Garden of Shadows

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Garden of Shadows
First edition cover
Author V. C. Andrews
Country United States
Language English
Series Dollanganger series
Genre Gothic horror
Family saga
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 384
ISBN 0-671-72942-X (1990 reissue)
OCLC 28578527
Preceded by Seeds of Yesterday (1984)

Garden of Shadows is a novel by V. C. Andrews and was first published in 1987. V. C. Andrews died in 1986, and her estate commissioned ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman to continue writing novels under her name developed from plot outlines originally written by Andrews. There is some dispute over whether this particular novel was written in part by Andrews before she died, or whether it was written entirely by Neiderman. This is the fifth novel of the Dollanganger series. The novel explains the origin of Olivia Winfield (the grandmother from Flowers in the Attic) and the events that cause her to become the cold, domineering mistress of Foxworth Hall and how Corinne's childhood and eventual betrayal come about. The story takes place between the years of 1918-1957.


Part I[edit]

Tall, plain Olivia is rescued from spinsterhood by the smart and handsome Malcolm Foxworth. She thinks she has found "the one" since this is the first man to ever show interest in her. Malcolm, who is taken by her forthright manner and impressed with her intelligence, proposes after only two days' acquaintance. They marry two weeks later, and Olivia leaves her family home in New London, Connecticut and moves to the family's mansion, Foxworth Hall, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Olivia starts to discover the dark secrets about Malcolm eventually diminish her love for him. At a party to celebrate their wedding, Malcolm talks to and flirts with other women, neglecting Olivia.

She discovers Malcolm is still tormented by his mother Corinne's abandonment of him at age five, and believes it was her own plain looks and money that attracted him to her, since he mistrusts more conventionally beautiful women. While he is attracted to beauty and seems like he might consider an affair, it is obvious he lacks patience and true feeling enough for such an entanglement. Olivia feels betrayed and humiliated, but is still optimistic that things will change as they begin their life together.

When exploring the house, she discovers "The Swan Room" that belonged to Malcolm’s mother, which has been kept as a shrine to her and contains a very large, ornate bed carved into the shape of a swan. When Malcolm discovers her in the room, they finally consummate their marriage, an act that could be considered more of an attack than an act of love, with Malcolm saying his mother's name the entire time. Olivia wants to scream but doesn't, trying to hide her humiliation from the servants.

Nine months later, Olivia gives birth to a boy, Malcolm Jr., who is generally referred to as “Mal." Malcolm is kind to her at times, giving her hope that things might improve between them. But for the most part, she feels unimportant and ignored. Two years later, she gives birth to a second son, Joel. Malcolm is upset, as Joel is not healthy and he wanted their second child to be a girl. He and Olivia are also told she cannot have any more children. Malcolm doesn't fully appreciate his sons, because of his disappointment at not having a daughter.

Part II[edit]

Shortly after Joel is born, Malcolm’s father, Garland, comes back to Foxworth Hall with his new wife, Alicia. Olivia is disgusted to see that Alicia is only nineteen and very beautiful, and Malcolm is enraged to discover she is pregnant, thinking that her child will inherit part of Garland's fortune. Alicia makes numerous friendly overtures to Olivia, but Olivia keeps herself distant from her. Alicia gives birth to a son, whom she names Christopher.

However, Malcolm becomes obsessed with Alicia. In one incident, Malcolm follows her to the lake and attempts to seduce her. Olivia witnesses this and is hurt. When Alicia spurns his advances, Malcolm is convinced that she is leading him on and vows to make her pay dearly. Olivia knows of Malcolm's lust towards Alicia and is humiliated and heartbroken, but she blames Alicia for making herself attractive to Malcolm.

On the night of Christopher’s third birthday, Garland catches Malcolm trying to rape Alicia, gets into a violent argument with Malcolm and has a heart attack, and dies. Things are very somber in the house, although Malcolm seems to be feeling some guilt and avoids Alicia. After some time though, his obsession with her resumes. A month or so later, Alicia confesses to Olivia that Malcolm has been visiting her in her bedroom and forcing himself on her, threatening to throw her and Christopher out on the street penniless if she doesn't let him. She also tells Olivia she is pregnant with Malcolm's child. Olivia is humiliated and jealous. This is the moment when she hardens herself and begins to slowly transform into the vicious grandmother from Flowers in the Attic.

