Flowers in the Attic~Book Review

This is a book review that I wrote for my most FAVOURITE book! Received a lot of “you-have-to-be-crazy-to-be-reading-that” looks when people find out what the book is about. This book is also banned  in some places in this world. But I get some smug satisfaction knowing that I’m reading something that someone in this world does not want me to. So without any further waiting… here it it! Hope you like it!

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~Flowers in the Attic~

By V.C Andrews

“ Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror! 

It wasn’t that she didn’t love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake-a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.
So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.
Just for a little while.
But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meagre sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work–children who-one by one-must be destroyed…”

Flowers in the Attic was written by Virginia Andrews, and published in 1979. It is the first of the Dollanganger Saga, and is followed by a series of four books. The storyline revolves around Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie. After a tragic accident, they are locked away by their mother in their grandparent’s attic so she is able to inherit the family fortune from her dying, sick grandfather and her grandmother.  Days turn into weeks, and weeks into months, and soon the unspeakable horrors of the children’s black family heritage cloud up the bright promises and hopes, which soon begin to haunt them and cause the long awaited punishments.

Flowers in the Attic definitely is a gothic fiction novel. However this is a genre for the overall story. Other genres include romance, thrill and paranoia. The theme may also fall under gothic fiction, however the main theme is known to be family saga. Other themes would include loss, deception, greed and hopelessness. These aspects can be seen multiple times throughout the book. “It is so appropriate to colour hope yellow, like that sun we seldom saw.” These are the opening words to the iconic novel. This ties in with a number of the themes.

The title for Flowers in the Attic is addressed in the prologue, and the narrator( Cathy), explains why she names this ‘memoir’ Flowers in the Attic ; “And as I begin to copy from the old memorandum journals that I kept for so long, a title comes as if inspires. Open the Window and Stand in the Sunshine. Yet, I hesitate to name our story that. For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly coloured and fading duller through all those lone, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.” Also, she often refers to herself and her siblings as paper flowers throughout the novel, and the rest of the saga. In the novel, as well as the saga, it is very easy why she calls herself and her siblings paper flowers.

There are not many characters in Flowers in the Attic. Though the few that do exist are each unique and individual. The protagonist of the novel (and the saga) is Catherine Leigh “Cathy” Dollanganger. She is the narrator, and the oldest daughter and second child of Corrine and Christopher Dollanganger. She, along with her brothers and sister, and parents, are said to have fair skin, blue eyes, with flaxen blond hair. Her lifelong ambition is to become the world’s best prima ballerina. She is definitely someone who can be described as young and naïve, impulsive, strong and has a need for answers. She often says she wants to believe in happy endings, where “the purple grass grows”, and to fall in love with the “mysterious dark man”. “She (Corrine) was talking my language, the language of music and ballet, romance and love, beautiful faces in lovely places. Fairy tales can come true! Love at first sight. Oh, that was going to happen to me, I just knew it would and he’s be as beautiful as Daddy (Christopher) had been, radiating beauty, touching my heart. You had to have love or you withered away and died.”  This line shoes Cathy’s young innocence and belief in a happy ending. However most of this young innocence seems to disappear throughout the novel as she continues to live in the attic. It is replaced with more strength and determination. She refers to herself later as someone ‘made of steel, covered with silly, frilly tutus”.’ Her impulsiveness can be seen in the first novel, though the most of it is seen in later throughout the saga. However her need for questions is the foundation of what makes her who she is. She is always asking and doubting, especially at her mother. Cathy seems the most believable character as she is the one with the most normal reactions and thoughts. Cathy is 12 years old when she first comes to her grandparents’ house, and said to be a complete replica of her mother.

Christopher “Chris” Dollanganger is the oldest son and first child of Christopher and Corrine Dollanganger. Named after his father, Chris is the more optimistic and cheery one, and Cathy always picks up note of this throughout the novel. “‘The Bible says there is a time for everything,’ whispered Chris so as not to awaken the twins, ‘a time to be born, a time to plant, a time to harvest, a time to die, and so on, and this is our time to sacrifice. Later on will come our time to live and enjoy.’” This is one of Chris’ most memorable lines, and definitely shows his true nature at its best, especially  since he says this after a horrific event. He also has fair skin and blue eyes, and while Cathy is the dreamer and impulsive, he is realistic and cautious. He was the one who assessed the situation without exaggerating. His ambition is to pursue a career in medicine. Also, it is very easy to see that Chris is the one who loves his mother the most. Later, Cathy finds herself envious of the love her brother feels for her mother. And while his character is very unique, it does not seem believable, because it would seem impossible to stay optimistic in the attic. Chris is 14 years old when he first comes to the grandparents house, and also looks exactly alike to his father.

The twins, Cory and Carrie are the younger brother and sister and lookalikes of Chris and Cathy. Both 5 years old, they are both the most innocent in the novel. It can be seen very early on that Carrie lives in a world of black and white. It can either be very good, or very bad. Nothing in-between, no compromises. She knew what she wanted, and she would scream, kick or bite if she was told to do otherwise. Meanwhile, her twin Cory was the one who was quiet and wary, carefully plodding. He wouldn’t scream or fight, but merely run, or hide, yet still wasn’t a coward. He would do anything to protect his sister. It can be seen that the twins are inseparable from the start of the novel. However, time in the attic soon alters it, so they were able to spend at least an hour apart.

Flowers in the Attic is set in the 50’s when it starts. The main setting, the Attic, is at Foxworth Hall, the majestic, grand mansion in which Cathy’s grandparents, Malcolm and Olivia Foxworth, live in. All four children are locked into a room in the empty, old northern wing, which has two large double beds, a number of furniture, curtains which are never to be opened, and various paintings on the wall depicting hell! In the closet, there is a secret staircase which leads up to the attic. The attic is describe to be very large, yet very hot. Also, it is cluttered, dusty and full or junk. However, the children make do, and soon it becomes their garden to play in, as they hang paper flowers to make it more ‘pretty’. The setting in Flowers in the Attic is very important because it is as if Virginia Andrews wanted to make sure we knew what she was picturing, so the reader would have the same perspective as the children

Virginia Andrews’s style in Flowers in the Attic is very unique. She uses the language that would have been used in that time period. This novel was refreshing to read as it is completely different to anything I’ve read. She also kept the dark gothic style throughout the book, yet she didn’t make it seem as if it were moaning. The ending is what definitely makes this book what it is. It has shocked millions, and completely changed everyone’s view of life.

I came upon Flowers in the Attic at my previous school library. Virginia Andrews was an author of many books, and had her own little corner in the library. No one borrowed books from there, as they were ‘old’. I decided to borrow one, and selected ‘My Sweet Audrina’ , the only stand-alone novel she wrote. It too was a great read, so I decided to read another one of her books. When I was browsing, all the books said: ‘From the bestselling author of Flowers in the Attic’.  So I borrowed Flowers in the Attic, and I was mesmerised. There was so many things that the book dealt with, including trust, faith, adolescence and religion. It just showed me what people would do for money.

I would recommend this book to anyone who can take it. It has very harsh themes, and definitely is not to be read by the feint-hearted. However, those who do read it will come back with marks, which will change the way they think forever…

By Yashith Fernando

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