Flowers in the Attic

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Flowers in the Attic
Dollanganger01 FlowersInTheAttic.jpg
First edition cover of Flowers in the Attic
Author V. C. Andrews
Country United States
Language English
Series Dollanganger series
Genre Gothic horror
Family saga
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
November 1979
Media type Print
Pages 400
ISBN 0-671-82531-3
OCLC 21616361
Followed by Petals on the Wind (1980)

Flowers in the Attic is a 1979 novel by V.C. Andrews. It is the first book in the Dollanganger Series, and was followed by Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. The novel is written in the first person from the point of view of Cathy Dollanganger. It was twice adapted into films in 1987 and 2014. The book was extremely popular, selling over 40 million copies worldwide.


  • Catherine Leigh "Cathy" Dollanganger: The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Cathy is the second child and older daughter of Christopher and Corrine. She becomes an accomplished ballerina and later a novelist. During their time in the attic, she falls in love with Chris.
  • Christopher "Chris" Dollanganger, Jr.: Older son and oldest child of Christopher and Corrine. Chris is the older brother of Cathy, Cory, and Carrie. He is an over-achiever and later becomes a doctor. During their time in the attic, he falls in love with Cathy.
  • Cory Dollanganger: Twin brother of Carrie and younger brother of Cathy and Chris. He is described as introverted and musically talented. He becomes ill during their time in the attic and dies from arsenic poisoning at the hands of his mother. He is also described as the "quiet one of the twins" and never complained.
  • Carrie Dollanganger: Twin sister to Cory and the younger sister of Cathy and Chris. She is described as an extroverted girly girl, but her twin's death changes her. After Cory dies she refuses to speak for months.
  • Corrine Dollanganger (née Foxworth): Mother of Chris, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie and widowed wife of Christopher Dollanganger. Eventually becomes an antagonist in the story when she tries to kill her children in order to gain her father's inheritance. She marries her father's attorney, Bart Winslow, later on and loses interest in her children and late husband.
  • Bartholomew "Bart" Winslow: Second husband of Corrine. He is a trophy husband and marries her thinking that she doesn't have any children. Cathy is shocked to discover that he is eight years younger than Corrine.
  • Olivia Foxworth (née Winfield): Wife of Malcolm Foxworth. Grandmother of the Dollanganger children. Cousin of John Amos. Olivia and Malcolm are co-antagonists in this book.
  • Malcolm Foxworth: Father of Corrine and grandfather of the Dollanganger children. Husband of Olivia. He is described both as having a heart condition and as heartless, a symbolic paradox. He dies during the story, though Chris and Cathy do not learn this until the end. He was also the older half-brother of the children's father.
  • Christopher Dollanganger, Sr.: Corrine's first husband; father of the children. He was Malcolm's younger half-brother, making him Corrine's half-uncle. He is described as a wonderful father who couldn't bear to be separated from his children for longer than five days. He is killed in a car accident on his birthday at the beginning of the book.
  • John Amos: A butler to the Foxworth family. Chris overhears very horrible information from him during one of Chris' expeditions to steal from his mother.


In the year 1957, the Dollanganger family lives an idyllic life in Gladstone, Pennsylvania. The family consists of 12-year-old Cathy, 14-year-old Chris, 4-year-old twins Carrie and Cory, and their parents Christopher and Corrine. The family is well-known and loved. Their father works at a PR firm and their mother is a housewife, and are affectionate and devoted to their children, who think of their parents as perfect.

On the night of their father's 35th birthday, the police inform them that he was killed in a car accident, leaving the family devastated and deep in debt. Corrine decides to move herself and the children to the home of her wealthy parents in Virginia. She explains that she has been estranged from her parents. However, her father is dying, and she intends to win back his love so she can inherit his fortune. They are sneaked into the mansion and then into a room that connects to the attic by Corrine's mother, Olivia, who insists the children must be kept in the room so that their grandfather doesn't find out about them. Olivia treats the children with disdain, and threatens to severely punish them if they disobey her. Corrine meets with her father, and when she returns to the children, she has been savagely whipped by Olivia, who proceeds to tell the children that their parents were half-uncle and niece; he was their grandfather's younger half-brother. Corrine confirms this and she explains her plan to win back her father's love so she can introduce them to him.

As months go by, Cathy and Chris turn the attic into an imaginary garden, educate the twins with school lessons, and read books stored in the attic. Corrine visits with her children every day and brings them expensive gifts, and enrolls herself in secretarial school so she can provide for the children. However, as a year passes by, Corrine's visits with them start to decline. Chris defends their mother. They are physically and emotionally abused by their grandmother. Corrine does nothing to stop this treatment but continues to shower the children with toys and clothes. On Christmas, Corrine allows Cathy and Chris to see her Christmas party from a hiding spot, and there, they see their grandfather, Malcolm, for the first time. They also see their mother with their father's attorney, Bart Winslow, who is helping with the grandfather's will. They notice a change in their mother when she slaps Chris for wandering around the mansion and threatens to whip him and Cathy.

