In the last chapter, we were left with a cliff hanger. Cathy was braced for the "knockout blow" of bad news that Chris alluded to, but didn't share. He was too busy describing the sex that John the Butler and a woman named Livvy had on the sofa he hid behind. He also described the Grandfather's library, right down to the placement of the furniture.
Chris asks Cathy to guess the reason that "she" (I think he's referring to the grandmother) gave for not having the children's room cleaned. Cathy shakes her head instead of speaking. She also mentions that it had been so long since the servants stopped coming, she had forgotten those first horrible weeks.
He then explains it out to her- Arsenic is white. And even more, he points out that you can mix it with powdered sugar, and put it on donuts.
Cathy is still skeptical. She wonders, much like @HerNameIsBuffy, why the Grandmother didn't just poison them outright.
Meanwhile, Chris is "cupping" Cathy's head between his palms.
He then tells her the plot to "Arsenic and Old Lace," but doesn't say the name of the film. I've seen the play once or twice, I find it quite funny. I should look for the film.
Our narrator is shocked. She asks if Cory died of arsenic poisoning. After all, Corrine said it was pneumonia. Chris than (kind of selfishly), hurts Cathy a little more, by pointing out that:
- Momma can say whatever she wants, doesn't mean it's true
- Cory might not have even been taken to a hospital.
They decide to test the arsenic doughnut theory on the mouse.
The mouse dies a painful death.
They decide to put the mouse and two doughnuts into a bag for the police. Cathy suspects Chris is hiding something. He says he'll tell her later, he can't say anything more without vomiting.
Cathy compares her life to a soap opera. While she is doing this, the Grandmother pops in for a final visit. She leaves them with some advice.
Nothing ever works out the way you think it will. In the end, you are always disappointed.
Chatty Cathy monologues to herself about happiness, being a woman grown, feeling older than the mountains outside, her happiness being a hill, I don't know. "The wisdom of the attic was in my bones, etched on my brain, part of my flesh."
"Where was that fragile, golden-fair Dresden doll I used to be? Gone. Gone like porcelain turned into steel - made into someone who would always get what she wanted, no matter who or what stood in her way."
Cathy forces Carrie to eat, takes her to the bathroom, cleans and dresses her. They both dress in several layers of warm clothing. Cathy is wearing a fourteen-karat-gold watch from Switzerland. Chris has a watch. They have a guitar, a banjo, a polaroid, and watercolors, and the wedding rings. Cathy takes this moment to realize that the Grandmother could open the door and watch them without them noticing (good, god, children, be more observant), and could she know? Would she be preventing their escape?
Considering this is the last chapter, I'm going to go ahead and call it. No. The Grandmother is not going to prevent their escape. I think she only appeared here as part of the good-bye tour.
Our hero runs upstairs to say good-bye to the attic, and write on the chalkboard. How did they not run out of chalk in four years?
They leave with two suitcases, the guitar and banjo, Carrie, a dead mouse, and two doughnuts. They split the money between the two suitcases. It's not yet snowing. Cathy smells the clean air and feels the ground below her feet. She puts Carrie down and Chris yells at them to hurry up. Carrie (sniff) asks if they will meet Cory.
Cathy lies. She tells Carrie that Cory is waiting for them, with Daddy in a garden. Carrie worries about Cory not liking the garden if she's not there.
This kind of goes on, Cathy is sad, but lies to Carrie to get her to walk faster. Chris keeps telling them to hurry, I guess because VC needed to create a sense of urgency. If they miss the morning train, they have to wait until 4, and will likely be caught by the Grandmother.
I want to know what ole concrete boobs does and says when she goes up and finds them gone. Does she have a little smile? Is she angry? Does she grab her henchman and tear off in a Rolls Royce to track them down?
They arrive at the train station.