Olivia decides that the only thing to do is hide Alicia away while she is pregnant; meanwhile, Olivia herself will feign being pregnant. Once Alicia secretly has the baby, Olivia will take and pass the baby off as hers. Malcolm will give Alicia Garland's inheritance, and she and Christopher will leave. Alicia reluctantly agrees and says goodbye to Christopher, and goes into hiding, living in the attic of Foxworth Hall. Olivia hires new servants, as an extra precaution to safeguard their secret. She fears that Malcolm's interest in Alicia remains, so to make Alicia less attractive to him, Olivia coerces Alicia into cutting off her long hair, which Olivia leaves on Malcolm’s desk to show that she now is the one in control.

Over the months that pass, Olivia begins to think of Christopher as another son and is heartbroken when Alicia, after giving birth to a daughter, leaves suddenly and quietly, taking Christopher with her. However, Olivia is soon enraged when she discovers Malcolm has named his new child Corinne (her name is spelled "Corrine" in the V.C. Andrews-penned original novels) after his mother and plans to oversee her upbringing. He acts like an only parent to the young Corinne, often overriding attempts by Olivia to raise her to be a proper young woman. Olivia still does what she can to be a mother to Corinne, and to her credit, loves the child as her own and takes joy in their relationship.

In the years that pass, Corinne grows up into a happy but spoiled young girl, and Malcolm continues to be emotionally distant from his sons and Olivia—he often criticizes the boys to Olivia, and is upset that his sons, particularly Joel, exhibit little interest in his business, though Mal seems to be willing to follow in his father's footsteps. Malcolm Jr. dies in a motorcycling accident that resulted in him riding off a cliff near Foxworth Hall. Later, John Amos, Olivia's cousin, is hired as the butler and also serves to incorporate religion in the household. Soon after, Joel leaves on a tour of Europe with a professional orchestra against his father's wishes and is famed in several European newspapers. Olivia is proud of Joel, but Malcolm dismisses Joel's path as frivolous and an embarrassment to the family, though beneath the criticism is worry for his son, and disappointment in Joel's choice to leave Foxworth Hall.

Part III[edit]

Unfortunately, Joel supposedly meets his end in an avalanche. His parents are informed of his death in a telegram that also revealed that his body was not recovered. Devastated over the loss of their sons, Olivia and Malcolm turn to religion and bond slightly until Olivia receives a letter from Alicia, who is dying from breast cancer. Alicia had remarried soon after leaving Foxworth Hall, but her husband died a few years later, and she became bankrupt during the Great Depression, so she and Christopher have been living in poverty. Alicia pleads with Olivia to give Christopher a home and put him through medical school. Since Olivia was kind to Christopher while Alicia was in the attic, Alicia wants Christopher to live at Foxworth Hall. Olivia convinces Malcolm to agree to this, and Christopher comes to live with them.

When they meet for the first time, Corinne and Christopher fall deeply in love. Everyone is blinded by this love, however, because they all adore Christopher. Later, John Amos begins to suspect incest, although Olivia brushes it off as his jealousy. She and Malcolm seem truly happy and content with their family for the first time. Although she expresses herself subtly, Olivia is drawn to Christopher.

After Christopher's graduation from college (and Corinne's high school graduation), Christopher receives a letter of acceptance to Harvard. Olivia is the first to see it, and is very happy and rushes to find Christopher. John Amos finds Olivia first, however, and tells her that Christopher and Corinne are making love in the Swan Room. She doesn't believe him, but takes a quick peek, which reveals Christopher and Corinne in the act of making love. Olivia is heartbroken and goes to tell Malcolm. Christopher and Corinne come and try to explain themselves to Malcolm and Olivia, but Malcolm condemns them. Christopher looks to Olivia hoping she will intervene, and is shocked and hurt to find that Olivia sides with Malcolm. He and Corinne are banished and disinherited. Malcolm has a stroke as well as a heart attack afterward, and he is forced to use a wheelchair. Olivia devotes herself to Malcolm's care. Olivia also reveals the truth to John Amos that Christopher was not just Corinne's half-uncle but also her half-brother. She also tells of the sins and events that led to it. John preys on Olivia's fear of God, urging her and Malcolm to become obsessively religious.

Malcolm is a changed man after the discovery of Chris and Corinne's scandal. Finally, he breaks and asks Olivia to hire a private detective to find out what happened to Corinne. The P.I. returns and informs Olivia that they live in Gladstone, PA under the name of Dollanganger. Christopher dropped out of medical school and works in public relations, and Corinne is a housewife. She is told the two have four children: Chris, Cathy, and the twins, Cory and Carrie. All four children are perfectly healthy, bright, and beautiful, and known in their town as the Dresden Dolls. She does not tell Malcolm about the children because Olivia believes that he will want to see his grandchildren and become bewitched by the children's beauty, especially the girls.

