Though sometimes classified as Young Adult, Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews hits on several very adult, very controversial topics. At the age of 12, Cathy Dollanganger finds her life forever altered when her father is killed in an automobile accident, and her mother is forced to move the family—consisting of Cathy, her mother; her 14-year-old brother, Chris; and her 5-year-old twin siblings, Cory and Carrie—back to her wealthy parents’ estate. At first all four children seem pleased at the prospect of living in a lavish mansion, but their excitement is quickly stifled when they are told by their cold grandmother that they are to be kept hidden in the attic until their rapidly ailing grandfather passes away, so that he will never learn of their existence.
As days in the attic turn into months, and eventually years, their grandfather’s supposedly imminent death continues to linger. Kept a secret even from the servants in the house, the children’s only contacts are their mother, who drifts further away from them as she reestablishes herself in upper class society, and their scolding and demanding grandmother, who enforces numerous rules about how the children are to dress and interact with each other while alone. Told from Cathy’s perspective, the children are left to piece together the mystery of why they must remain a secret, as clues are dropped about a scandal having existed between their mother and father.
While at first optimistic and poetic, with the children finding colorful ways to occupy their time, the story grows more dark and foreboding the longer they are secluded. Will they ever escape their prison? Will their mother’s history, coupled with her current life choices affect their devotion to her? And will they be able to survive their grandmother’s harsh demands, or will they fall victim to a fate brought on by their oppressive circumstances?
I found the book to be compelling, with well-crafted passages that paint vivid images. While the subject matter is certainly dark and heavy, the writing is quite passionate which I found kept me from falling too deeply into the despair of the children’s situation.
Flowers in the Attic is the first in a series, with the following books being Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. People who enjoyed this book might also enjoy books by Daphne DuMaurier or Joyce Carol Oats. The book was also made into a movie by the same title in 1987.