My Sweet Audrina
First edition cover
|Author||V. C. Andrews|
|Series||only book written as a solo|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
My Sweet Audrina is a 1982 novel by V. C. Andrews. It was the only standalone novel without incest published during Andrews' lifetime. It was a number one best-selling novel in North America, published in between If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday, before the publication of Heaven. The story takes place in the Southeastern United States during the 1960s—70s. The story features diverse real-world subjects such as brittle bone disease, rape, posttraumatic stress disorder, diabetes and autism in the haunting setting of a Victorian era mansion near the fictitious River Lyle.
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Audrina Adare claims she is seven years old when the novel opens, although it is later revealed that Audrina's memory is unreliable. Audrina lives at Whitefern, a Victorian Era mansion, with her father Damian, mother Lucietta, her aunt Ellsbeth and her cousin Vera. The family takes special care to keep Audrina unaware of precise dates, including that of her own birthday—although Audrina knows she was born on the ninth of September, she is frequently confused about the exact passage of time, leading Vera to mock her for being insane. Audrina's father, however, is convinced that Audrina "walks in her own time space". Nine years before Audrina was born, her elder sister—who coincidentally was also named Audrina and was also born on September the ninth—was raped and murdered in the woods on what would have been her ninth birthday. Damian tells her stories about his "first and best Audrina" and convinces the younger Audrina that, by a process of self-hypnosis (which includes going into the First Audrina's old bedroom and rocking in her rocking chair), she can gain all of the First Audrina's memories and become just as beloved and special as her dead sister, which is what Audrina wants more than anything else in the world.
Audrina lives in virtual isolation, her only real contact with the outside world being her older cousin, Vera, who despises Audrina. Vera claims that Audrina stole her place in Damian's affection and that the "second and worst" Audrina will never be as special or wonderful as the First and Best Audrina. Vera, a habitual liar and borderline nymphomaniac, proves early on that she will stop at nothing to take anything that Audrina loves. Audrina, conversely, is haunted by dreams of her dead sister's rape and is terrified of sex and men. Vera takes great pleasure in taunting Audrina, and is hell-bent on gaining Damian's affections, such as constantly breaking bones to catch attention, which bothers Audrina a great deal.
When she is seven, Audrina meets Arden Lowe and his mother Billie, a former ice skater who is now an amputee, having lost both her legs. Billie and Arden have moved into the groundkeeper's cottage in the woods where the First Audrina died. Although she fears the woods, Audrina is willing to brave them to see Billie and Arden, and gradually Damian consents to Audrina's visits. Meanwhile, Lucietta, is pregnant yet again. The family calls Mrs. Allismore, a psychic, to come and predict the baby's sex. They are horrified when the woman predicts the child is neither male nor female, although Vera calmly states that it is fitting that a new "freak" would join the family. On Audrina's ninth birthday, Lucietta (six months pregnant) goes into early labor but dies in childbirth; the baby is a girl and is named Sylvia.
To keep Lucietta's memory alive, Audrina takes piano lessons alongside Vera at Lamar Rensdale's home. More than two years after her birth, Sylvia finally comes home from the hospital and turns out to be mentally challenged. Audrina is tasked by her father to take care of Sylvia. Audrina complains to her piano teacher Lamar about not being allowed to go to school—he intervenes and Audrina is finally allowed to go to school, with Ellsbeth begrudgingly agreeing to care for Sylvia while Audrina is in school. A couple of years later, Audrina discovers an affair going on between Lamar and Vera and that Vera is pregnant. When Vera finds out Audrina knows about the affair, she angrily confronts her and fights with her, and Vera has a miscarriage. The next day she leaves town with Lamar Rensdale. Vera leaves a note stating that she is, in fact, Audrina's paternal half-sister, due to an affair that Ellsbeth had with Damian before he met Lucietta. Damian does not deny any of this and says Vera's departure is "good riddance". Audrina is upset he has acted so horribly towards his own daughter, but Damian says Vera hates them all and given the chance would destroy them, and they should pray she stays away; even Ellsbeth sadly admits he is right.
Time passes, and shortly after she turns eighteen, Audrina discovers that Damian and Ellsbeth are lovers again; however, tragedy strikes again when Ellsbeth threatens to leave Damian because he will not let her go and help Vera (who is alone after Lamar Rensdale has committed suicide). She and Damian seem to work it out, but the next morning she is found dead from a mysterious fall down the inside stairs.
