Written by V.C. Andrews
Published 1979 by Pocket Books
Genres: Contemporary Classic, Gothic, Survival
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Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!
It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake–a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father. So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic. Just for a little while.
But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work–children who–one by one–must be destroyed…
I have a long history with this book – despite never reading it up until now. Flowers in the Attic shocked me, disgusted me and above all – intrigued me and held my interest completely. Though some of the content is now out-dated and the teens of today aren’t as soft and easily shaken, the underlying messages and storylines of this book still hit as hard as it did in 1979 and keeps you thinking about the Dollanganger story long after the final page has been read.
I first heard about a book called Flowers in the Attic somewhere around the age of seven or eight. My mum talked and talked about how much she adored it in her early-twenties. I had sort of outgrown books from my school library, wanting more and more to read as my passion for books grew. She dug her own copy out from and old box, along with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. For some reason, eight-year-old me read neither of the books completely… but I can recall reading a few pages of Flowers in the Attic and deducing that it was too old for me.
Over the years it’s come back across my radar, but I never felt the burning desire to read it. It wasn’t until about a month or so ago when I saw that the Lifetime channel were producing a new adaptation of the book that my curiosity grew and grew. I watched trailers, saw photographs – and it finally beat me down. I found mum’s copy of Flowers in the Attic once again and decided to finally read this book everyone constantly raves about.
The book got off to a shaky, dull start, but soon picked up the pace and had me completely enthralled. A lot of the language has aged (‘golly, gee!’) but once you’re into the book, you kind of acclimatize to Cathy’s prose and her way of telling the story. By the end of it, I actually thought this gave it a lot more flavour and contrasted superbly with the dark tone of the book.
I knew all about the incestual relationship between Cathy and her brother long before I ever read the book, so it wasn’t a shock to me when it began seeping into the story. I realise that this was a huge taboo topic back in the day, and attributes a lot to the books success, but I’ve read one or two books involving incest before and although it does squick me out a little, it’s definitely not a topic that puts me off getting lost in a good book.
What struck me most about Flowers in the Attic was the horrors the children experienced at the hands of their own family members. As the book evolves more and more, you learn that there is much more than originally meets the eye at Foxworth Hall. Just when you think it can’t get any worse – it does. My visions for the children’s futures were bleak, and utterly depressing, and I couldn’t believe how much their story stuck with me long after I’d put the book down for the night.
The book is very infuriating in some ways; you just want the children to break free and escape, but they can’t or won’t because of their existing loyalties and responsibilities. Though I found Cathy to be annoying at times, she was the only Dollanganger child that actually voiced my exact thoughts in moments of crisis and anger. I respected her for that, and was disappointed when later on she regretted her outbursts.
I will be reading the next installment, but I do know what happens throughout the entire series to come. I am also eagerly anticipating being able to watch the Lifetime adaptation which premiered yesterday in the US.
Although I finished this book about two nights ago, the story has still stuck with me. It’s not the best written book, but VC Andrews certainly had a knack for storytelling and making her readers think long and hard about life, family and what we take for granted. Flowers in the Attic is often mocked as being rubbish and a ‘passing fad’, but I disagree. If you think about it (as with any book) with its simplest purpose – to entertain and make you think – then it most certainly delivers.
Recommended to: If you’ve EVER been curious about Flowers in the Attic, or just want a dark, gothic family saga that survives the test of time – give this book a read.