At last, we’ve arrived at the final installment in the Dollanganger series! I was talking to Becoming Cliche over chat the other day about how thrilled I was to be able to stop reading VC Andrews, and she said something to the effect of ”Oh, but Heaven was such a good book! And what about My Sweet Audrina?” I guess this means I will be revisiting this author at some point in the future, but hopefully not any time soon. There’s only so many incestuous relationships a girl can handle at one time, you know?
I think it’s interesting to note here, that this was the first VC Andrews book to be published after her death in 1986. It seems that it has been questioned as to whether this book was actually written partially by her before she died – and completed by the ghost-writer hired by her estate to continue her “legacy” – or whether the ghost-writer in fact wrote the entire thing himself. Interesting. I think I prefer the notion that he composed every future Andrews book with the assistance of a Ouija Board. It makes things more fun for me.
Garden of Shadows takes place before the events detailed in Flowers in the Attic. It’s the story of the menacing grandmother, Olivia. Young Olivia is tall and rather plain. Since she’s not pretty or bubbly or good at much other than math (she does the books for her father’s business), she’s resigned herself to being a lonely old maid. That all changes the day her father brings Malcolm Foxworth home for dinner. He is immediately nice to her and compliments her and says all the right things. They go for a walk after dinner, and he asks her to marry him. He needs a strong wife that can run his incredibly rich household, he says. This is obviously a marriage of convenience, but since he’s so dreamy and he’s chosen her, she lets herself think it will grow into something else. They’re married in a quickie ceremony by a justice of the peace and set off the following day for Virginia and Foxworth Hall.
Her new husband pretty much ignores her on the train south, does not try to engage in any newlywed-type shenanigans, even though she’s hoping (and dreading) that he will. They arrive at Foxworth Hall and Olivia is given charge of the house. She’s told she must stay out of Malcolm’s study, and that no one ever goes into the room that belonged to his mother. We find out that his mother ran off with another man when he was only five. She was incredibly beautiful, so of course Malcolm is distrustful of beautiful women. Hence, the plain-jane wifey he brings home.
Olivia makes the house her own, and in doing so causes all of the servants to hate her. She thinks she has to be stern with everyone, so they talk smack about her behind her back. She decides that Malcolm could not have possibly have meant that she wasn’t allowed to check out his mother’s room because she’s the woman of the damn house afterall, so she goes snooping. The room is a shrine to a woman that has been gone for more than 20 years. All of her strumpety dressing gowns and furs and whatnot are still there, her brush is still on the vanity, etc. It has this really intriguing “swan bed” that everyone always talks about how it must need custom sheets because the mattress is oval-shaped. I really have a hard time picturing it as anything other than Mae West’s bed in She Done Him Wrong.
So, one of the servants rats on Olivia and Malcolm comes rushing in to yell at her for being in his
shrine mother’s suite, but while he’s in the middle of yelling, he’s overcome with a fit of passion and takes her (her first time) on his mother’s bed…while calling her BY HIS MOTHER’S NAME. Jeez. Oedipal complex, anyone? Ew. I get squicked out just thinking about it. He comes to her again a few nights later and forces her again, telling her that he wants a son.
Sure enough, nine months later – a son is born. They name him Malcolm Jr, but call him Mal to avoid confusing him with his father. A year or so later, Malcolm visits her in the middle of the night again. This time he tells her that he wants a daughter. Olivia has problems giving birth to their second baby (another son, oh noes!) and is told by the doctor that she can not have any more children. Malcolm is disappointed in her for failing to produce a daughter – especially since their second boy (Joel, remember him from the last book?) is sickly – and their relationship becomes even more strained.
When the children are small, Malcolm receives word that his father will soon be arriving back at the Manor with his lovely young wife. Olivia is shocked because she did not know his father had re-married, even more shocked when she discovers his wife is only 19. Garland and Alicia have the kind of marriage Olivia had hoped to have for herself. They’re constantly sneaking off to get it on, and Olivia listens in on them (and even watches!) quite often. Gross. Like, seriously? What the hell is this crap? It’s made even worse by the fact that it’s obvious Malcolm has his eye on his step-mother and Olivia watches him attempt to seduce her one day down by the
river lake. Olivia doesn’t blame Malcolm for his attempted infidelity, no. It’s obviously Alicia’s fault for being so pretty and witty and bright.
Alicia becomes pregnant and gives birth to Malcolm’s half-brother, Christopher. Wait. Did I just say Christopher? Why does that name seem so familiar in the context of this series…? Hmmmm, anyway – on Christopher’s third birthday, Garland walks in on Malcolm while he’s attempting to rape his step-mother. They have a fight,
triangle wins and Garland has a fatal heart attack.
After the death of his father, Malcolm’s ardor is lessened and Olivia believes he’s done attempting to bed Alicia. A few months later, she discovers that not only is that not the case, but that Malcolm has been raping Alicia repeatedly (in his mother’s bed) and she is now pregnant. Alicia says that Malcolm told her if she kept him out or told anyone, he’d throw her and Christopher on the street without a penny. [sigh]
To keep the entire family from being humiliated, Olivia devises a plan. She will fire all of the servants and hide Alicia up in the bedroom under the attic while she’s pregnant, then once she has the baby she will take Christopher and leave forever. The entire time Alicia is hidden away, Olivia is feigning her own pregnancy, to convince the new servants that she’s expecting. Alicia gives birth to a little girl and Malcolm names her Corrine, after his mother. Ew.
Alicia takes Christopher and leaves with the money Garland left her. Olivia raises Corinne as her own child, but Malcolm spoils her greatly. He is disappointed in his sons because they have no interest in taking over the family business, and would rather be musicians.
When he is 18, Malcolm Jr buys himself a motorcycle against his father’s wishes. He takes Corinne on a ride down the driveway and drops her off, then proceeds to lose control of the bike and drives off a cliff. Well, they said he lost control, but I’m pretty sure that unicorn-riding dodo made it’s first appearance for this family and pushed him over the edge.
Olivia is filled with grief at the loss of her son, and takes solace from the letters she receives from her cousin – John Amos. She offers him the position of butler at Foxworth Hall, and he accepts. Shortly after this, Joel takes off to tour Europe with an orchestra and is killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps. Luckily (since this is a prequel), we know he didn’t really die, he was just hiding out from his a-hole parents…for fifty years.
With two sons dead and a daughter that grows more spoiled by the day, Olivia is having a pretty rough time of things. She receives a letter from Alicia, who is dying of cancer. Her final wish is that Malcolm and Olivia take Christopher in and send him to medical school, because she lost her entire inheritance in the stock market crash. They do. He is 17 at this point and an incredibly handsome young man. He and Corinne immediately hit it off, and Olivia is thrilled that they are just like the brother and sister she knows them to be.
UNTIL SHE CATCHES THEM HAVING SEX IN THE SWAN BED.
Jeezy creezy. I knew it was coming, and it still freaked me out. Christopher and Corinne try to play it off, “Oh, she’s just my half-niece! We’re not even that closely related! We’re totes getting married and you’ll be fine with it, right?” Yeah. No. You’re actually brother and sister, get over yourselves.
They’re kicked out. Excommunicated. Malcolm gets incredibly sick after losing his dearest daughter, and turns to John Amos and the bible to get him through. They don’t hear anything from either Christopher or Corinne for a number of years…
Until Christopher gets attacked by that same dodo-riding unicorn and Corinne is left penniless, and the whole story is brought full circle.
Thus concludes the Dollanganger saga. It was fun to write about, but I’m pretty glad I’m done with the craziness for now. Up next on the Trashy Tuesday roster: Cave Pr0n!