Flowers in the Attic
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First edition cover of Flowers in the Attic
|Author||V. C. Andrews|
|Genre||Gothic horror |
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|Followed by||Petals on the Wind (1980)|
Flowers in the Attic is a 1979 Gothic 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, "Garden of Shadows", "Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth", "Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger" and "Christopher's Diary: Secret Brother". 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 forty million copies world-wide.
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In 1957, the Dollanganger family lives an idyllic life in Gladstone, Pennsylvania until Mr. Dollanganger dies in a car accident, leaving his wife Corrine deep in debt with four children and no professional skills. The family is forced to move in with Corrine's wealthy parents, from whom she is estranged. Upon arrival at Corinne's ancestral home, Foxworth Hall, the family is greeted coldly by Corrine's mother Olivia, who sneaks them into a small bedroom connected to the attic. Only Corrine is allowed in the grand estate, as the children remain hidden from their grandfather Malcolm.
The older children, Cathy and Chris, attempt to make the best of the situation for their younger siblings, twins Carrie and Cory, by turning the attic into an imaginary garden. Yet the children learn the truth of their terrible new fate, as Olivia treats them with disdain and threatens to severely punish them for any disobedience. Corrine returns from meeting with her parents, having been savagely whipped by Olivia. She confesses that the children's dead father was her half-uncle, her father's half-brother, and this incest is the cause of her and her parents' estrangement. Corrine plans to win back her father's love, hoping to introduce the children to him soon.
At first, Corrine visits her children daily, sometimes bringing expensive gifts. Yet the grandmother emotionally and physically abuses the children, constantly threatening to whip them for any acts she considers "sinful". At Christmas time, Corrine allows Cathy and Chris to watch the ball at Foxworth Hall from a hiding spot, where they see their grandfather for the first time and also see their mother with Bart Winslow, Malcolm's attorney. Their mother's visits become less frequent as she grows detached, eventually slapping Chris and threatening to whip them.
A year later, Cathy and Chris have both entered puberty and adopted parental roles with Carrie and Cory, who no longer recognize Corrine. While Cathy and Chris are both entering adulthood, the twins' physical growth is stunted from a lack of adequate nutrition, sunlight and fresh air. Despite personal shame, Cathy and Chris develop physical attraction toward each other. Olivia catches Chris staring at a half-dressed Cathy and orders him to cut off Cathy's hair. Chris refuses, and Olivia abandons them for three weeks, driving them to near-starvation. When Cathy cuts her own hair, meals resume and now include sugared doughnuts as a surprise.
Corrine visits for the first time in six months, returning from her wedding and European honeymoon with Bart. Cathy and Chris react angrily, but relent when Corrine threatens to never visit again. The older children plan to escape, sneaking into the house to steal money and valuables from their mother's room. One night, Cathy discovers her sleeping stepfather and kisses him. When Chris learns of the act, he is enraged and rapes Cathy. He apologizes after, and Cathy forgives him by saying she wanted it too.
Cory becomes sick and Corrine agrees to take him to the hospital only after threats from Cathy. The next day, Corrine returns and tells them Cory died, allegedly from pneumonia. Without warning, their mother and Bart move out. Eavesdropping on the servants, Chris learns that Malcolm died and Olivia is now leaving out doughnuts sprinkled with rat poison in an attempt to clear the attic's "mouse" infestation. The three remaining children finally flee, catching a train to Florida.
At the train station, Chris reveals he discovered Corrine's inheritance is conditional on her having no descendants, and she was poisoning them to secure her father's wealth. Chris and Cathy decide against contacting the police as their main concern is to stay together and protect Carrie, who is still a minor. Chris assures Cathy that they can make a new life without their mother, but Cathy swears to exact revenge one day.
Note: An inconsistency - There is slight confusion as to when the children arrived at Foxworth Hall. Cathy mentions that they had been in the attic 3 years, 4 months, 16 days (POTW- p 18). They left 10 Nov 1960 meaning they arrived about 24 June 1957. Yet in Flowers in the Attic chapters "Goodbye Daddy" to "Roads to Riches", the dad dies in early May and it's inferred that a few months passed before they abandoned the house in Gladstone. Also on page 231, it's mentioned that "August had come and gone. We have been in this prison a full year."
- 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, her brother.
- Christopher Garland "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. The "quiet one" of the twins, Cory is introverted but musically talented. He becomes ill during their time in the attic and dies from arsenic poisoning at the hands of his mother.
- Carrie Dollanganger: Twin sister to Cory and the younger sister of Cathy and Chris. Prior to Cory's death, she is an extraverted girly girl, but after Cory dies she refuses to speak for months.
- Corrine Dollanganger (née Foxworth): Mother of Chris, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie and widow 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's ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, in the form of an e-book and was published by Pocket Star. The stage play was released in October 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 depiction 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, Georgia school libraries due to "the filthiness of the material."
Claims that the novel is based on a true story have been disputed. 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. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "BBC – The Big Read". BBC. April 2003, Retrieved August 23, 2017
- "V.C. Andrews' 'Flowers in the Attic' to Premiere on Lifetime January 18 – Starring Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn & Kiernan Shipka". 14 November 2013.
- "The Complete VCA: Flowers in the Attic: A Stage Play".
- 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.