I thought I might attempt a reread of the "classic" coming of age/incestfest novel "Flowers in the Attic." Those of us of a certain age remember reading these in secret, learning about horror and sex and rich people's games. I, however, did not read it in secret. Rather my mom checked it out of the library for me. I'm not sure why, or what about it appealed to her or if the librarian suggested it. But somehow I ended up reading this one and a number of other VC Andrews books.
For those of you who don't know, VC Andrews wrote this book, and a handful of others. Then she died and the publishers hired a ghostwriter to finish off this series, the Casteel Series, and a few others. He later added to this series, rewriting them from Christopher's POV. I have not read that far into it. Too many terrible books by this "author." Flowers in the Attic is a story about a preteen who is literally locked in an attic with her two brothers and sister. By her mother and grandmother.
Anyway, I paid money for the kindle edition of this book, i'm not sure why. I had forgotten that it's divided up into "parts" and then "chapters."
We start with the Prologue, which is written from Cathy's POV. It's clear that we are supposed to believe that she is literally writing this novel. She compares herself to Charles Dickens, says she is using false names, and living in fake places. She claims that she thinks of herself and her family as "flowers in the attic." Paper flowers. Brightly colored and then faded and dulled through nightmarish days. K.
Chapter One: Good-bye Daddy.
Cathy, our main character, has a brother named Chris. Her father's name is Christopher, her mother's name is Corrine, and her twin brother and sister are called Cory and Carrie. This should be fun. Not at all confusing. She describe at length how great her father was. He was 6'2, 180, tan, "hair was thick and flaxen blond, waved enough to be perfect; his eyes were cerulean blue and sparkled with laughter." He played tennis and golf and ran away all week leaving the kids in the car of their mother. He "warmed their mouths with kisses."
I thought the incest came later.
Her mother, on the other hand, would spend half the day in a beauty parlor, come home, bathe, "emerge in a filmy negligee." Because that's exactly how 12-year-old girls describe their parents. Much is made about how her mother is "a creature so ravishingly beautiful she didn't look real." and Momma answers questions with kisses. (Mother kisses father, but father spends a LOT of time kissing Cathy as well.)
Cathy tells the story of when she and Christopher found out that Mother was pregnant and the twins came; Cathy was upset so father came and talked to her. Beautiful bit of prose:
"Come now, open your box, and tell me what you think of what's inside."
"First I had to smother his face with a dozen kisses and give him bear hugs to make up for the anxiety I'd put in his eyes."
Then Daddy slips a gold ring on Cathy's finger.
The twins are born, and we get a bit of foreshadowing with the babysitter remarking that Corrine and Christopher look more like "brother and sister than husband and wife."
We find out that they are called "Dollanganger" but sometimes people call them the "Dresden dolls" which I'm guessing I don't know about because this book was published before I was born.
Christopher (Daddy) is killed in a car accident on his 36th birthday. Oy, I can't imagine having a 14 year old right now. Also I probably read these when I was Cathy's age and now I'm almost Christopher's age and ugh I'm going to have a completely different perspective on these books, aren't i?
It's a sad story about how they were waiting with friends and he's killed and I remember reading about how they found the plushies and clothes on the side of the road when the suitcase was ejected from the car. Even sadder is this is just the first car accident that VC Andrews wrote and it's probably the best executed. I mean, later there will be another car accident in this series, and I know there is at least one in the Casteel series. That can't be it though! I mean, these books all have the same things going on: incest, deaths, houses that are named, extreme poverty, abuse, extreme wealth, tragic accidents (I believe there is a character in the Casteel series who is thrown from his horse and dies, tragically. Only he's not dead! He is hiding because he loves someone he can't be with!)
Anyway, the car accident is described through dialogue, which.. well, here:
"According to the accounts, which we've recorded, there was a motorist driving a blue Ford weaving in and out of the left hand lane, apparently drunk, and he crashed head-on into your husband's car. But it seems your husband must have seen the accident coming, for he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, but a piece of machinery had fallen from another car, or truck, and this kept him from completing his correct defensive driving maneuver, which would have saved his life. But as it was, your husband's much heavier car turned over several times, and he still might have survived, but an oncoming truck, unable to stop, crashed into his car, and again the Cadillac spun over... and then... it caught on fire."
Brilliant writing. Very realistic dialogue.
At some point after the funeral Cathy and her Mamma have a talk. Cathy wants to pretend that her daddy will come home, Corinne doesn't want that. And then we find out that Cathy feels envy towards her mother, as she looks like her mother, but comes in second after her. Um. OK.
"I'm going to tell you something now, Cathy, that I've never told you before. You look very much as I did at your age, but you are not like me in your personality. You are much more aggressive, and much more determined. Your father used to say that you were like his mother, and he loved his mother."
"Doesn't everybody love their mother?"
"No." She said with a queer expression. "There are some mothers you just can't love, for they don't want you to love them."
IIRC, Christopher and Corinne are half brother/half sister? Or some other sort of relation; either way I guess they don't have the same mother.
I'm still on the first chapter. Page 26 out of 411. We find out that Christopher and Corinne made most of their purchases on credit; that Corinne is the reason why - she asked for the bigger house, and she would convince him that luxuries were necessities. Everything will be repossessed. It's tragic. Cathy cries about losing her dolls. The mom is talking about hiding the engagement ring. Then she gives Christopher and Cathy the "good news" which is that they will be going to Virginia, where she grew up. And her parents are rich! "Not just middle-class rich, or upper-class rich, but very, very rich! Filthy, unbelievably, sinfully rich!" Because that's what children who just lost their loving father care about.
They can only bring two suitcases for four kids, as the mom needs two for her things. She's already the most selfish mother I've read about in the last 20 minutes and we haven't even gotten to the part where she locks the kids in the attic yet.
She paced, her long shapely legs appearing through the front opening of her filmy black negligee. Even in her grief, wearing black, she was beautiful - shadowed, troubled eyes and all. She was so lovely, and I loved her, -- oh how I loved her then!"
That's when "Momma" decides to let them know that their "real" surname is Foxworth. Both of Corinne's older brothers died in "accidents." I vaguely remember one of them driving off of a cliff on his motorcycle. Obviously the lesson learned from VC Andrews is: don't be poor. don't be "filthy rich." don't drive cars or motorcycles or ride horses or go skiing. Also, it's okay to love your brother and marry him.
Christopher pleads for her to reconsider & find a way. She gives a little rant about how she has no skills and can't support four children. OBVIOUSLY this is the only option. To go back to Foxworth Hall and try to get back into her father's will. Not, you know, go to secretary school and ask the church for a handout or get on food stamps and move into a smaller house and do odd jobs. Nope, this is VC Andrews world, where a father in W. Virginia literally sold his children (one of which ends up mauled by a tiger) and where it's perfectly normal to seduce your stepfather for revenge. Or to buy a daughter from a shack in the West Virginia Mountains, and proceed to abuse her. I think someone in one of the books was forced to drink castor oil to induce a miscarriage as well.
Anyway, so Corinne (Momma) needs two suitcases for her things and the four children have to share the other two suitcases. They leave just about everything behind.