The ginger mail man greets them and says that Carrie looks "peaked" which I guess means tired or sick? They say she's been sick. Chris buys tickets. They get on the train, and Cathy watches the mansion. She sees a "shadowy, distant form of a large old woman" who appears and vanishes. Didn't it take hours to walk to the mansion? How can you see the shape of a person inside if they are hours away?
They slide down in their seat anyway, just in case. Cathy then wonders why she's up there so early.
They make it to Charlottesville, where they buy bus tickets to Sarasota. They have two hours to wait. Worried about the Butler, they stash their stuff in a locker and wander around.
Chris decides to tell the rest of the story while holding up the dead mouse sack. He "overheard the servants talking." Was this part of the same night? Was it John and Livvy again? Or did he go spy on other servants? We will never know.
Whatever, on the night that shall be called "deus ex machina" when all of the servants gossiped within hearing distance of Christopher Jr, he overheard them discussing a codicil that was added to the grandfather's will.
It doesn't work like that. Corrine, you married a lawyer. Bart, you married a conflict of interest. Everyone stop it.
Chris doesn't think that concrete boobs is evil, because she prays before bed. Chris, I would like to introduce you to Free Jinger. He also thinks that Grandmother telling them not to eat the sweets is a clue that she wasn't trying to kill them. Christopher is an idiot and should not be a doctor.
He finally apologizes to Cathy for not wanting to leave and believing in Corrine. He then tasks her with the responsibility to choose what to do with the dead mouse and arsenic donuts, because he's still a manipulative asshole.
Cathy/VC Andrews moralizes at us a bit.
They'd be only gray mice in cages, shut up like us, only they'd have the benefit of being in the company of drug addicts, prostitutes, and other killers like themselves. Their clothes would be gray prison cotton. To trips twice a week to the beauty salon for Momma, no makeup, no professional manicures - and a shower once a week.
Ah, yes, sharing space with a drug addict and a prostitute!
After a page of hemming and hawing, Cathy makes a decision to throw the "evidence" away.
And that's it.
The epilogue is four paragraphs. Five sentences, total. She considers the previous story to be "their foundation years" of which they base the rest of their lives. They continue to move toward their goals. Carrie has a hard time without Cory. They survive, but that's another story.
My thoughts. (Pretty randomly thrown at the page)
I started this book over a year and a half ago. Rereading as an adult, I'm struck by how much I must have missed or forgotten as a child. I remembered bits and pieces of it, but had managed to forget the weird religious aspect of it.
Much of this book was a slog, and that makes me wonder if the monotony of some of the middle chapters was done intentionally. If the "dolls" had to endure day after day after day of doing nothing, I suppose we can read about it, right? I wish there had been more "showing" and less "telling." I also wonder how much better this book could be with a third person POV, or even multiple narrators.
Medical science is pretty clear that "sun" doesn't make children grow. Though I am concerned about their vitamin d levels & anemia.
Is VC Andrews obsessed with appearance, or was that a choice to show Cathy's character?
Now that Corrine has moved out of Foxworth Hall, would the kids have been allotted more freedom and fewer arsenic doughnuts? I imagine they had to remain hidden. Or would concrete boobs use them as leverage to get her money back? How much is property tax in Virginia and do they have a trust?
How is Christopher going to be a doctor? He's terrible. He lacks curiosity and doesn't seem to care about people.
All of these kids will have life long psychological issues. I'm sure that will be handled in an appropriate fashion in the next book.
I'm half tempted to write VC Andrews fanfiction, where I take them, give them new names that start with different letters, modern attitudes and language, curiosity, and Cory lives, and the adults go to jail.
Anyway. I don't know what to do next. I started to read Petals On the Wind, and I thought "wow, this is so much more interesting!" But at 25% through, it's already turning from "this could be really interesting" to "ugh, Cathy is annoying" and a lot of way too fast timeline things. I also hate the narrator and don't find her very interesting. At least in Game of Thrones, I can hate Cersei, and know that she's being written that way, and she's interesting. Cathy is not a schemer. I don't care about her thoughts on emerald bathtubs.