Petals on the Wind
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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. In 2014, it was adapted into a Lifetime original movie.
Petals on the Wind picks up immediately where Flowers in the Attic, left off: with Cathy, Chris, and Carrie traveling to Florida after escaping Foxworth Hall. Still weak from the effects of the poison that killed her twin Cory, Carrie gets sick on the bus and other passengers complain. Suddenly Henrietta "Henny" Beech, a mute African-American woman, rescues them and takes them to the home of her employer, 40-year-old widower Dr. Paul Sheffield of Clairmont, South Carolina. At first the children refuse to reveal their identities, but when Cathy is convinced that Paul genuinely cares and might be able to help them, she tells him that they were imprisoned for three years and poisoned by their mother and grandmother. Paul then applies for and eventually receives custody of the children. During the siblings' first Christmas with Paul, Cathy began bleeding profusely during a ballet audition and collapses; after waking in the hospital, she is told that they had to perform a D&C and that the bleeding was due to irregular periods (due to her near-starvation in the attic). Cathy suspects that the bleeding was actually a miscarriage, the result of her rape in the attic, but she does not mention this suspicion, telling herself that it's in the past and all that matters is her ability to dance.
Though the children thrive under Paul and Henny's care and start fulfilling their dreams (Chris heads to premed and then medical school; Cathy gets into a local ballet school and then one in New York City), Cathy is still bent on revenge against their mother, thinking she is to blame for everything wrong in their lives. Carrie continues to feel anguish over Cory's death and is embarrassed by her failure to grow properly and the problems caused by her lack of height while Cathy and Chris still struggle with their feelings for each other. Determined to live a 'normal' life, Cathy rejects Chris's advances and insists that he must find someone else to love.
Over time, Cathy falls in love with Paul and they plan to marry, to Chris's dismay. Cathy's desire to be with Paul increases greatly when he tells her the story of his wife, Julia, and how she had drowned their son, Scotty, and herself after Paul confessed to an affair. After Cathy and Paul become engaged and her ballet troupe begins performing in New York City, Cathy finishes a performance to find Paul's sister, Amanda, waiting to meet her. Amanda leads Cathy to believe that Julia is still alive and states that she knows Cathy miscarried Paul's child. Cathy remembers the heavy bleeding she suffered during her audition and thinks that her fears were correct and it was actually a miscarriage. Devastated, she runs to a man in her dance troupe, Julian Marquet, who had been pursuing her since the day they met, and agrees to marry him immediately. When she returns to South Carolina, it is as Mrs. Julian Marquet. Only then does Cathy confront Paul about Amanda's message—and she learns that Julia 'had' still been alive (though in a permanent vegetative state from her suicide attempt) at the time Paul took them in, but she had died around the time Cathy and Paul became intimate. Paul also insists that Cathy did not have a miscarriage. Cathy still isn't sure, but she does realize that she has now revealed to Paul that she and Chris committed incest while they were imprisoned. Paul assures Cathy that he loves her; Cathy knows she has made a mistake in marrying Julian, but she feels she must honour her vows.
Julian is a possessive husband and jealous of Cathy's relationships with Paul and Chris. He abuses Cathy, cheats on her, and forbids her from seeing them. Julian even breaks Cathy's toes so she can't perform. After this incident, Chris pleads with Cathy to leave Julian, but Cathy has found out she is pregnant and tells Chris that she loves her husband and wants to make their marriage work, despite both Paul and Chris insisting she must leave for her own safety. Cathy gets a phone call telling her that Julian has been seriously injured in a car accident. At the hospital Cathy learns that Julian is paralyzed, at least temporarily. She tells Julian she loves him and announces she's pregnant, but he believes he will never dance again and commits suicide in the hospital. Though guilt-ridden and pregnant, Cathy is free.
After Cathy gives birth to her son, Julian Janus "Jory" Marquet, she becomes more determined to destroy her own mother's life. She packs up Carrie and Jory and they move to Virginia, not far from Foxworth Hall. Under the guise of collecting Julian's insurance, she hires Barth Winslow—her mother's second husband—as her lawyer. Meanwhile, Carrie meets a young man named Alex and enjoys a sweet courtship—until he says he plans to be a minister. Frightened by the memory of her grandmother's rants about the children being the "Devil's spawn," Carrie purchases powdered doughnuts and arsenic and attempts to commit suicide so she can be with Cory. In the hospital, Cathy reassures Carrie that Alex won't be a minister if it upsets her so much, but Carrie reveals another reason for her suicide attempt: she saw Corrine on the street and ran up to her, only to be angrily rejected. This only strengthened Carrie's conviction that she must be evil and undeserving. After Carrie's death, Cathy becomes even more intent on wreaking revenge on Corinne and soon comes up with a plan to blackmail her along with stealing her handsome young husband, Bart.
