Let me start this off by saying that I’ve re-read these books trying to figure out what the target age group is. I know that I read this series for the first time when I was 11 and I think the majority of the girls who pick these up are pre-teen/teens – which is pretty shocking when you re-read them as an adult. I remember being impressed that my librarian let me check them out because they were in the high-school section (yes, I went to a school where K-12 shared a library and a lunchroom), but she thought I was “mature enough” to handle them. Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I was mature enough to handle incest and rape in the 6th grade, but thanks Mrs W! There is no other way to describe these books than just trashy. Well written, engrossing, gothic trash – but trash nonetheless.
Um…I’m about to spoil the crap out of this series in these summaries/reviews, so maybe don’t read past this point if you have no idea what they’re about.
The Dollanganger saga starts with Flowers in the Attic (which is apparently loosely based on actual events), the story of a gorgeous family of 6 (mom, dad, older brother, older sister, younger twins) whose world comes crashing down when the father is killed on his 36th birthday. I feel the need to comment on the ridiculous tale mommy was told by the police.
According to the accounts which we’ve recorded, there was a motorist driving a blue Ford weaving in and out of the left hand lane, apparently drunk, and he crashed head-on into your husband’s car. But it seems your husband must have seen the accident coming, for he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, but a piece of machinery had fallen from another car or truck, and this kept him from completing his correct defensive driving maneuver, which would have saved his life. But as it was, your husband’s much heavier car turned over several times, and still he might have survived, but an oncoming truck, unable to stop, crashed into his car, and again the Cadillac spun over…and then…it caught on fire.
…and then it caught on fire. Bravo, Ms Andrews – bravo. I’m a little sad she forgot the whole ‘attacked by a shark and struck by lightning AND THEN pushed off a cliff by a dodo riding a unicorn’ bit, but what’re you gonna do?
Anyway, mommy is used to living on credit and with daddy dead, she can’t take care of her four kids. She writes to her super-rich parents to beg them to take her back, because she’s been disinherited, but we don’t know why yet. They agree and what’s left of the family heads off to Virginia to pursue a life of wealth and leisure. BUT WAIT! You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?
They arrive at the manor in the middle of the night and are met by a formidable woman who leads them upstairs to a tiny room and tells them they’ll shut the eff up if they know what’s good for them. Then mommy and the scary lady (their grandmother) leave for the night and lock the kids in the little room. The following day, we discover that mommy was disinherited because she married her father’s ‘half-brother’ (more on why that’s in quotes next week) and her bible thumping parents didn’t approve. Now, in order to get back in daddy’s good graces, she has to play the obedient daughter and pretend that her marriage meant nothing…but daddy doesn’t know about the kids, so they only have to stay locked up until he dies. UNTIL HE DIES. No big deal, right? Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie are free to have their run of the attic every day after 10 am and they’ll be brought enough food for the day every morning. They don’t have to worry about anything unless they break any of the grandmother’s commandments, or somehow make enough noise to alert people to their presence. Um…okay, yeah.
I get that this is supposed to be based on something that really happened, but anyone who actually thinks about it (meaning, anyone who isn’t 11 years old when they read it for the first time) will realize that this is a pretty flimsy excuse to hide your kids away. I get that the parents/grandparents are disgustingly wealthy and money can buy lots of things – including silence – but I still find it incredibly difficult to believe that there’s just no way that no one would notice these children locked away up there, or that they couldn’t have forced their way out at any time. Seriously, if my kids didn’t put an effort into escaping, I’d be really disappointed in them.
The grandfather doesn’t die. Well, he does…but not until they’ve been locked up for over three years, and their mother has remarried. In the meantime, Chris studies medical textbooks, hoping that he can be a doctor on that blessed day they’re released and Cathy continues to dance her little heart out in the alternating sweltering heat and/or frigid ice land of the attic. The grandmother beats the crap out of them and starves them for a few weeks, so Chris forces the others to drink his blood to keep them from starving (?!). Chris rapes Cathy, but it’s okay because she could have stopped him if she really wanted to and she was leading him on anyway [gross]. Oh, but guess what? The Mom of the Year that locked her kids up in the first place? She started sending them doughnuts laced with arsenic, and the younger boy dies. Finally, once he’s dead the older kids start to wise up and come up with a plan to get them the eff out of there because they realize that they’re never going to be set free.
Soooooooo…Chris and Cathy carve a key out of wood that somehow matches exactly the master key of the entire house (after robbing everyone silly and finding out that the grandfather has been dead for almost a year) and they make their escape.
This is pretty much where the first book ends, and where I start having a difficult time finishing this post because I’m not entirely sure how I felt about it. I know that when I was young, I thought these books were amazing. They were exactly the kind of escapism a young girl looks for (even if they’re not precisely the proper type of reading material). As an adult, I can see their value for 11 year old me, but that doesn’t leave me any less horrified that this is the kind of thing I was reading then. I didn’t hate the story as much as I expected to, and found myself completely absorbed again. Sure, this time I noticed some weird plot points that didn’t bother young me so much, but it wasn’t truly terrible like I thought it would be. VC Andrews may have written trash, but she sure knew how to tell a story.
3.5/5 stars: The extra half star is for nostalgia.
I was going to cover the first three here today, but then noticed that my post would be about 3000 words, and figured no one would read it. A friend of mine convinced me that as a holiday bonus for all of you, I should make Trashy Tuesday come more than once a week – so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll be back here on Thursday with another installment of Trashy Tuesday for you all, covering at least the second book in the series. Hope to see you then!