In the confusion following Ellsbeth's death, Audrina elopes with Arden, hoping to escape her controlling father (though she does take Sylvia with her). However, Audrina is still not prepared for sexual intimacy, and her wedding night goes terribly wrong. When the newlyweds return from their disastrous honeymoon, they find that Damian has won over Arden's mother and invited her to live with them at Whitefern. He also offers Arden a job at his company, since Arden has not been able to find work. Audrina is upset at how her father has manipulated events to keep control over her life, and disappointed that Billie has been "tricked" by Damian into believing he is wonderful and kind. She does want Billie and Arden to be happy though, so she tries along with the others to create a peaceful life in the house together. Things seem okay until Vera returns suddenly one day. Damian orders her to leave, but Billie is heart-broken by his cold-heartedness and convinces him to let Vera stay for awhile. It is not long before Vera attempts to seduce Arden.
Not long after Vera's arrival, Audrina (and later Vera) discovers that Billie and Damian have become lovers. At first, Audrina is disgusted and attempts to persuade Billie to leave, saying that her father only knows how to ruin the lives of the women he loves. Billie says that her father has made her feel like a woman again and Audrina comes to accept they are happy. But tragedy strikes again when Billie "falls" down the same steps and dies. Audrina suspects that Sylvia might have pushed Billie, as she always liked and wanted the cart/wheelie board that Billie used to get around, but she shelters Sylvia from accusation.
Depressed and disillusioned, Audrina pulls away from Arden and Sylvia—during this time, Vera continues her seduction of Arden and they begin an affair. At first Audrina does not care, but then her love and sexuality is finally awakened and she tells Arden that she doesn't want to lose him to Vera after losing so many other things. They spend the first happy night of their marriage together. When she awakens in the night and checks on Sylvia, she somehow finds herself at the First Audrina's room, and for the first time in many years she sits in the rocking chair. She has some clear visions of the day the First Audrina died, which include Arden being there in the woods and running away. Confused and upset, she heads back toward her bedroom to confront Arden, and in the darkened hallway she is pushed down the stairs by an unseen assailant. She survives, but falls into a coma, during which she can hear others speak but cannot speak or move herself. In this state, she overhears that Vera and Arden are lovers again, as Arden is distraught and "needs" Vera. Vera also tries to convince Arden to disconnect Audrina's life-support, saying Audrina will never recover and she would not want to live like this. With Sylvia's help, Audrina awakens and escapes Vera. Her near-death experience convinces her that she cannot die without learning the secret of the First and Best Audrina.
Audrina is angry with Arden, and wants Vera out of the house. She also confronts her father and demands he tell her the truth about her older sister's death. Damian relents, confessing that the First and Best Audrina never existed. It was Audrina herself who was gang-raped in the woods. Because her father had always told her that she was pure and good, unlike the evil and dirty Vera, the rape left her so traumatized that she attempted suicide. In an attempt to save Audrina from herself, Damian subjected her to electro-convulsive therapy, trying to erase the memory of the rape. Seeing his daughter strapped down and subjected to electric shock was too much for Damian to bear, leading him to try and heal her himself. Following Damian's lead, the family conspired to convince Audrina that she was two years younger than she really was, and that the rape didn't happen to her but to an older sister who died before she was born. Eventually the repetition of this story worked and Audrina believed it. This is why her memory is unreliable. Since the family deliberately changed the clocks in the house and also ripped off calendar days at random, her sense of time was also altered. As Audrina listens to her father's tale she remembers seeing Arden there and realizes he witnessed the rape but ran away in the face of Audrina's older and stronger assailants. This means that he also knew who she really was all these years but kept the secret.
As Damian is relaying all of this to Audrina, Vera appears in the doorway. Upon seeing Vera, Audrina is flooded with clear memories of the day she was attacked and realizes that Vera was the only other person who knew she would be coming home through the woods that day, and also knew how to get to the path. Audrina concludes it must have been Vera who told the boys where to find her that day. She accuses Vera of doing this out of jealousy. Vera denies being involved but Damian believes Audrina and lashes out at Vera. Vera's reaction suggests she is in fact guilty, but when Damian curses her she accuses him in turn of never acknowledging her as his daughter and always favoring Audrina over her, even though Vera is the one who is more like him. She tells Damian that it is his own fault that Audrina was raped. Infuriated, Damian rushes at her. When Vera turns to run she slips and falls down the stairs, later dying of her numerous injuries.
