Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Flowers in the Attic - V.C. Andrews


I cross the finish line with both fists pumping the air. I've made it! 10 books from my youth, read in the month of December, completing my Shelf Discovery Challenge! And what a way to finish my marathon, but to read probably the most scandalous book of my formative years, Flowers in the Attic.

First I must comment on the difficult of obtaining said book. I actually had the entire series in my possession until my daughter got her own room about five years ago, thus eliminating a bookshelf and forcing a book purge. So I ordered it from the library, but I was number 10 in line. What the hey???? So I tried the little used bookstore around the corner from my house, and the owner scratched her head and said six months ago she had 5 copies, but have all since been purchased. Unbelievably, I had to go out and buy the damn thing new at Borders (all the while, listening to the saleslady rant and rave at the placement of this book in YA...I know, it's just wrong.) Dare we attribute this mania to the book Shelf Discovery? Or just a rekindling of interest in incestuous relationships? It is a mystery to me.


So we all know the plot here right? I'm not going to spoil anything for you? If you REALLY don't know the plot, and are going to read this book someday, skip on down to the end. But who are we kidding? We all know that this is the book where the brother and sister do it. But just to refresh your memory of all the other ancillary details, allow me.

Beautiful blonde Dresden-dollish mother, father, son Chris, daughter Cathy, and twins Cory and Carrie live a charmed life. Until dad doesn't come home one day, killed in a car accident. Mother was a trophy wife, and can't pay the bills, so she tells the kids she must go beg forgiveness from her estranged and filthy rich parents. The mother's "transgressions" (the word of the day) yet to be disclosed, later to be revealed. Kids have to stay up in the attic until mom can woo her cranky and dying father to write her back into the will...apparently he will blow a gasket if he finds out there were spawns of the evil union between mom and the late great dad. After all, she tells the children, money makes the world go 'round, not love. Not to worry though, it will all be worth it, and will only be for a week or two at most.

Three and a half years later, the kids are still living in the attic. The truly nasty (the nastiest you can possibly imagine) grandmother brings them food daily, but has a list of rules, that scream religious repression, they must abide by. Failure to do so will result in starvation, whipping, and one particular incident with tar. Chris and Cathy come of age in the attic, and are forced to entertain and care for their young brother and sister, who are failing to thrive. And yes, due to close proximity and sexual awakening, there is a moment of weakness (ugh). As Chris and Cathy grow older, they realize they must escape to survive, and in the process of doing so, they discover some truths about their grandparents and their mother that are devastating.

Really, this is the stuff of trashy paperbacks. As adults, we utter an embarassed laugh and shake our heads at our youthful obsession over this series of books. But I must be brutally honest with you...I loved this book just as much now as I did back then. The hatred that I felt towards the grandmother never diminished. I cursed under my breath, willing Chris to bash her over the head with a chair (it is a clear case of self-defense!!!). I equally felt rage towards the self-absorbed, materialistic mother who wanted to be rich at the expense of her children. The heartbreaking truth, which is revealed at the end of the book, left me breathless and spent when I turned the last page. What I really wanted to do was race out that very minute and get the next book in the series. I have vague memories of what happens to Chris and Cathy, but nothing that is in the least bit satisfying. Not that I don't have a good solid fifty books in my short-term TBR, but I may just have to indulge at some point.

Granted, the whole thing between brother and sister is just gross, but in the spirit of this challenge and allowing myself to digress and go along for the ride, it is all a part of the tragedy and abuse wreaked on these children. I think as an adult and as a mother, it just heightened the horror of the entire plot. I'd like to say that it was totally unrealistic, but if you watch the news, sadly, we know it does happen.

Did you read this book as a teenager? Have you read of V.C. Andrews' other books?


4 out of 5 stars


26 comments:

Susan said...

Oooh, ick! I read this after I was married (I think) and remember feeling furious throughout it, wanting to bash Grandmama in the head. Honestly, until I read your review I had forgotten what it was about (I read as much as you do in those days). I think I read the next one in the series, even though I can't recall the name. After that I must have moved on to other trashy novels. :P

Yeah, and what's up with the run on the book? And in the YA section? Good lord!

JoAnn said...

Great job with this challenge, Sandy! For some reason, V.C. Andrews never appealed to me, but my sisters loved those books.

Julie P. said...

Congrats on 10 books! You rock! I found this book at Salvation Army when I started Shelf Discovery! I think it's being re-released and that's why there is a sudden popularity!

I loved these books as a kid and actually read the entire series!!!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

Was there a sequel with Chris and Cathy? I didn't read it if there was. I also missed them having sex. I guess my memory of this books is not as complete as I thought. lol But I was also a precocious reader so maybe I got my hands on this at a time where most thing like that would have gone over my head. I wanted to read this one too for SA Challenge, but there are so many good one to revisit.

bermudaonion said...

I've never read this book and didn't really know the plot, but you've got me totally intrigued. Congratulations on finishing the challenge so quickly!

ds said...