Years later, Corinne writes a letter to Olivia, seeking shelter and telling of Christopher's death in a car accident. Olivia is heartbroken over Christopher's death, but John Amos tells her that it was God's work. He also convinces her to allow Corinne and the children to come to Foxworth Hall, but the children must be hidden from the world forever if she wants to end the sins within Foxworth Hall. Olivia writes back to Corinne and says she may come back with the children. Olivia tells Malcolm of Corinne coming home, but again doesn't tell him about the children. When she sees them for the first time, Olivia notices the children's beauty and how much Chris and Cathy remind her of Christopher and Corinne, but she refuses to love them, as they are the "devil's spawn". The book ends with Olivia silently vowing to keep her heart hardened against the children, and to hide them from the world forever, yet feeling just as imprisoned as them.


This book, though a prequel, actually changes the entire scandalous nature of the series. Instead of half-uncle and niece, it is revealed Chris and Corinne are also half-brother and sister. The book also gives a sympathetic side to Olivia previously unseen in the other books. However, Olivia's softer side was implied in Flowers in the Attic, when Cathy theorizes at one point, though briefly, that Olivia was trying to prevent them from eating the poisoned donuts their mother sets out for them, when Olivia agrees with Cathy's demands that the dying twin Cory be taken to a hospital (but he really wasn't), when Olivia gives them a plant, and when Christopher witnesses Olivia in prayer at the foot of her bed.

This book also clarifies the suspicious marriage of Corinne and John Amos (mentioned in If There Be Thorns), considering the latter's obvious disgust with incest. As Corinne is not Olivia's biological daughter, she and John Amos are not genetically related. (Even if they were genetically related, the relationship would be very distant, i.e. fourth cousins.)

Also, this book examines Corinne's betrayal. It has stated in this book that she wanted to marry and have children, but her greedy side is shown in the other books, as shown in If There Be Thorns when Christopher states that Corinne wanted her husband (Chris Sr.) to sue and get the money that was his. Her betrayal is likely due to the fact that she was spoiled by her father and grew up in wealth, so once the children were in the attic, she turned more attention towards getting her inheritance. It is shown that she also conspired with Olivia to lock her children away, as shown when she said (about waking the twins so they can walk because Chris and Cathy were complaining about holding them and their arms aching) "Lord knows, they'd better walk outside while they can." Corinne states in Petals On the Wind that she did put arsenic on the doughnuts, but her plan was not to kill them—it was to get the children sick one by one and take them out of the attic "to the hospital", and then come back and tell Olivia that they had died of the poisoning. This seems doubtful though, as Corinne and her husband Bart moved out of Foxworth Hall after Cory died, so she did not seem concerned with the remaining three and "getting them out".


