Flowers In The Attic Readalong – Part The First
What a trip to come back from oh-so-wholesome LauraPalooza 2012 only to realize that I had some smutty work to do.
This will serve as a stream-of-consciousness conversation starter about the V.C. Andrews classic. I am dying to hear what you all think. Think of this as the book report you would never dare write.
Summary: Um, four Dollanganger children live the perfect, charmed, perfect, charmed, perfect, charmed life. Until one black day when their blond father dies in a car crash. For some reason their mom decides to take them to her parents’ house, where she locks them up in an attic while she works on convincing her dad to leave her his millions. There is a wicked grandmother, lots of bathtub scenes, and sex talk.
Tone: Golly-lolly, the tone of this book! I once referred to it as “porn for 12-year-old girls,” and my opinion has not changed. It reads like an entry from a pulpy diary written by a preteen. (Isn’t that the point? Except wait, isn’t it written “in retrospective” by “a woman”?) The entire book has a certain breathless cluelessness, like a puppy dog bumping into the walls with excitement to tell a truly sordid, ugly and mainly inexplicable tale. Such masterful language as:
She took bacon and eggs from the refrigerator, then turned to take me in her arms.
should not be ignored. Modifiers are missed, participles dangle, adjectives crowd together. There are glimpses of good writing in there (on rare occasion). You have to dig within tortuous sentences, however. Example: “Why, you could even see how each strand of hair pulled her skin up in little resentful hills—and even as I watched I saw one hair spring free from its moorings!” (Italics mine: I like the description.)
Themes: Lest you think the incest begins later in the book, we are disabused of this notion by approximately page 2, which brings us images of Daddy “warming our lips with his kisses” and promising his daughter he will never transfer his affections to another. Oh, and Mom’s boobs and curves are sooooooo alluring. And Chris! He is tall, handsome, blond, and hawt. Ew.
Incest not be enough to get you through this? We’ve got some sadism for you as well. The grandmother (who apparently has a much more minor role in this book than kid Erin remembers) is convinced the Dollanganger kids are the devil’s spawn. No wonder she puts images of hell on their walls, threatens them with beatings, lashes the mother, and doles out food in miserly doses.
What on earth is up with the professions of adults? PR person for a computer manufacturing firm in the 50s? Secretarial school, with those confounded scribbles and confusing typewriters? People named Bartholemew Winslow?
And let us not forget the traits of not-quite-3-dimensional characters. Momma (horrid spelling) breezes through, a blowsy specter. Cory and Carrie (seriously? I keep envisioning Carrie as the half-witted Baby Carrie of the Little House series) throw random tantrums, then are sweet. Mary Sue Cathy is a crackerjack ballerina. And Chris is a doctor! Or maybe he just likes to play doctor?
Things I Noticed: It is really weird to take time to read something that was pawed through and inhaled as a child. I’m surprised at how compelling some of it managed to be despite the lamentable writing. I’m surprised at all of the little details that have come back to me…the swan bed (golly. lolly.), the kids locked in a cupboard watching an over-the-top party that is a child’s imagining of what rich people do, the unnecessary details of the gifts Momma brings.
But enough about me. Next time I’ll talk about fiction and truth, the true identity of good old V.C., and whether I blushed when I heard what happened on that stained mattress. Now it’s your turn. (We will discuss Part II on August 6.)