Never read the book, but remember how hugely popular it was...Honestly, I can understand it being placed in "YA". In our library "YA" is anything above 5th grade reading. So VC Andrews, Stephanie Meyers and company are over there.
Once again, you have completely rocked another challenge. Well done!!

Serena said...

Would you believe that I read this ages ago and that my mother-in-law adores those V.C. Andrews books and reads them over and over again.

Jen - devourer of books said...

I can't believe you've already finished this challenge, I haven't even started yet! (Must get on that...). I have to say, I've never read a V.C. Andrews book, and I think it might be too late. I might have enjoyed them for the nostalgia aspect if I'd read them when younger, but I don't think I could handle the trashy paperback now.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I had no idea that's what this book was about! Sounds great! I'm adding it to my list for the Shelf Discovery Challenge!

Anna said...

I had this book and a lot of other V.C. Andrews books as a teen. I wish I remember the truth revealed at the end. And I wish I still had the book so I could go home and flip through it to find out. LOL

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Literary Feline said...

Congratulations on finishing the challenge, Sandy!

I picked this one up to read when I was in high school, wanting to see what all the fuss was about. I didn't make it very far in and never made another attempt.

Alyce said...

I had absolutely no idea what this book was about, but I do remember it being a big deal in junior high and high school. After reading what it's about I don't know if it's something I will ever read.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I loved this book as a teenager! I still think of it as one of my favourites. It was my first long book and had a massive impact on me. I went on to read every single book written by her and the ones in her honour. I would love to know what I thought of it now, but I'm scared to ruin my memories.

Carrie K. said...

I remember reading this in high school and being truly disturbed! Don't think I ever finished the series, though. Congrats on finishing your challenge!

Oh, off-topic, but I'm about halfway through A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and this one is making me remember why I loved the series to begin with. I thought maybe it was just too much in a short period of time, but I think it was just that The Fiery Cross is a week book compared to the rest of the series. Have you had a chance to start BOSAA yet?

Kathleen said...

Me and all of my friends read this book. My friend Margo made it through the entire series. I think I read Petals on the Wind as well if that is the second one and then got bored with it! I would reread this today and probably still enjoy it. The grandmother and mom were both evil!

heidenkind said...

I have to be honest, this book was a little too much for me. Like what the hey? describes it perfectly.

Literate Housewife said...

I most definitely read this book and perhaps the one after it, but I'm not sure. I need to read it again to see if I would be as in to it as I was in high school.

The Bumbles said...

Blech. That whole sibling sex plot was nasty. Which is why of course I picked up the book to begin with as a young tween. Plus the cover was always kinda cool - the little window showing her face and then you opened it up to see the full page inside. Pure trashy novels that VC Andrews. Pure gold too!

Beth F said...

I haven't read any of these.

A huge congrats and what a way to finish out the year. Well done on this challenge.

Jenners said...

Ah yes ... Flowers in the Attic ... the HOLY GRAIL of forbidden books back in the day (and probably still now). I remember being freaked by the picture on the cover ... I stared at it for hours. And please tell me if I am remembering this right -- I don't eat powdered donuts because of this book because the grandmother was poisoning them with them right? I clearly remember powdered donuts and being put off of them because of this book.

I've so enjoyed revisiting all these books with you in these posts. I'm kind of sad to see that you are done with this challenge.

Heather said...

I absolutely loved this book as a teenager. In fact, I read the whole Dollanganger series and loved it. I guess the whole brother/sister thing didn't bother me much because I knew it was just fiction and not real. My mom knew I read the books, but I don't think she really knew what they were about! Not that she would have censored me anyway. But I wouldn't have my daughter read it as young as I was. Anyway, congrats on finishing your challenge. I've gotten a lot of good ideas for books to read from your blog. Merry Christmas!

Iliana said...

I remember this was "The BOOK" to read when I was in high school. All of my friends and I were scandalized at what we were reading but we read all the freakin' books in the series - haha... I don't know that I'd ever read it again but I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it just as much now as you did then!

Oh and congrats on finishing your challenge!

Lisa said...

I did read this as a teenager. I think I read at least on more in the series as well. But I can't remember it at all.

Dar said...

I read this as teenager and then again later on and liked it just as much. I read the whole series of this one and then read more of her other series even after she died and the other writer took over. I finally gave up a few years ago when the books just weren't seeming as interesting to me.

Zibilee said...

I couldn't believe it when my 13 year old daughter brought home this book a few weeks ago. It was on the school library's shelf! I didn't forbid her to read it, but I warned her that parts of it were really squicky. I remember reading it when I was about 14, so it really should have come as no surprise that she would pick it up. I don't think I will ever forget this book. Very cool review, I liked your thoughts on this one.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

I loved this book as a teenager. It was one of those wonderfully scandalous books that I just couldn't get enough of. I wondered how it would hold up to a reread though...