Petals on the Wind
|Petals on the Wind|
First edition cover
|Author||V. C. Andrews|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|ISBN||0-671-72947-0 (1990 reissues)|
|Preceded by||Flowers in the Attic (1979)|
|Followed by||If There Be Thorns (1981)|
Petals on the Wind is a novel written by V. C. Andrews in 1980. It is the second book in the Dollanganger series. The timeline takes place from the siblings' successful escape in November 1960 to the fall of 1975. The book, like the others In the series, was a number one best-seller in North America in the early 1980s.
A continuation to the previous book Flowers in the Attic, the story starts off with Cathy, Chris, and Carrie traveling by bus to Florida after escaping Foxworth Hall. Carrie, still weak from the effects of the poison that killed her twin, is taken ill on the journey. The children are then discovered by Henrietta "Henny" Beech, the mute housekeeper of a local South Carolina doctor and widower, Paul Sheffield. Henny takes the children to the doctor's home so he can help Carrie. At first the children refuse to reveal their identities, but Cathy, sensing he genuinely cares and can help them, tells Dr. Paul their horrifying story of being locked up for three years, and being poisoned by their mother and grandmother. He convinces them to stay and receives custody of them. Though the three thrive under Paul's care, fulfilling their dreams—Chris goes to premed and medical school, and Cathy joins a local ballet school then, later, one in New York—Cathy is still bitter and bent on revenge against her mother, seeing her as the root of every problem in their lives: everything from Cory's death and Carrie's deformation to her and Chris' incestuous obsession with each other. While still in love with Chris, Cathy tries to get over her feelings for him and rejects his advances, saying she loves him only as a brother.
Over time, Cathy falls in love with Paul, they become lovers, and make plans to be married, much to Chris' dismay. Paul confesses to Cathy that his wife, Julia, had drowned herself and their son, Scotty, after Paul had an affair. This only increases her desire to be with him so that he won't be lonely. One day, Paul's sister, Amanda, visits Cathy after a ballet performance and leads Cathy to believe Paul's wife isn't dead. She also states that she knows Cathy miscarried Paul's child, referring to an incident about a month after Paul took them in where Cathy was hospitalized when she began bleeding profusely—she was told it was due to her irregular menstrual periods. Cathy realizes if she did miscarry, it was Chris' child, not Paul's. She confronts Paul, who admits his wife had still been alive when he first took them in (though in a permanent vegetative state from her suicide attempt years ago), but she died around the time he and Cathy became lovers. He also insists Cathy did not miscarry, but Cathy realizes she has now revealed to Paul the truth about her and Chris committing incest while they were imprisoned. Paul assures her he loves her, but she reveals that she felt so hurt and betrayed by what his sister told her that she married a man in her dance troupe, a fiery dancer named Julian Marquet who had been pursuing her from the moment he met her. Cathy knows she has made a mistake in marrying Julian, but feels she has to stay with him.
Julian is a possessive husband and jealous of Cathy's relationship with Paul and Chris. He abuses her, cheats on her, and forbids her from seeing Paul or Chris. Cathy even has to sneak away to see Chris graduate from medical school. When she returns to Julian, he breaks her toes so that she cannot perform. Chris comes to her rescue, and wants her to leave. However, Cathy is pregnant with Julian's child, and has realized she does love Julian and wants to make her marriage work, even though both Paul and Chris insist that she must get away for her own safety. In the midst of this conflict, Julian is paralyzed in a car accident. Even though Cathy tells him about the baby and that she loves him, he commits suicide in his hospital bed when he learns he will never dance again. Cathy, though guilt-ridden, is free.
After the birth of her son (named Julian Janus Marquet, and called Jory—J for Julian, the rest for Cory), Cathy once more becomes determined to destroy her mother's life. She moves with Carrie and Jory to Virginia, not far from Foxworth Hall. Under the guise of collecting Julian's insurance, she hires her mother's husband, Bart Winslow, as her lawyer, with the intention of seducing him and eventually revealing her true identity as Corrine's daughter.