Another year later, Cathy and Chris have taken the roles of mother and father to the twins, who no longer know Corrine. During this time, Cathy and Chris enter puberty. Cathy, in particular, is curious of the changes in her body. As she admires her naked body from a mirror, Chris walks in on her and is entranced. Olivia catches them and orders Chris to cut off Cathy's hair as punishment or all four children will starve for two weeks. They refuse, so one night, Olivia sneaks into the room, drugs Cathy in her sleep, and pours tar into her hair. Chris is able to remove the tar but Cathy cuts off most of her hair in order to feed the twins. Corrine visits for the first time in six months, announces she has married Bart, and was away on her honeymoon in Europe. Cathy and Chris are angry that she was on vacation while they have been suffering. She refuses to visit with them again until they apologize to her, leaving them at the mercy of their grandmother. During this period, Cathy and Chris start to confront the feelings they have for each other.

Due to the twins' declining health, Cathy and Chris begin planning an escape. Every night, while the twins sleep, they sneak into their mother's room to steal money. One night, Chris is ill and Cathy goes alone, and finds her stepfather sleeping. Curious, she kisses him. Chris finds out about the kiss the next day when he overhears Bart telling Corrine about the kiss which he thinks was a dream. Enraged, Chris rapes Cathy. Afterwards, they feel tremendous guilt and shame, and Chris apologizes and Cathy forgives him. He then confesses to Cathy that he loves her, and although Cathy reciprocates his feelings, she is unsure how to respond to them. Soon after, Cory is sick, Cathy demands that her mother get Cory to the hospital. Corrine slaps Cathy, who smacks her back and threatens to get revenge on her mother if she doesn't help Cory. Olivia agrees with Cathy and they take Cory away. The next day, Corrine tells them that Cory had pneumonia and died.

Afraid they will die next, Chris decides to take whatever money and jewelry he can find, but instead he finds that his mother and Bart have left for good. He overhears the head butler talk about how his grandfather died nine months ago and how Olivia has been leaving doughnuts with arsenic in the attic to kill the mice. He tells Cathy and they give Cory's pet mouse, Mickey, a doughnut to confirm the story. After the mouse dies, they decide to sneak out of the house the next morning and catch the next train to Florida. At the train station, Chris tells Cathy that he also found out that their mother inherited the money on the condition that she has no children, and if proven otherwise, she will lose everything. They have been fed poisoned doughnuts for nine months; their mother has been poisoning them to secure her inheritance. They decide against going to the police; their main concern is to stay together and be there for Carrie. Chris assures Cathy that they can make a new life without their mother and forget about her, but Cathy swears that she will get revenge on her mother one day.


The book was adapted into a film of the same name in 1987. Starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, and Jeb Stuart Adams.

A second adaptation was released on January 18, 2014, on the Lifetime network starring Heather Graham as Corrine and Ellen Burstyn as the Grandmother, with Kiernan Shipka as Cathy.[1]

The book was adapted into a Stage Play by V.C. Andrew Ghost Writer, Andrew Neiderman in the form of an e-book and was published by Pocket Star. The Stage Play was released in October of 2014 and is 80 pages in length.


The book's success was not without controversy. The commission of incest between an adolescent brother and sister in the novel has led to its being banned in certain areas at different times. Chariho High School in Rhode Island removed it because it contained "offensive passages concerning incest and sexual intercourse." In 1994, it was removed from the Oconee County school libraries due to "the filthiness of the material."[2]

The book was much disputed when the novel was said to be based on a true story. For many years there was no evidence to support this claim, and the book was passed off as fiction. Nonetheless, the official V.C. Andrews website claims to have contacted one of Andrews' relatives. This unidentified relative claimed Flowers in the Attic was loosely based on a faintly similar account. While at the "University of Virginia hospital for treatment...she developed a crush on her young doctor. He and his siblings had been locked away in the attic for over 6 years to preserve the family wealth."[3]


  1. ^ V.C. Andrews' 'Flowers in the Attic' to Premiere on Lifetime January 18 - Starring Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn & Kiernan Shipka
  2. ^ Doyle, Robert (1998). Banned Books Resource Guide. The American Library Association. 
  3. ^ F., Jennifer. "Biography: Based on a True Story". The Complete V.C. Andrews. Retrieved 2010-01-09. It has been widely speculated that Flowers in the Attic was based on a true story. But there has been no physical or historical evidence to support that claim. Virginia herself has admitted that a few incidents are autobiographical, and she has also stated that her stories have been influenced by experiences of friends and family, her own dreams and memories, and even popular and literary fiction.