Flowers in the Attic
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First edition cover of Flowers in the Attic
|Author||V. C. Andrews|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|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.
In 1957, the Dollanganger family lives an idyllic life in Gladstone, Pennsylvania. The family consists of 12-year-old Cathy, 14-year-old Chris, 5-year-old twins Carrie and Cory, and their parents Christopher and Corrine. When Christopher dies in a car accident, the family is left deep in debt. Facing financial destitution, Corrine decides to move with the children to her estranged, wealthy parents' home, Foxworth Hall, in Virginia. Corrine explains to them that she has been estranged from her parents because of something she did which her parents disapproved of when she was 18. She further explains that their true family name is Foxworth not Dollanganger. Upon arrival at Foxworth Hall at dawn, Corrine's mother, Olivia, sneaks the family into a small bedroom that connects to the attic and insists the children must be hidden from their grandfather, Malcolm. Olivia treats the children with disdain and threatens to severely punish them for any disobedience. Corrine meets with her father, and when she returns to the children, she has been savagely whipped by Olivia, who then tells the children that their parents were half-uncle and niece. Corrine confirms this and explains her plan to win back her father's love so she can introduce the children to him.
Over time, Cathy and Chris turn the attic into an imaginary garden, educate the twins, and read books. Corrine visits with her children every day, sometimes bringing expensive gifts, and enrolls herself in secretarial school to provide for them. A year later, however, Corrine's visits decline and she gradually loses interest in her children. Their grandmother physically and emotionally abuses the children, sets down a series of strict rules that includes them from looking at her and each other, and constantly threatens to whip them for doing anything she considers "sinful". On Christmas, Corrine allows Cathy and Chris to watch her party from a hiding spot, where 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. However, she immediately apologizes to them and promises to make amends to them for their confinement. Although Chris believes her, Cathy is skeptical and worries that their mother no longer cares about them.
Another year later, Cathy and Chris, who have entered puberty, have taken a parental role with the twins, who no longer remember Corrine. The twins have stopped growing due to the stress of being imprisoned and the lack of sunlight and fresh air. One day, Chris walks in on Cathy naked and is entranced. Olivia catches them and orders Chris to cut off Cathy's hair as punishment or all four children will not receive food. They refuse, but one night, Olivia drugs Cathy in her sleep and pours tar into her hair. Chris removes the tar, but Cathy futilely cuts off some of her hair in hopes of getting food for the twins. Olivia starts leaving them additional sugar-powdered doughnuts with their food. Corrine visits for the first time in six months, announcing her marriage to Bart and return from their honeymoon in Europe. Cathy and Chris react angrily, and Corinne refuses to visit again until they apologize. Olivia continues to abuse the children, even whipping Cathy and Chris after he talks back to her. Due to their confinement, Cathy and Chris become physically attracted towards each other, and start to fall in love. While they are ashamed of this, they are unable to resist due to not being around other people.
Due to the twins' declining health, Cathy and Chris plan an escape. Every night, they sneak into their mother's room to steal money and valuables. One night, Cathy goes alone, and finds her stepfather sleeping. Curious, she kisses him. Chris finds out the next day when he overhears Bart talking about it to Corrine, although Bart thinks it was a dream. Enraged, Chris rapes Cathy. Afterwards, feeling guilty and ashamed, he apologizes, and she forgives him. He confesses his love, and although Cathy reciprocates his feelings, she is unsure how to respond. When Cory becomes sick, Cathy demands that Corinne get Cory to the hospital. Corrine slaps Cathy, who slaps her back and threatens to get revenge if she does not help Cory. Olivia seemingly sides with Cathy, and they take Cory away. The next day, Corrine tells them that Cory died from pneumonia, leaving the elder children devastated.
Afraid they will die next, Chris scavenges for money but instead finds that his mother and Bart have left for good. He overhears the head butler say that Malcolm died nine months ago and that Olivia has been leaving doughnuts with arsenic in the attic to kill the mice. Chris and Cathy give Cory's pet mouse a doughnut to confirm the story. When the mouse dies, they sneak out of the house and catch a train to Florida. At the train station, Chris reveals that their mother inherited the money on the condition that she has no children from her first marriage. Their mother has been poisoning them for nine months to secure her inheritance. They decide against contacting 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, but Cathy swears that she will get revenge one day.
- 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.
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, Mason Dye as Christopher, and directed by Deborah Chow. The film received mixed reviews, but critics praised Ellen Burstyn's performance.
The book was adapted into a stage play by V.C. Andrews 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. In August 2015 the stage play received its world premiere production in New Orleans, Louisiana. The play, which received positive reviews, was produced by See 'Em On Stage: A Production Company and was directed by Christopher Bentivegna.
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."
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."
- "Previous Winners of the BILBY Awards: 1990 – 96" (PDF). www.cbcaqld.org. The Children's Book Council of Australia Queensland Branch. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- V.C. Andrews' 'Flowers in the Attic' to Premiere on Lifetime January 18 - Starring Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn & Kiernan Shipka
- Doyle, Robert (1998). Banned Books Resource Guide. The American Library Association.
- 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.