REVIEW: Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger #1) by V.C. Andrews

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Pages: 389, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description from Goodreads:

“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 meager 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….

‘Way upstairs there are
four secrets hidden.
Blond, beautiful, innocent
struggling to stay alive….”

I don’t think Flowers in the Attic gets a fair assessment in literary history. This book is most remembered because of the incestuous relationship. It has practically reached cult classic status because of it. Be honest. If you have not read Flowers in the Attic, but have heard of it, what is the first (or only) thing that pops into your mind? Incestuous relationship between a brother and sister. I read in other reviews that for those of us who were in high school during the 1980’s, reading this book was a female rite of passage. Well I never read it; I only watched the movie, which by the way does not do the book justice at all. So I decided to finally read it.

A white picket fence family, deliriously happy, encounter tragedy when the father is killed in a car accident. The mother has no marketable skills, so she decides to return to her parents and beg their forgiveness for some unspeakable sinful act she performed that resulted in her disinheritance. While the mother is winning back her father’s love, she hides her four children in a locked room with an entry to an enormous attic where they spend over three years, trying to pass the time. All the while, the mother continues to reassure them that her father’s forgiveness and imminent death are close at hand and she will then be able to release them from their seclusion under the eyes of a religiously fanatic grandmother who hates them for a reason they do not know.

I can guess what you’re thinking- Almost four hundred pages about four kids being stuck in an attic? No thanks, I’ll pass. That’s why it took me so long to read this book, but I am glad I finally took a chance. Flowers in the Attic is no Nobel Prize piece of literature. However, I found it quite mesmerizing.

The grandmother alone was enough to creep me out. I love weirdo religious themes and there is enough in here to creep you out a bit.

In addition, I was fascinated reading about how the children kept themselves occupied in the small room and up in the enormous attic.

The slow transition of the mother from a loving mother into a self-centered witch whose only concern was money was heartbreaking. We see it from the children’s point of view and I could feel the devastation they felt every time the mother made empty promises and each time her visits dwindled.

Even though the victims were children, I became frustrated with them. Why did they continue to believe their mother even after it was clear she had no intention of ever letting them out of the room? Why didn’t they escape? Why did the keep making excuses for her? As an objective observer, it was easy to question their logic. On the other hand, it was much harder trying to put myself in their shoes. I couldn’t even imagine my mother doing something like that. Of course, that is what they thought as well.

When taking the above into consideration, Flowers in the Attic is more than just a cult classic, rite of passage for young women.

Now, allow me to address the incest. This part contains a few spoilers. Incest is definitely an underlying theme in this book since the mother married her half uncle. As for the siblings, the older boy and girl were locked together in a room with their much younger siblings for over three years in which they both went through puberty, not to mention they eventually had to step up as surrogate parents to the younger twins as their mother’s visits became less frequent. The book carefully lays the groundwork for the incestuous relationship and does not shy away from the repercussions of such a relationship.

I don’t want you to think the book is full of sex, because it is not. The one sex scene between the older siblings is three sentences long. That’s it. There are some other scenes that are suggestive, some with fondling, but the only sex scene is extremely short and not graphic at all. Flowers in the Attic does not come across to me as porn. It comes across more as a tragedy.

There is definitely more to Flowers in the Attic than its cult status and I enjoyed it tremendously. I do recommend it with a warning about the underlying incestuous theme.

Reviewed by Christina
July 8, 2013

One thought on “REVIEW: Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger #1) by V.C. Andrews

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