If There Be Thorns

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If There Be Thorns
If there be thorns - bookcover.jpg
Paperback edition
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 0-671-72945-4 (1990 reissues)
OCLC 23719996
Preceded by Petals on the Wind (1980)
Followed by Seeds of Yesterday (1984)

If There Be Thorns is a novel by Virginia Andrews which was published in 1981. It is the third book in the Dollanganger series. The story takes place in the year 1982. There was a Lifetime movie of the same name that premiered on April 5, 2015 (Easter).

Plot summary[edit]

The book is narrated by two half-brothers, Jory and Bart Sheffield. Jory is a handsome, talented fourteen-year-old boy who wants to follow his mother Cathy in her career in the ballet, while nine-year old Bart, who is plain and clumsy, feels inferior to his brother. By now, siblings Cathy and Chris live together as husband and wife. To hide their history, they tell the boys and other people they know that Chris was Paul's younger brother. Cathy and Chris have a passionate and very loving relationship, described by Jory who has accidentally witnessed encounters between them. The more they fight, the more they make up with affection. Cathy is a loving mother to her sons, but shows some favoritism towards Jory. Unable to have more children, Cathy secretly adopts Cindy, the two-year-old daughter of one her former dance students, who was killed in an accident, because she longs to have a girl, as well as a child that is hers and Christopher's. Initially against it, Chris comes to accept the child, and Jory does as well, but Bart is very upset and resentful of Cindy. Lonely from all the attention Jory and Cindy are receiving, Bart befriends an elderly neighbor that moved in next door, who invites him over for cookies and ice cream and encourages him to call her "Grandmother." Jory eventually goes next door as well to see who Bart keeps visiting, and the old lady tried to tell him that she is actually his grandmother. Jory initially doesn't believe her, and avoids her at all costs. The old woman and Bart, on the other hand, soon develop an affectionate friendship, and the woman does her best to give Bart whatever he wants, provided that Bart promises to keep her gifts—and their relationship—a secret from his mother.

Her butler, John Amos, also seems to befriend Bart, but soon John Amos begins to fill Bart's mind with stories about the sinful nature of women. John Amos reveals that the old woman is truly Bart's grandmother, Corrine Foxworth. He also gives Bart a diary belonging to Bart's biological great-grandfather, Malcolm Foxworth, claiming that this journal will help Bart become as powerful and successful as that man. Bart is enveloped by the diary and begins to pretend that he is his great-grandfather, who hated women and was obsessed with their degradation. Bart becomes destructive and violent towards his parents and siblings; he kicks Jory in the stomach and cuts off Cindy's hair, and once even tries to drown Cindy in her baby pool. Bart's family notices the change in the boy, but only Jory suspects that the changes are due to the mysterious woman next door. At the same time, Jory becomes suspicious of his parents' relationship. Although amazed by their love, which he describes as intense and heartful, he notices that they resemble each other and wonders why his mother would marry Paul, who was much older, before Chris.

After Bart becomes ill and nearly dies, Jory finally tells Chris about his suspicions about the lady next door. They go to confront her, but Chris discovers that the woman is his mother, who pleads with him to love and forgive her. Chris is indifferent to her pleas and orders her to stay away from him, Cathy, and the children, especially Bart. However, he decides not to tell Cathy about any of this. At the same time, Cathy is injured in a ballet accident and is told that she will never dance again. From her wheelchair, she begins to write out the story of her life. Bart filches his mother's manuscript pages and is enraged to learn the truth about his parents: Cathy and Chris are brother and sister, and his "grandmother" locked them in an attic for years, feeding them poison to gain an inheritance. The news causes Bart to cling to the only person who has not yet lied to him: John Amos. Bart proudly calls his parents sinners and "devil's spawns". Jory finds out the truth when his paternal grandmother visits and confronts Cathy about her relationship with "her brother Christopher". Jory is shocked and disgusted, but soon forgives them after he learns of their tragic past.

Cathy finally learns about the woman next door when Bart accidentally says that the woman gives him anything he wants, and she goes to confront the woman. The old woman tries to hide her identity, but Cathy recognizes her voice. Corrine admits that she is indeed Cathy's mother. She expresses remorse for her crimes against Cathy, Chris and the twins, and begs Cathy to forgive and love her again. Cathy is enraged and attacks her. Before she can storm out, John Amos knocks Cathy and Corrine unconscious. Working on John Amos' orders, Bart, who now believes he is a vessel for his great-grandfather's vengeful spirit, helps to lock Cathy and her mother into the cellar, where John Amos plans to starve them to death. In the course of this, Bart realizes how much he loves his mother and grandmother, despite their sins, and he tells Chris where the women are. But before they can be reached, the house next door catches fire. Bart goes in and unlocks the cellar door. Corrine orders Bart outside, and Corrine goes back into the cellar and saves Cathy, but Corrine's clothes catch fire as soon as she gets outside. Chris runs to her and helps put out the flames, but her heart gives out and she dies. John Amos dies in the house as well.

The epilogue, resumed with Cathy as narrator, describes Cathy's emotional forgiveness of her mother at the woman's funeral. Cathy and Chris, for the sake of their three children, realize that they must never allow their secret relationship to be revealed. Bart seems to have recovered from the worst of his madness, but still dwells on the power wielded by his great-grandfather, whose millions he now stands to inherit.


If There Be Thorns was adapted as an original Lifetime film. It premiered on April 5, 2015. The sequel, Seeds of Yesterday, has also been adapted for a television film, and was released the same year as part of a special two-night event concluding the series.