Author: Virginia C. Andrews | Genre: Gothic, Horror, Young Adult | Pages: 389 | Publisher: Harper Collins
Up in the attic, four secrets are hidden. Four blonde, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive…
Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie have perfect lives – until a tragic accident changes everything. Now they must wait, hidden from view in their grandparents’ attic, as their mother tries to figure out what to do next. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the siblings endure unspeakable horrors and face the terrifying realisation that they might not be let out of the attic after all.
“Why did the stars seem to be looking down at me with pity, making me feel ant-sized, overwhelmed, completely insignificant? It was too big, that close sky, too beautiful, and it filled me with a strange sense of foreboding.”
Flowers in the attic starts with the Dollanganger family of six, a happy and content family. But soon tragedy falls at their door with the death of Christopher Sr., the head of the family. Soon, the kids with the mother have to leave their cozy abode and move to their mother’s childhood home in the country, a sprawling mansion of a zillion rooms and servants, the menacing grandmother, and the ever-elusive grandfather.
“We lived in the attic,
Christopher, Cory, Carrie, and me,
Now there are only three.”
Mother hides her kids so that her father who had initially disinherited her for marrying her cousin, forgives her after all these years, and rewrites her in his will. And she will then take her kids away and all will be able to live a happy life again. The only catch though – the kids have to wait until the grandfather dies and thus, they are confined to the attic, with once-a-day meals.
“We don’t anticipate accidents, nor do we expect to die young.”
Told from the perspective of a 12 year-old girl, Cathy, this story is one of pure horror and trauma. Psychological and emotional trauma remain prominent throughout this book. The themes of betrayal, fear, dysfunctional childhood, hate, siblinghood, incest, child cruelty, largely define the tone of this book; which could be disturbing to some readers.
The kids in this book far too grown up for their age; especially Chris, the elder brother of the four siblings. They all have their temperaments that govern the prose. Their dreams, hopes, aspirations, regrets, desperation, and the longing for a better future, make it for a gripping read. As they grow, the elder two Dollanganger kids are caught between adolescent tides of puberty, that had them breaching limits and thus, introducing the whole incest angle. The youngest kids, Cory and Carrie, closely follow their elder siblings in the growing absence of their mother. It really is just Chris and Cathy, now the surrogate parents of the twins, that lead the story.
“-just on the verge of
becoming a woman, and in these three years and almost five months, I’d reached maturity. I was older than the mountains outside. The wisdom
of the attic was in my bones, etched on my brain, part of my flesh.”
Mother Dollanganger has her own life to sort in her parents’ home, and it felt quite selfish whilst natural to want a normal life again. That said, how she plots against her kids was horrifying and her efforts to remove them from her life, bone-chilling. Toward, the end, the one big mystery that’s revealed really has the reader’s heart go out to the innocent kids stuck in the attic, unawares of their cruel mother’s scheming. The grandmother, a menacing figure, who tortures them under religious pretexts, making the kids pay for her daughter’s sin, felt all too unfair and much too barbarous.
“And there is something in the young that rebels when life is made too strict, making us want to do most of all the very things denied to us.”
This story is a constant struggle for freedom. Freedom from religious tyranny, from norms of the society, from patriarchy, from unwanted responsibilities, from misery. That they need to have a better life, fast, is at the heart of this novel. Through the kids and the mother, the author has tried to reinstate this one fact strongly. While it is easy for the mother to get married again and lead a life of her own, the kids manage to run away from the castle and what happens of them is a story for the next novel in the Dollanganger series.
“And where was happiness? In the yesterdays? In the tomorrows? Not in this hour, this minute, this second. We had one thing, and one thing only, to give us a spark of joy. Hope.”
This book teaches a lot about what real love can make one do – it liberates you, it enslaves you, it calms you, but also hurts you. In a way, young love rules the heart and mind, which was a pattern of live of both the junior and senior men of the Dollanganger family.
‘Flowers in the Attic’ is one-of-a-kind psychological slash gothic horror that promises to stay with you forever. It’s a gem of a book for lovers of psychological horror. If you’re looking for some intense reading with characters that will make your life seem better, this is the book for you. I’d not recommend it for kids though for obvious reasons as listed above. I’m now moving on to the next book in the series – Petals on the Wind.
Have you read ‘Flowers in the Attic‘? Do share your thoughts on this amazing book below.
Happy reading till we meet next. Until then, carpe diem!