Meanwhile, Carrie meets a young man named Alex and they have a rich courtship. However, when Alex tells Carrie he plans to be a minister, Carrie becomes frightened, remembering her grandmother Olivia's lectures about the children being devil's spawn. Soon after, Carrie attempts suicide by eating doughnuts poisoned with arsenic. In the hospital, Cathy tells Carrie that Alex will not become a minister since it bothers her so much. Carrie then reveals the real reason for her suicide attempt: she tells Cathy she saw their mother on the street and ran up to her, only to be angrily rejected by Corinne—this further convinced Carrie that she must be bad and evil. Carrie then dies from the damage cause from her suicide attempt. Cathy is devastated, and becomes even more intent on seeking revenge against her mother. She comes up with a plan to blackmail her mother and steal her handsome younger husband.
Chris finds out about Cathy's plan and gives her an ultimatum: she must give up her plans or he will have nothing to do with her. Cathy refuses to listen and continues her plan to seduce Bart Winslow. Though initially focused solely on revenge, she and Bart fall in love and begin a prolonged affair. Cathy also sneaks into Foxworth Hall one evening, and begins looking for her grandmother, who has had a stroke and become an invalid. Cathy taunts and lashes her grandmother, but eventually starts to feel guilty and runs from the mansion. While Cathy and Bart continue their affair, she becomes pregnant with Bart's child, an act she believes will be a crushing blow to her mother, who, according to her grandfather's will, must forfeit her vast inheritance should she ever bear children. As Bart and his wife cannot have children, he is torn between his desire to be a husband to Corinne and his wish to be a father to Cathy's unborn child. He does put an end to Cathy's sending blackmailing letters to Corinne, however.
Cathy returns to Foxworth Hall a second time on Christmas and visits the room where she and her siblings were locked away; it remains untouched as if they never left. She waits until the stroke of midnight and then takes her revenge on her mother by exposing the truth to Bart and a crowd of guests at her mother's Christmas Party at Foxworth Hall. Bart whisks Cathy and Corinne away from the party to the library; at first he thinks Cathy is lying, but he listens to her story and confronts Corinne. Corinne confesses to Bart but then exposes her side of the story, claiming to be victim because of her father, whose vicious plot was to ensure his grandchildren died trapped in the attic. She claims that she gave the children the arsenic to simply make them sick, she could then take them out of the house and get them away and lie to her parents that they had died at the hospital. Cathy does not believe her and Bart is visibly disgusted by what she has done and the secrets she kept from him. Cathy demands to know what happened to Cory's body, because she checked the records and there were no death certificates issued for a boy his age in that month. Corinne says she stashed the body in a ravine but Cathy accuses her of lying again and says she found a small room off the attic which had a strange musty smell. Chris arrives at the house and bursts into the library. Corinne mistakes him to be her first husband, come back to haunt her. Cathy's mother suffers a mental breakdown and suddenly believes that Cathy is twelve again and has somehow escaped the attic to confront her. In her madness, she sets fire to Foxworth Hall. Cathy, Chris and their mother escape, but Olivia is trapped and Bart runs to save her. Both end up dying in the fire. Cathy's mother is committed to a mental institution. It is later revealed that in a twist of fate, although Corinne has forfeited her father's inheritance, all that money has reverted to her now-dead mother, who stated in her will that her daughter was to receive everything.
