Review – Flowers in the Attic
3
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  • July 11, 2012
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I first read V.C. Andrews’s bestselling horror novel Flowers in the Attic when I was 12 or 13 years old… as many of us did, I’m sure. Recently a very good friend of mine suggested a reread – a reread specifically for all of the adults who read this in our childhood, to see how we feel about the book now. Brace yourselves, gentle readers. I expect that this review is going to be long.

We all know this story, and for those who don’t let me explain (with a few possible preparatory spoilers). 12 year old Cathy and her older brother, Christopher (14 yrs), have lead a charmed youth in Pennsylvania. They have grown up with two loving parents (Corinne and Chris) and their twin siblings, Carrie and Cory (5 yrs). Their parents are beautiful and adoring to each other and to the children. On their father’s 36th birthday he is killed in a highway car crash. This one event changes everything. Suddenly their mother is withdrawn and morose, dealing with creditors and trying to stay above water. To this end she contacts her mother, a woman who none of the children have ever even heard of. After a lengthy correspondence between the two Corinne announces good news; her mother has invited them to live with her and their Grandfather in a grand estate in Virginia. The catch is that Corinne has to win the affections of her dying father who disowned her years ago, but once she does unspeakable wealth will be theirs. Cathy is reluctant to leave behind the memories of her father but the allure of promised fortune, and trust in her mother, is enough to put her mind at ease.

When they arrive at the house they discover a vicious truth lurking behind the wealth and power. The father cannot know of their existence in order for Corinne to inherit… and their domineering Grandmother, Olivia, despises the children. She takes them to a remote upper corner of the house where she lays down the rules – a list of 24 to be exact. No one else can know that the children are up in the attic and the rules detail how they will comport themselves during their stay – no extreme noise, no open windows, no shared bathroom time, and no blaspheming God. Initially they are told that they will only be up there one night, but the night stretches into weeks and months. As a result, Corinne’s excuses to the children grow weaker and Cathy’s patience extremely thin. For Cory and Carrie it’s hell on earth. For Christopher and Cathy, it’s a nightmare. And there’s no telling how long they will be up there, nor what will happen to four children shut up alone.

When I was younger and I read this it was an act of rebellion. My sixth grade teacher brought these books to my attention after a rash of girls read them in class. She forbade them in her classroom because they contained “sexual depravity, immorality, and incest.” To a 12 year old radical such as myself she might as well have been talking dirty. Now I had to read these books… all of them that I could get my hands on. I confess that Andrews was a favourite of mine for many years… All of my teens, really, and into my early twenties. Simply put reading these books made me feel defiant.

Reading this now, as an adult resolved with much of my tumultuous youth, I will say this one thing – In my youth I never understood why these were classified as horror books. Now I can’t see how I was so naive. There’s nothing but horror within the pages of these books. The human beings found within are dreadfully awful people. Every rationalization they can use to bolster their week behaviours are employed – particularly so with the mother, Corinne. She is one of the most vile, contemptible, and selfish characters I have ever read. The lengths in which she goes to assuage her guilt and pass blame onto others is staggering. At the beginning of this read I caught more of the nuance and the foreshadowing than I did on the first go. It squicked me out far more than the first read 20+ years ago. However, the worse thing about rereading this book was watching how Corinne worked; how she lied and betrayed her children for several years and how they blindly put their faith in her (especially the younger two). I think that is the saddest part of this book (more so than the years of suffering and neglect)… watching Cathy and Chris lose their faith in her over time. Not that she deserved their love or compassion by any means. Corinne is abominable.

I think the worse moment in all of this was during the children’s starvation when Chris cuts his arm to feed the twins his own blood. I had completely forgotten about that moment. It’s one of the more… creative ways in which the children feed themselves during a 2 week period of starvation.

As far as the writing goes, it’s about how I remember it – angsty and metaphoric and full of long passages about time passing ever so slowly. I found myself giggling a bit in the paragraph near the beginning where a police officer is describing their Father’s death. Andrews gave Chris (the elder) a very Rasputin like ending and I couldn’t help but snicker. I would say I am going to hell for that, if I believed in such a place.

So there, I’ve read this book now (twice) so you don’t have to. I can say with utter conviction that I will never read this book. Again. Ever. Ever ever. I’m over V.C. Andrews as of now. Never. Again.

Oh, and by the by, during my seven year stint at the bookstore there have been new editions of this to come out, including two specifically aimed at the YA market. While, yes, I read this as a child I wouldn’t encourage children to read this as a “coming of age” novel (like I did)… which is what I think this cover implies in all of it’s pink frivolity.

… ewww … it’s worse than I remember it looking. *tremble*

Really, Simon and Schuster… really? Was THIS the best marketing idea ever? Turning this book into a idyllic looking “summer of love” frolic… between two siblings? How unbelievably icky. Seriously, it’s just wrong.

However, it could be infinitely worse… it could be this edition that came out in the wake of Twilight when everyone was rushing to redesign cover art so that it “appealed” to Meyers fandom.

…hmmmm…. Twilighty.

So, after all of that I don’t regret the initial read, or the reread for that matter. I think people should read this, at least once, to see what all of the fuss is about.

…Or twice, if you want to see how it differs from an adult point of view.

4 out of 5 stars.
– BP

* Also, to anyone who would care to join HERE is the facebook event page for the online reread.

3 Comments

Ann

2012-07-11 03:42:31 Reply

So… now I don’t have to read it, right? 😉

bibliopunkk

2012-07-11 03:54:50 Reply

Oh, don’t think you are getting out of this so easily, Ann.

Moirae(thefates) book reviews

2012-07-14 23:56:48 Reply

You know this has been on my TBR list for ages, I’ve just never picked it up.