When Chris discovers Cathy's plan, he tells her that if she doesn't stop, he'll have nothing more to do with her. Cathy refuses to stop, obsessed with making their mother pay for all the pain that her children have suffered. Cathy manages to sneak into Foxworth Hall and find her grandmother, who has suffered a stroke and become an invalid. Cathy taunts and whips the old woman, pouring out her rage about Cory and Carrie in particular, but eventually she feels guilty and flees from the mansion. The next time she and Bart meet, he reports how "someone" attacked his invalid mother-in-law. Though initially focused solely on revenge, Cathy falls in love with Bart, and he returns her affections. She realizes she is pregnant and believes this will be a crushing blow to Corrine: according to her father's will, she must forfeit her vast inheritance if she ever has children. Bart is torn between his desire to stay married to Corrine and his wish to be a father but does manage to put an end to Cathy sending blackmail letters to Corrine.
Cathy returns to Foxworth Hall on Christmas Eve, all dressed up for the Foxworth Christmas Ball in a replica of the gown Corrine wore to the Christmas party they spied on so many years ago. She visits the room where she and her siblings were locked away and sees that it has been untouched since their escape. At the stroke of midnight she appears in the ballroom and exposes the truth to Bart and the party guests. Bart takes Cathy and Corrine to the library—where Grandmother Olivia is seated—at first thinking that Cathy is lying, but after hearing Cathy's whole story, he confronts Corrine. Corinne breaks down, claiming to be the real victim because her father had known about his grandchildren: he knew they were hidden in his home and he wanted them to die in captivity. Corrine claims that she gave the children arsenic to make them sick gradually so she could sneak them out one by one, claiming that once the children were safe, she would have told her parents the children had died in hospital. Bart is visibly disgusted. Suspicious of her mother's claims, Cathy demands to know what happened to Cory's body, saying there were no death certificates issued for a boy his age the month he died. Corrine says she stashed the body in a ravine, but Cathy says she found a small room off the attic that gave off a musty smell and accuses her mother of stashing Cory's body there. Corrine stares at her in shock; when Chris suddenly bursts into the library, Corrine sees him as the ghost of his father, her first husband. She suffers a mental breakdown and sets fire to Foxworth Hall. Corinne, Chris, and Cathy escape, but Bart and Olivia are trapped and die in the fire. Corrine is committed to a mental institution: in a twist of fate, the inheritance Corrine forfeited reverted to her mother, whose own will stated that her daughter was to receive everything.
Chris drags Cathy from Foxworth Hall, urging her that they must get to Henny and Paul: Henny had a stroke, and while trying to help her, Paul suffered a massive heart attack. Cathy returns to Paul, marries him, and when she gives birth to a second son, she names him Bart after his father. Paul dies when Bart Jr. is still quite young and on his deathbed he encourages Cathy to be with Chris, who has waited and loved her for all these years. Realizing that Chris was the right one for her all along and that she still loves him, Cathy agrees. They move to California with the two boys and live as the Sheffields. Cathy secretly dreads what will happen if their secret is exposed, and she ends the book stating that she has been having strange thoughts about the attic in their house, claiming she has put two twin beds up there.
- Julian Marquet: Cathy's first husband. He is a talented ballet dancer but a terrible spouse. He abuses Cathy, is physically unfaithful, and forbids her to see Chris and Paul. It is also implied that he sexually abused Carrie. He is severely injured in a car accident with Yolanda. Despite being told 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 physically resembles his father but his character is 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 feels Chris is too good for Yolanda and is disgusted that Chris and Yolanda are lovers but she 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 finances Chris through medical school, Cathy through ballet school, and pays for Carrie to attend an expensive boarding 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.
- 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, fathered by Cathy's stepfather Bart Winslow. He envies his older brother Jory, believing that Jory is their mother's favourite. He grew 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.
- Theodore Alexander "Alex" Rockingham: 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!"
- April Summers: Cathy's second roommate. She becomes instant friends with Cathy.
- Sissy Towers: Carrie's roommate at her elementary school. She, along with other girls, torment her. As revealed by Carrie, she drowned when she was twelve.
The book was adapted into a television film of the same name in 2014. Unlike the book, the film jumped 10 years ahead from the events of Flowers. It starred Rose McIver as Cathy, Wyatt Nash as Christopher, replacing Kiernan Shipka and Mason Dye from the previous movie, respectively, and Will Kemp as Julian Marquet, with Heather Graham as Corrine and Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth. Production for the film began on February 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. The film premiered on May 26, 2014, on Lifetime.
- Andrews, V. C. (1980). Petals on the Wind. Simon & Schuster. p. 448 pp. ISBN 0-671-72947-0.
- Andrews, V. C. (1979). Flowers in the Attic. Simon & Schuster. p. 412 pp. ISBN 0-671-41124-1.