Flowers In The Attic Summary

V. C. Andrews

Flowers In The Attic

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Flowers In The Attic Summary

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Flowers in the Attic (1979) is a Gothic novel by American novelist V.C. Andrews, and the first in a five book series about the same family. The novel employs many elements of a typical gothic horror, a genre which has its roots in eighteenth century English popular fiction. Novels in this style generally include beautiful young women unwillingly trapped in large mansions by hideous, evil men. Themes of sexuality and incest are also common in the genre. This is especially true in the case of Andrews’ work which has often been controversial and banned in certain school districts because of its depiction of adolescent sex and consensual incest. Andrews’ novels were very popular during her lifetime, and after her death her estate hired ghost writer Andrew Neiderman to complete the manuscripts she left unfinished. Of all the novels attributed to V.C. Andrews, only those completed before her death in 1986 and two others that were nearly finished can truly be attributed to her. On the other hand, Neiderman has gone on to write over twenty multi-book series under the name of Andrews. In the prologue Andrews claims that the story within is true, with names and places being changed in order to “protect the innocent,” but this claim has been widely disputed.

The novel is narrated by Cathy (eight), one of four children in the Dollanganger family along with her older brother Chris (ten) and two younger twin children, Carrie and Cory (born during the first chapter). The beginning of the novel is idyllic; Cathy’s mother and father (Corrine and Christopher respectively) appear to love each other and their family, they are a happy and attractive group referred to as “the dolls” by people in their town. When Cathy is twelve her father dies in a car accident while traveling for work. Corrine has no skills and no education to fall back on and is surprised to learn that Christopher has been in debt, which she must now pay for in addition to supporting her children. She decides to take them back to her family home in Virginia which she abandoned when she married Christopher. Corrine tells the children that she has been estranged from her wealthy parents since she was eighteen. When they arrive at Foxworth Hall, Corinne’s mother Olivia, a severe and pious woman, helps to sneak the children into a small upstairs bedroom with an attached attic. Corrine knows her father Malcolm has a heart condition and will soon die, and since he has no other heirs she is determined to win back his affections and be written into his will. However, this depends entirely upon the children being kept a complete secret from Malcolm. Corrine insists that her father is unwell, and that it will only be a matter of days before he dies and the children can leave. Olivia reveals to the children that their parents were uncle and niece, Christopher having been Malcolm’s younger half-brother. It also becomes apparent that she is physically abusing Corrine, but Corrine is undeterred in her plan to win back her father’s love.

Cathy and Chris work together in order to care for the twins while they are confined to the tiny bedroom and attic. They begin making floral decorations in order to convert the attic into an imaginary garden for the younger children to play in. Corrine returns to the attic every day to see her children, bringing them gifts and reassuring them that the plan will only be a few more days. But the days stretch into weeks, months and years, and Corrine’s visits to the attic become less frequent. At Christmastime Corrine allows Chris and Cathy to watch the celebratory ball as long as they remain hidden. From their hiding spot they watch their mother speaking with a man named Bart Winslow, the attorney drawing up Malcolm’s will. Corrine finds out that Chris began wandering the house during the ball, slaps him and threatens to whip him, but quickly apologizes. Chris forgives her, but Cathy recognizes that their mother is becoming more like Olivia and worries she too has stopped caring about her children.

The years continue to pass and the twins cease to grow due to poor nutrition and lack of sunlight and fresh air. They no longer recognize Corrine and accept Chris and Cathy as their parents. The two older children have become adolescents and experience the physical changes of puberty. Olivia catches both Cathy admiring her own body in the mirror and Chris in turn admiring her and orders Chris to cut off Cathy’s hair in penance. He does not, so Olivia pours tar into Cathy’s hair as punishment and she is forced to cut it off herself. Afterwards, powdered donuts begin appearing with the food that is left for them.

Corrine announces that she has married the attorney Bart Winslow, and refuses to continue seeing her children. Olivia becomes more abusive to them and the twins begin to whither, while Chris and Cathy experience a growing attraction toward one another. They begin sneaking into the house at night and stealing money and valuables in order to try to escape. On one such excursion Cathy kissed Bart in his sleep, and upon hearing of this Chris becomes so enraged that he rapes Cathy. They ultimately confess their love to each other.

Cory becomes ill and eventually is taken to the hospital. Corrine returns to say that he has died of pneumonia. On a subsequent excursion to steal money from the house Chris overhears that Malcom has been dead for months at this point. Corrine will inherit nothing if anyone learns of the children so she and Olivia have been lacing powdered donuts with rat poison and feeding them to the children in an effort to get rid of them. They finally escape the house and flee to Florida, but do not contact the police about their mother.