Gothic Fiction at its Most Horrifying | Review: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

5:00 AM

With us all seemingly on lockdown for the unforeseeable future, and memories of my complete roast of these books last year, I decided to dive back into V.C. Andrews' highly disturbing Dollanganger Saga. First up: Flowers in the Attic. In truth, I realized that not only did I not remember clearly which books I had and hadn't read (aside from the few of the faux-V.C. Andrews penned Christopher's Diary series and Secret Brother) and severe boredom has an... interesting effect on someone.

Clearly my solution to 'the world is currently a highly f*cked up trash fire' blues is 'let's read something horrible' and really there's no turning back from that. And honestly that is the only way one can approach a V.C. Andrews novel: acknowledging that it isn't going to be pretty.

by V.C. Andrews 

Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!

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....

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Rating: ★★★★

“It is so appropriate to color hope yellow, like the sun we seldom saw. And as I begin to copy from the old memorandum journals that I kept for so long, a title comes as if inspired. 'Open the Window and Stand in the Sunshine.' Yet, I hesitate to name our story that. For I think of us more as flowers in the attic.” 
There's a shelf of old V.C. Andrews novels on one of my bookcases. Some are written by the late author herself, but most are written by the faux-V.C. Andrews who's novels you likely own instead. Flowers in the Attic is, perhaps, the most famous for its enthralling and horrific prose. Even if you haven't read the story, you certainly know its content. It is Andrews, the real Andrews, enduring legacy. 

Which is why this novel receives five chilling, haunting, stomach churning, blood-to-ice, stars. 

Flowers in the Attic is many things, but not necessarily the 'forbidden love story' its tagline teases. I'm never going to be able to think of it as a love story, for obvious reasons. It is a classic form of gothic horror. You don't walk away from it feeling the warm and fuzzies. 

It is, at its core, a family saga that begins in the deepest pits of despair, and you sink into its prose like quicksand. Before you know, you're drowning in its darkness and there's really no escaping it. It is the best of the series, this little introduction, and a startling read to say the least. Flowers in the Attic will never not disturb us, as readers.

Years after its release, Andrews left her mark on readers of all ages and on the literary world. In all its chilling qualities, Flowers in the Attic is, naturally, not for everybody. For years, I've wondered what my real feelings toward the story are. Similarly to how I feel about V.C. Andrews' My Sweet Audrina, Flowers in the Attic isn't necessarily a story I like. It never embraces you. Its words don't make you feel as though you've stumbled home. 

No, Flowers in the Attic feels like the most gripping of nightmares. Reading it, even as an adult, can feel daunting and feverish. While the writing isn't the finest in the world, and the story doesn't induce butterflies or joy, there's this jolting quality to it that cannot be denied. Cathy, Christopher, Carrie, Cory, Corrine and Olivia have each had an everlasting effect on the genre in varied ways.

In our modern times, we can see the manners in which V.C. Andrews has shaped the genre or inspired others to create equally as horrifying tales of woe. Authors like Gillian Flynn, and shows such as Riverdale (see: the Blossom family) have embraced traits that Andrews created in a way that is undeniable

But, back to Flowers in the Attic. As the Dollanganger children are locked up in a nightmare they, up until this point, never knew existed, you can't help but to feel for them. The horrors they withstand in the course of this book, alone, are enough to flinch back from.

At the start, their lives as they know them has changed--and in just a few years, they lose virtually everything they've come to know. Their loving home. A father, dead before his time, a mother, who slowly turns to stone and cruelty as time passes. Their innocence. Flowers in the Attic is so much more than your run of the mill YA novel because of these horrors.

There's this nauseating quality to the writing that feels never-ending. You flip the page, pause, and think, it can't get worse, yet it always does. Time, it seems, has changed very little about how disturbing this novel is. V.C. Andrews' writing, fairly unpolished at the point of release, can drag on from time to time, but something about this fact builds onto the atmosphere of this novel.

Flowers in the Attic is a trigger warning in and of itself. Between child abuse, starvation, incest (and r*pe) and many other things, V.C. Andrews encompasses many forms of horror. Mostly, Flowers in the Attic feels like dread in the form of a YA novel. It is heavy on the heart. This is, ultimately, what makes this story almost timeless. For generations, it has startled its readers, and for generations, it will continue to do so.

 Find me on Instagram and/or Twitter.

You Might Also Like