  • In the previous Dollanganger books, Cathy and Chris's mother's name is spelled "Corrine". However, in Garden of Shadows, it is spelled "Corinne". Garden of Shadows was written by ghost writer Andrew Neiderman.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine and her four children arrive at Foxworth Hall in the month of August, yet in this book, a light snow is falling when they arrive.
  • The dollhouse that belongs to Olivia stays at her old house. There is no mention of it ever arriving at Foxworth Hall, as it does in Flowers in the Attic.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Christopher Sr. dies at age 36; in Garden of Shadows he dies at age 35. (This may be because it was his birthday.)
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine tells her children that Olivia was abused by her mother (she was locked in a closet, causing Olivia's claustrophobia and unwillingness to go into the attic), while in "Shadows" Olivia recounts a warm and loving relationship with a gentle mother, and goes into the attic several times, especially once when she has Alicia captive in there. "Shadows" does mention that Olivia's mother locked her in the closet as punishment when she misbehaved.
  • In Garden of Shadows, Malcolm Jr. dies at Foxworth Hall in a motorcycle accident; in Flowers in the Attic, Corrine tells her children that he died at a cabin he had built. Differences lie in the location of death and who was present.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine tells her children Joel ran away from home and sent a single postcard, while in Garden of Shadows, Olivia mentions many newspaper clippings were sent home. Corrine recalls Joel saying goodbye to his parents, while she was not present in Garden of Shadows.
  • In Garden of Shadows, Olivia mentions her loving relationship with Corrine, while in Flowers in the Attic, Olivia proudly states that she thought Corrine to be trash from birth (although it is possible that she is lying or just disgusted by what Corrine did).
  • In Flowers in the Attic Olivia screams at Cathy and Chris that their parents eloped secretly and came back to ask forgiveness for falling in love. However, in Garden of Shadows, Olivia catches Christopher Sr. and Corrine making love. This leads to a confrontation with Malcolm and Olivia, after which Christopher and Corrine willingly flee Foxworth Hall.
  • In Flowers in the Attic Corrine tells Cathy that she was 12, and out bike riding when she got her first period, while in Garden Of Shadows Corrine is 14 and proudly shares the news with her mother.
  • Garden of Shadows does not mention Olivia's ever present diamond brooch, nor any close friends that make her gray dresses (Flowers in the Attic). In fact, Garden of Shadows says that Olivia had no friends in Virginia, finding the women too weak, frivolous, and nasty for her liking.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, when confronted by Cathy, Corrine reveals that Malcolm wrote on a letter to her, in reply for her pleas for help after Chris Sr. dies, that the only thing good about their (Chris Sr. and Corrine's) marriage was the fact it didn't create any devil's issue (inbred children). In Garden of Shadows, Olivia says that she writes the letter, and Malcolm does not write anything on it. Also, Olivia doesn't let Malcolm know about the children, knowing that Malcolm would be bewitched by their beauty, especially the girls, and would not punish the children for the evil that their parents have done. (It is likely that Corrine may have been lying to keep her children under control and conspired with Olivia to keep Malcolm unaware of their existence.)
  • Olivia's son Malcolm Jr. is nicknamed "Mal" to differentiate him from his father. The earlier books in the series stated that he was known as "Mel."
  • Garden of Shadows shows that John Amos meets Corrine for the first time when she is 14, while it is mentioned in If There be Thorns that she was 10.
  • In Garden of Shadows, Christopher is named Christopher Garland Foxworth. In Flowers in the Attic, his name is Garland Christopher Foxworth the Fourth.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine tells the children that her parents had forced her and her brothers to attend church every Sunday no matter what. In Garden of Shadows, there is no mention of the family ever attending church.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine tells the children that she and her brothers were forbidden from being exposed to each other, that includes swimming together, because her mother said it was a sin and were abused if they disobeyed. In Garden of Shadows, Olivia doesn't mind it, and even lets Corrine swim with Christopher. There is no mention of Corrine being abused but the boys being disciplined by their father who whips them and verbally abuses them.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Olivia expresses hatred towards her grandchildren because of their incestuous conception, even physically and emotionally abusing them. In Garden of Shadows, she feels drawn to them and actually wanted to love them, but decided against it because of what their parents had done. She may be keeping this in mind in her treatment of the children in the first novel.
  • In Flowers in the Attic and previous novels, Corrine maintains that she was abused by her father. But in Garden of Shadows, Corrine was doted on and spoiled by her father. She may have reconsidered his treatment in retrospect.
  • In Flowers in the Attic, Corrine writes several letters to her parents asking for help. In Garden of Shadows, Olivia responds back to Corrine after the first letter arrives.

Characters introduced[edit]

  • Alicia Foxworth: Garland′s second wife, stepmother to Malcolm, and mother of Christopher and Corinne. When first introduced, she was nineteen and pregnant. Malcolm believes she is with his father only because of his money but Alicia is truly in love with Garland. She is later raped by Malcolm and Olivia locked her in the same attic the Dollanganger children were locked in while she was pregnant with Corinne. She later dies of breast cancer.
  • Garland Foxworth: Father of Malcolm and Christopher, paternal grandfather of Corinne, and husband of Alicia. He is a kind and likeable man but somewhat dismissive towards problem child Malcolm while giving more attention to perfect child Christopher. He dies of a heart attack on Christopher′s third birthday, after fighting with his son Malcolm over Alicia.
  • Malcolm "Mal" Neal Foxworth, Jr.: Older brother of Joel, nephew of Christopher, and paternal half-brother of Corinne. He was usually referred to as "Mal" so he could be told apart from his father. He dies in a motorcycling accident. He was mentioned by Corinne in Flowers in the Attic.
  • Joel Joseph Foxworth: Younger brother of Mal. He is treated with disdain by his father, who considers him a "sissy." Joel is a talented musician, and later joins an orchestra. Joel is presumed dead in an avalanche and his body was never found. A man claiming he is Joel Foxworth appears in Seeds of Yesterday but he behaves like John Amos Jackson. (He may have been a fraud and the cousin that John predicted in If There Be Thorns would stand behind him).[1]