by Jen and Em
It’s time to discuss our December (/January) read: the V.C. Andrews classic Flowers in the Attic! We will start things off here, and then you are all welcome to chime in on Facebook.
I am the one who read this book before, back in the 80s; I want to say I was 15. I’m pretty sure I read it, and its four sequels, more than once. I guess I liked them? Reading it now, well, I was struck by many things. But why don’t we start first with the writing style. The language. It was RIDICULOUS.
So strange. Did you notice that Cathy never said the word penis? It was always couched in euphemisms and I found it very annoying. I can understand a 15-year-old girl not feeling comfortable with saying that word but, considering she’s an adult reflecting on this time period AND she got quite familiar with it, you’d think she could said it. Penis. Penis. Penis! In addition to language, I think I had a problem with the voice of the book. So, it’s supposed to be written decades later, yet the way the narrator was talking it was so immediate. Does that make any sense?
I guess she was really vividly reliving it. And I did not notice the lack of the word “penis.” I was too distracted by the frequent use of words such as “Good golly day.”
So dumb. Did kids in the ‘50s even say that?
I don’t really know but I’m going to go ahead and say no, they did not. I’m finding it tough to criticize the story because it’s so crazy, we readers can’t put ourselves into Cathy’s shoes, you know? What happens to those kids would NEVER HAPPEN to us, right? So how can we say, “I would have done this” or “I would have said that” or, you know, “I would certainly never have done THAT” because we can’t really, truly imagine, can we?
Yes but that could be said for any book, right? I say go ahead and criticize.
It’s such a despicable story and unfortunately we can’t regard it as totally far-fetched anymore. The reasons behind locking the kids in the attic — inheriting extreme, obscene wealth — that is unlikely. But kids being abused in such a way is unlikely, yes, but not unheard of anymore.
That’s probably the biggest reason why I hated this book, is because it was such an awful thing to read about and it couldn’t be regarded, in my mind, as a fantasy I guess.
Yeah, true. But I can’t say I dislike the book. It’s certainly compelling in the “How much worse can it possibly get for these kids?” sense. But their story is just so awful.
Yes, compelling in a weird way. I dreaded picking it up until I was about halfway through it. Then I found that I would pick it up, read it easily for 40 minutes or more (which most days is a long stretch for me to be uninterrupted … and awake) and the time would pass very quickly. But, once I set it down, I wouldn’t really want to pick it up again. Once I did (for the sake of the blog!), I would read for a long stretch again.
Can we also discuss the Grandfather? Was he really supposed to be as evil as Corrine (the mom) said? When Christopher and Cathy were hidden and watching the party, they observed that people interacted with him warmly and he seemed genuinely pleased to be around people, whereas the Grandmother seemed to be very cold and people would kind of make the necessary interactions with her and then split.
Ugh. V.C. Andrews needed a better editor! One who would talk about character development. Ya think?
Agree about the editor. What I wondered the most about the grandfather has to do with his will, the thing about how Corrine would get nothing if it was revealed that she had children. Um, what? Who thinks like that when putting together their will, unless they already know something? But if he did already know, why pretend he didn’t and make it possible for her to, y’know, poison those kids so she could still inherit? Why not just tell her she’s totally busted and then give her nothing? Did he know about the kids and then decide the best thing to do was kinda-sorta indirectly plan their murder? Or did he not know about the kids at all, in which case…why would his will even say that?
Ugh, I don’t know; let’s talk donuts. What did you think about all that? Did Corrine really try to kill her own children (and partially succeed) like Chris ends up suspecting?
Don’t know. Probably. Clearly, I hated the mother. The grandmother was so one-note and awful that it made it hard for the story to resonate.
Why didn’t the kids ever tell their mom that the grandmother starved them?
Because at that point the mother was never coming around anymore, so I guess they realized she wouldn’t be any help? Although stupid Christopher was still her apologist then, right? He didn’t change his mind until they escaped or so. They didn’t tell the mother about the tar in the hair, either, did they.
No. They were stupid. (Ok, let me clarify: I know that when people are in abusive situations judgment gets clouded and perspective becomes warped. This abuse was physical, spiritual, emotional, mental … the whole ball of wax. So, it’s unfair for me to throw down judgmental statements like that. BUT. It’s fiction. So, I think it’s ok if I do. For the sake of the blog!)
Yes…for the blog! I think the mom already sucked so bad by then, they knew deep down it wouldn’t matter if they told her. Corrine already knew that her mother was horrible. Probably the tale of the tar wouldn’t have surprised Corrine and she just would have said something flimsy about it being not much longer now, the father was going to die any day, blah-di-blah. Chris and Cathy already knew she wasn’t going to help them.
Also, I can’t decide about the donut perpetrator. I mean, I guess it really was the mom like Chris said, mainly because it didn’t make much sense that this super-Christian grandmother would commit actual murder. But then again, she had no problem with abuse and with being an evil bitch, so who knows. It’s hard to think their own mother would really poison them. But I no longer remember if this was settled definitively in any of the sequels. Perhaps one of our readers who actually read “Petals on the Wind” after this one can chime in on the Facebook discussion.
If Corinne loved her uncle/husband enough to go into exile for him, then I think it’d be hard to just pretend the children of uncle/husband didn’t exist, much less poison them ESPECIALLY since Christopher was so handsome and smart and wonderful and such a spitting image of uncle/husband. But, Corinne was such a selfish, immature basket case then I suppose anything would have been possible. Maybe? Seems like she would have been more likely to pack the kids up with money and ill-fitting clothes (that were too tight on Cathy’s blossoming bosom, good golly day!) and set them to an orphanage or something. Maybe? Oh, hell. Who knows?
Right? Right! I mean, those kids were such perfect dolls (even bratty Carrie)! How could anyone…oh, never mind, now I kind of want to poison them.
And we really can’t close this discussion without mentioning the Big Scene. Some call it a sex scene, some call it an incest scene, but wow, no: it’s a rape scene. I think when I read it as a teen I believed Cathy with her “It wasn’t rape because I wanted it too” justifications, but reading it now as my wise, adult self, I was taken aback by just how rapey it was. Dang! This crap is messed up.
Yes. And I knew it going into this, but still. I do think that a brother and sister at their ages of imprisonment and, uh, release (on the mattress and their escape) could have controlled their urges. Don’t you think?
I should hope so! I mean, if any of us were in that kind of situation with our brotherOHGOODGODNO, I can’t even finish the thought. Just, no God no!
Should we discuss the Lifetime movie? I have it on the DVR and have watched about half of it, but doubt I will watch it all before finally erasing it. It was terrible. Heather Graham gave a junior-high-level performance of just reciting lines without putting any meaning or feelings behind them. I was actually surprised at how bad she was, even knowing that it was Heather Graham.
Not surprised. I have an irrational hate for her. Don’t know why. So, really, for me – perfect casting! I read a review somewhere saying that Ellen Burstyn’s final scene of the Grandmother (crying/praying in bed) was the best and/or only good thing in the movie. I would love to kind of fast-forward watch it.
Maybe I’ll have to skip to that part.
Now Jen and Em say: Okay, time to take the discussion to our vast readership, over on the Facebook page!
Hmmm. Tumblr’s link-adding feature is not working, which just figures. Okay, the page is https://www.facebook.com/TheJenAndEmBlog. We
know at least three of you read Flowers in the Attic along with us! What did you think? What’s the worst part: the starvation, Cory being killed, Mama’s response to Cory being killed, the brotherly love…or Bart Winslow’s mustache?