Chris tells Cathy why he came to Foxworth Hall to find her: Henny had a massive stroke, and in the process of trying to help her, Paul suffered a massive heart attack. Cathy returns to Paul and finally marries him. Cathy gives birth to a second son, whom she names Bart Jr.. Life is happy for Cathy, but due to complications from four heart attacks, Paul dies soon after. On his deathbed, Paul encourages Cathy to be with Chris, who has loved her and waited for her all these years. Cathy is amazed that Chris still loves her and still wants to be with her. It is at that moment Cathy realizes that Chris was the right man for her all along and she still loves him as well. They move to California, where Cathy and Chris take the name "Sheffield" and plan to raise Cathy's two sons together, although Cathy secretly dreads what will happen to the children if their secret relationship is ever revealed. She also ends the book stating that she has been having strange thoughts about the attic in their house, and even put twin beds up there and wonders if she is somehow becoming her mother.
- Julian Marquet: Cathy's first husband. He is a talented ballet dancer. He is very cruel to Cathy; he physically abuses her, is unfaithful, and forbids her to see Chris and Paul. He is injured in a car accident with Yolanda and loses his ability to dance. Despite that Cathy was pregnant with his child, he committs suicide after learning he will never dance again.
- Julian "Jory" Janus Marquet: Cathy's first son, fathered by Julian. He is Cathy's pride and joy, due to his brilliant dance skills and beauty. He resembles his father but is more kind and gentle like Chris. He has his father's fierce temper but he is never violent and loves Chris as his father.
- Yolanda Lange: Cathy's room mate at the Ballet Academy and her rival for both Chris and Julian. She and Cathy hate each other deeply. Cathy, who feels Chris is too good for Yolanda, is disgusted that Chris and Yolanda are lovers but does not care when Julian and Yolanda become lovers. She is killed in the car crash which paralyzes Julian.
- Paul Sheffield: A doctor who lives in Clairmont. He becomes the legal guardian of the Dollanganger children. He provides means for Chris to go to medical school, Cathy to ballet school, and Carrie an expensive private school. He marries Cathy towards the end of the book and, after having suffered prior heart attacks, dies peacefully in his sleep a few years later.
- Amanda Sheffield (Biddens): Paul's older sister. She is a scheming liar who disapproves of Paul's engagement to Cathy because of their age difference. To break them up, she tells Cathy that Paul's first wife is still alive. She further claims Cathy's D&C procedure aborted the two-headed monster embryo in a jar sitting on Paul's desk. Considering Amanda's age in this book, she is likely dead by now.
- Julia Sheffield: Paul's first wife and the mother of their son Scotty. She was frigid and withheld sex from Paul yet demanded fidelity from him. To punish Paul for having an affair, Julia murdered Scotty by drowning him in a river. She attempted to drown herself too but was taken to the hospital in a coma and died later on.
- Scotty Sheffield: Dead son of Paul and Julia; murdered by Julia.
- Bart Sheffield: Cathy's second son, this one being fathered by Cathy's stepfather Bart Winslow. He envies his older brother Jory, whom Cathy seems to prefer. He grows up believing Paul was his father until the truth comes out in If There Be Thorns. He is a curious, precocious child who notices he does not look like Paul and wonders why he has no interest in becoming a doctor.
- Henrietta "Henny" Beech: A housemaid to Dr. Sheffield who helps Chris and Cathy when Carrie is ill. She is able to hear but not speak and communicates in written messages. Her personality is nurturing and motherly. She is a good cook and has a weight problem which contributes to her death from a stroke.
- Alex: Carrie's fiancé. He planned on becoming a minister but tells Cathy that he would remain an electrician to save Carrie's life: "To me she was a dainty doll who didn't know she was beautiful. And if God lets her die I will never in this life find my credence again!"
The book will be adapted into a television film of the same name in 2014 on the Lifetime network. Unlike the book, the film will jump 10 years ahead from the events of Flowers. It will star Rose McIver as Cathy and Will Kemp as Julian Marquet, with Heather Graham as Corrine and Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth. Production for the film will begin on February 25, 2014, in Los Angeles.
- Andrews, V. C. (1980). Petals on the Wind. Simon and Schuster. p. 448 pp. ISBN 0-671-72947-0.
- Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic. Simon and Schuster. p. 412 pp. ISBN 0-671-41124-1.
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