Heartbroken and betrayed, Audrina decides to take herself and Sylvia away from Whitefern, as she is convinced that nothing can flourish in this house but pain and tragedy. She is willing to leave her father and Arden behind if it means escaping her past and the fate of her mother and half-sister. Audrina says her final good-byes, but Sylvia refuses to leave. Her sister's simple words of "home, Audrina, home" destroy Audrina's will to escape. She tries to still leave by herself, but realizes that where there is love there can be forgiveness and the promise of a fresh start. She decides to stay and replace the painful memories with new memories forged on honesty and the deep abiding love of family. She now finally feels like the loving "First" Audrina she has always strived to be.
Audrina Adelle Adare: Narrator of the story. Daughter of Damian and Lucietta; sister of Sylvia; cousin and half-sister of Vera; in love with Arden. She is unable to remember the first seven years of her life but has psychic visions of her dead sister's life. She is described as sensitive and beautiful, with violet eyes and long "chameleon" (dirty blonde) hair. Her birthday is September 9, making her a Virgo.
Damian Jonathan Adare: Father of Vera, Audrina and Sylvia; husband of Lucietta; brother-in-law of Ellsbeth. He is mysterious, tall, dark and handsome, a ruthless businessman and overprotective father. He hates Vera, loves Audrina and is ambivilant towards Sylvia. He fears growing old or losing his power. Women love him. Men want to be him.
Lucietta Lana Whitefern Adare: Mother of Audrina and Sylvia; wife of Damian; younger sister of Ellsbeth. Her nickname is Lucky. She is a gifted pianist who gave up a career to marry Damian. She has a heart condition, making her pregnancy with Sylvia one of high risk. She sometimes overindulges in chocolate, bourbon and flirting but means well.
Sylvia Adare: Youngest daughter of Damian and Lucietta; sister of Audrina; half-sister and cousin of Vera. She is born prematurely and autistic. Audrina is the only person who is able to successfully communicate with her. Despite her disability, she is striking, with long "chestnut" (brown) hair and aquamarine eyes.
Ellsbeth Whitefern: Mother of Vera; older sister of Lucietta; aunt of Audrina and Sylvia. Her nickname is Ellie. A former schoolteacher, she used to date Damian but he dumped her when she became pregnant with Vera, not believing he was the father, and married Lucietta. Ellsbeth is a smart, funny and feisty feminist who can hold her own with Damian.
Vera Adare: Daughter of Ellsbeth and Damian; cousin and half-sister of Audrina and Sylvia; lover of Lamar. Vera is described contrarily as conniving and mean yet delicate and vulnerable to injuries. She has long "apricot" (red) hair, pale skin and dark eyes. She is Audrina's rival, first for Damian's attention, then Arden's. Her birthday is November 12, making her a Scorpio.
Mrs. Allismore: A "psychic" hired, then fired, by Damian.
Mercy Marie: Missing and presumed dead, she was Lucietta's best friend. Lucietta and Ellsbeth get drunk and "channel" her spirit during their weekly Tuesday Teatimes.
Arden Nelson Lowe: Only son of Billie Lowe; in love with Audrina. He wants to become an architect but ends up working for Damian. He has dark brown hair and amber eyes and is buff. He is a noble but gullible man who lets Audrina down when she needs him most. Therefore, he must ultimately win her back.
Billie Lowe: Mother of Arden. She resembles Elizabeth Taylor. She was an Olympic figure skating champion who lost both of her legs after getting gangrene as a complication from untreated diabetes. She is a friendly, positive person to be around. She becomes a mother figure to Audrina.
Lamar Rensdale: Audrina's and Vera's piano teacher. He helps Audrina by convincing her aunt to allow her to go to school. Unfortunately, he becomes involved in an affair with underage Vera, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy.
- The Norwegian band Ancient recorded a song called "Audrina, My Sweet" on their album Proxima Centauri in tribute to the book.
- V. C. Andrews drew inspiration for Vera's injuries and the four falls down the stairs from her own fall down a school staircase and subsequent health problems.
- This book was shown in the photograph of the possible abduction of Tara Calico.