Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flowers in the Attic Part 1

By V.C. Andrews. Published 1979.

I fucking loved V.C. Andrews in middle and high school. Obviously, my parents never checked out my reading material. Even though I quickly caught on to the formula, I still read every one, up through the Wildflowers series. However, I’ve always known they’re a poor excuse for literature, and I always kept it my dirty little secret. I haven’t even touched them in years. But now, with the new Lifetime movie coming out, I’m coming out with my guilty pleasure. Let’s see how they hold up.

The Dollangangers live the perfect middle class life in the fifties. Dad Christopher, Mom Corrine, and the kids, fourteen-year-old Chris, twelve-year-old Cathy, and five-year-old twins, Carrie and Cory, all are perfect blue-eyed blondes. But on Christopher’s thirty-sixth birthday, it all comes crashing down. He’s killed in a car wreck, and since Corrine has no marketable skills, all their stuff is going to be repossessed. Oh shit. But don’t worry kids! She’s written to her mother, whom they’ve never heard of before, and they get to go live with their super-duper rich grandparents! And Corrine is going to win a place back in her dying father’s heart, so she’ll inherit everything! Oh, and their last name isn’t really Dollanganger, it’s Foxworth. Nothing fishy here!

They have to leave that very night, and only pack two suitcases for all four kids. They take a train to Virginia, and are let out at a poor excuse for a depot at 3 a.m. Then they walk a very long way until they reach a huge house, and are let in by a very tall, very scary woman in a gray dress. She, of course, is their grandmother. She leads them up to a bedroom, where she threatens them to be very quiet, and lets them know she’ll be locking them in. Then she gets all weird about the twins sleeping in the same bed, and orders them to be separated. Corrine reassures them it will only be for one night. Maybe two. Or maybe a week. However long it takes to sweeten up the grandfather.

The next morning, the Grandmother brings them their food for the day and a list of twenty-two rules for them to follow. They are mainly about staying quiet and invisible, being modest, and the Bible. And if they break rules, she’ll peel the skin from their backs. A lovely sort, isn’t she?

After ten, they’re allowed to go into the attic. Oh, I always loved this chapter. The attic is like a gigantic antique store, filled with trunks, armoires, and books. There’s also a schoolroom up there, with desks with engravings from the 1800’s. The twins get hot and bored, so Chris makes them swings, which they enjoy for about three minutes. Then they become whiny brats again.

That night, the Grandmother and Corrine come to the room. Corrine is walking stiffly and crying. Cathy selfishly thinks this is out of pity for the children. Carrie starts screaming about how horrible her day was, and how mean Chris and Cathy are. The Grandmother tells her to shut up, and picks her up by her hair. Cory runs up and bites her on the leg. The Grandmother slaps him. Both of them kick at the Grandmother, then run to corner and start howling. The Grandmother picks them up, then drops them in front of Corrine, and threatens to whip them. It shuts them up, at least. Then she tells Corrine to take off her shirt. When she does, the children see a bunch of lashes on her back, thirty-three for each year of her life, plus fifteen more for each year she lived in sin with Christopher. The Grandmother starts in on how the children are spawned from the Devil.

After the Grandmother leaves, Corrine tells them the truth. Their father was Corrine’s half-uncle. She tells them how it was just so romantic when they met, when he was seventeen and she fourteen, and they just had to get married when she turned eighteen. But, oh dear, Corrine’s father didn’t like that too much, disinherited her, and banished them from the house. Um, I don’t really blame him for being upset.

She tells the children she’d been thinking, and she’s going to go to secretary school, so they can all get out of the house. It should take about a month. But she’ll keep working on her father, too.

The days turn into weeks for our kids. But don’t worry, Corrine’s bringing them lots of toys and games to make up for all that sunshine and freedom they’re missing out on! And she spends weekend days with them. Until she doesn’t, and goes sailing instead. And then she lets the kids know that her father added a postscript to her mother’s letter telling Corrine she could come, saying the only thing good about their marriage was that there were no Devil’s issue. So now the kids definitely have to stay locked away until the old man dies.

Part two will come tomorrow. And get ready for Saturday night, when I’ll be live tweeting the movie!

o   It always bugged me how Christopher would say, on his return home, ”Come greet me with kisses if you love me.”

o   Room porn! The bedroom: Maybe 16’x16’, but with so much dark furniture, including the two double beds, a highboy, a dresser, a makeup table, and table with four chairs, it’s very cluttered. There’s a red Oriental rug with gold fringe, and the bedspreads are gold quilted satin. On the walls are three paintings of hell. Charming.

o   V.C. does a very good job of making Carrie seem annoying. Because she is.

o   In my edition, Carrie is spelt Carry on page 99.

o   Cathy calls her mother “almost old, almost forty.” She’s thirty-three at this point.

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