Tuesday, December 22, 2009
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