing himself in activity. Trying to fill the same aching space that she was. She sighed.
“Lara! Stop,” Phil grumbled.
“Stop giving me those sad puppy-dog eyes!”
“You can’t see my eyes!”
“I don’t have to see them to know they’re doing that big brown pleading thing. I’ll come in for an hour. One hour only, Lara. Then I’m going straight back home to this lovely bed.”
Lara managed to get the delivery bouquets finished between customers. She was about to nip out and load them into the van when she noticed a man in a high-visibility jacket and a hard hat walking purposefully past the window. A moment later, he walked past the other way. Then the door opened a crack.
“Hello,” Lara said.
A head appeared around the door, then the builder edged into the shop in his large dusty boots, looking mortified. He pointed at the flowers in the nearest bucket, some yellow chrysanthemums that Lara kept for funeral wreaths because they were cheerful and because they lasted if not for eternity, at least for a few weeks.
“I’ll take ten euros’ worth of them,” he mumbled.
“They’re a lovely color, aren’t they?” She came out from behind the counter. “But have you seen these?” She pointed at the bucket of sunflowers that blazed in the corner. “They’ll really light up a room.”
He nodded. “Okay, those then.”
He retreated to the door while she wrapped them, his tattooed arms crossed on his chest, his jaw clenched as if he was waiting for a filling rather than a bunch of flowers.
“Why don’t you pick a card to go with them,” she suggested. “It’ll make the flowers last longer.”
His eyebrows, caked in dust, disappeared up under the yellow plastic brim of the hat. “If she puts the card in the water?”
“If she puts it in a drawer or tucks it into a book.” He looked confused. “Women don’t throw cards away, you know. She’ll find it a year, two years, ten years from now, and remember the sunflowers you gave her.”
The builder took a few tentative steps toward the counter and turned the revolving stand slowly, then furtively picked a card and held it out.
“Probably best if you write it.” She slid a pen over to him. It stayed where it was for a long moment, then a huge hand snaked out and took it. The builder hunched over the card, nibbling his knuckles.
“I can’t think of anything to say.”
“Just say whatever you’d say in a text.” Lara put the finished bouquet on the counter. “A romantic one. I just need to pop upstairs for a minute. I’ll leave you in peace.”
She went up to the workroom and spent a minute checking over a vase of Memory Lane roses she’d left to open by the window. When she came down again, the builder and the bouquet and the card were gone and there was a pile of change on the counter. She smiled to herself as she put the money away.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Every bouquet tells a story. And every story begins at Blossom & Grow, a tiny flower shop in the heart of Dublin…
Among the buckets of fragrant blooms, beneath the flickering candles and lanterns, Lara works her magic, translating feelings into flower arrangements that change hearts and lives.
She is no stranger to the power of flowers herself. They gave her hope when she was a child who lost a mother, and, again when she was a mother who lost a child.
Meet the Author: