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Flowers in the Attic: Prologue & "Good-bye, Daddy"


Maggie Mae

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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: 

Quote

"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: 

Quote

 

"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. 

Quote

"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. 

Also: 

Quote

 

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. 

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catlady

Posted

Oh, I'm enjoying this!  I read this back in the eighties and it's all coming back.  I also read the Cateels, and by the time I got halfway through the Dawn Cutler series, I saw that they were all pretty much the same story with different names.  But then I read the Ruby series anyway.  

Looking forward to more, Maggie May!

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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

Posted

I was just thinking about V.C. Andrews earlier today. She's just as colorful as I remember! 

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clueliss

Posted

I read this series.   In the 80's.    Started on the next series, saw that it was basically a repeat of the first and walked away.  My Sweet Audrina, a standalone, was a bit better than this mess.  

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melon

Posted

I read this series,too.Catlady,I did the same!I know she died of breast cancer,around the time one of the Casteel books came out.I used to go to a used bookstore and trade my books for credit.When I traded that  Casteel one,I think Fallen Hearts,the cashier told me that VC Andrews had died and there would not be anymore books.I read that they hired a ghost writer and found what must be an enormous amount of notes.I quit reading them mid series in Rain.It just seemed like the same themes,maybe in a different location,over and over again.

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GreyhoundFan

Posted

I reread the series recently too. The first two books were great, then the series went way off the rails. Corinne and Christopher have the same mother, Alicia. Corinne's father is Christopher's father's son. It is a true incest-fest. I wish Lifetime would have made a movie of the last book, Garden of Shadows, which is told from grandmother Olivia's POV.

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melon

Posted

Yes,that would be great!Then we'd see how she came to be like she was.

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catlady

Posted (edited)

From what i remember of the prequel, Olivia led a rather shitty life.  she was a painfully shy child with few friends, and then she was pretty much pushed into an arranged and ultimately loveless marriage.  she had trouble fitting in anywhere, and the people closest to her kept letting her down, so she began to turn on them.

and then of course, the prequels of all the other series gave the antagonists similar histories......

Edited by catlady
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melon

Posted

Yes,the dollhouse encased in glass so she could not really play with it,being locked in the closet as punishment..being 6 feet tall and feeling unattractive,an arranged marriage,and a husband who did not love her but married her for her money.It gives you some explanation for how she ended like she was.

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nonymouse

Posted

I was just looking up the more recent, ghostwritten V.C. Andrews books the other day. This will be a fun trip down memory lane. Thanks for taking us with you, @Maggie Mae!

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Destiny

Posted

@HerNameIsBuffy convinced me to reread these a few months ago. I made it like halfway through the second book and quit. They were even worse than I remembered.

The rapey, incesty gross *shudder*

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FloraDoraDolly

Posted

I read the first three Dollanganger books when I was 12. ("If There Be Thorns" was new then, and the others were just a year or two old.) I bought them with my own money at the mall bookstore. My mom thought they were children's books because there were kids on the covers. She had NO idea!

On a related note, a few months later I received a copy of John Irving's "The World According to Garp" as a birthday present. This was around the same time the movie version came out, so the book had Robin Williams on the cover. In my dad's mind, this meant it was an age-appropriate book for a seventh-grader. (The Ellen James Society, anyone?)

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turquoise

Posted

This brings back memories! My sister and I both read them as teenagers. I can only assume my parents had no idea what was really in them.

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littlemommy

Posted

I loved this review. "Flowers in the Attic" wa so dramatic and forbidden in my youth. Sigh. Now I see more scandalous commericals for TV shows.

My favorite part of this entry was "beautiful bit of prose" right before the "open your box" quote. I wept with laughter. Wept TEARS, just like Cathy's tears, which fall for approximately 5,000 damned books.

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Grimalkin

Posted

    This brings back so many memories. My mom didn't really seem to care about me reading this either. My best friend was banned from going to my house for a while when her mom found the copy I loaned her. She was, and still is, the absolute worst liar on Earth. She actually told her mom the dirty jokes i told her too. 

     I almost want to reread this. If I come across it at a thrift store I will get it. It might be fun to take to the pool and see if any of the other moms say anything. I think I may like your review more than the book though. Why would Mother bathe after the beauty parlor? Seems backwards to me. Maybe it's something middle class people can't understand.

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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

Posted

8 hours ago, Grimalkin said:

Why would Mother bathe after the beauty parlor? Seems backwards to me. Maybe it's something middle class people can't understand.

It probably isn't the same thing, but my mom complains that she can feel cut hairs on her neck after she visits her stylist. She's always thrilled by her first shower after that. (Well, thrilled is probably an overstatement.)

I don't suppose Corrine was usually getting a haircut. Probably a "wash and set"?

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melon

Posted

Well,maybe she took a bath but didn't get her hair wet.

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Destiny

Posted

On 20/06/2017 at 2:34 AM, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

@Destiny--Total sidenote: I miss @HerNameIsBuffy. I hope she's doing well!

I do too. I talked to her last week and she's ok-ish and said to say she misses everyone. 

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WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo?

Posted

4 minutes ago, Destiny said:

I do too. I talked to her last week and she's ok-ish and said to say she misses everyone. 

Thank you! If y'all talk again, let her know we miss her and wish her well. :)

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Destiny

Posted

1 minute ago, WhatWouldJohnCrichtonDo? said:

Thank you! If y'all talk again, let her know we miss her and wish her well. :)

I talk to her once a week or so. I'll tell her when I talk to her next. :)

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AnywhereButHere

Posted

I loved these books when I was a kid! I found the first three of the series when I was cleaning up my basement and passed them along to Big Brothers/Big Sisters when they did a collection in my area. Figured I'd pass along the dramaaa to another generation. :pb_razz: Does anyone remember My Sweet Audrina? Just as salacious but all wrapped up in one book. My mother never really censored us. We couldn't cross the street, but alll books were fair game! :pb_smile:

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Golly! This brings back memories. I has SO many V.C. Andrews books in 10th grade. Thankfully, my tastes (marginally) improved. @Maggie Mae, I'm so so excited for your review on this!

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Curious

Posted

I didn't realize that Flowers was restricted reading.  My mom was a voracious reader and was thrilled I loved books as much as she did.  She never limited my book selections (which she probably should have.  I started reading horror books too early (IMO now) and would have nightmares.   I think she figured after the first time I would be smart enough not to read any more of them, but she overestimated my intelligence in that area.   I loved them so much (during the day).  She got to where she would just say "you're reading a scary book aren't you" when I would sleepwalk into my parent's room.

I must have read Flowers 5 times in high school.  I'm on my 3rd or 4th copy of it now, I've read it so much.   I have no read it as an adult though and I was not sure I'd read your posts on it, @Maggie Mae because I feel like I will be ruining part of my childhood with the realization V C Andrews really wrote drek ;)

I wore out my copy of My Sweet Audrina in high school as well. 

I think my tastes have matured since that point, however, I still love those scary books.  I no longer get nightmares from them ;)

I'm looking forward to catching up on the rest of your Flowers posts.

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catlady

Posted

my mom didn't limit my reading either.  she pushed me and my sister to read everything, regardless of content.  so when my sister borrowed Flowers from a friend, my mom bought her the sequels as they came out.  

i loved My Sweet Audrina.  on the one hand, i want to reread it and the other early series, but like @Curious, i'm afraid of ruining what i remember of them.  kind of like when i hear a song by a band i loved in high school for the first time in 10+ years, and then realize how bad they really were. 

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