Monday, April 19, 2010

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

My mother introduced me to this book a while ago, through the movie that it became. I never paid much attention to it until I saw it in Wal-Mart for under $10, combined with the second novel in the Dollanganger saga, Petals on the Wind. I read it in a frenzy, somewhat underwhelmed with the writing style itself (pretty rudimentary and long-winded) while taken aback at the subject matter. (Quick synopsis: The Dollanganger family, after a horrible tragedy, has to live with family members who detest them while working to ensure their future is secure financially- and that leads to many horrors, especially for the four children, Cathy, Chris, Carrie and Cory.) Incest? Religious fundamentalism? Well, you can see why there was such a controversy, especially in the year in which this book was published (1979, according to the copyright). Incest, and sex in general, was still very much a taboo (though today 85 million copies of V.C. Andrews' books are in print).

Still, as taboo as it may be, it's still real. And because of that, I suppose, in 1983, the book was challenged in the Richmond (Rhode Isl.) H.S. system for "pornographic" content and explicit descriptions of sexual intercourse and incest. In the book, after the tragic death of the Dollanganger patriarch, his children find out that he and their mother were in fact related (uncle and niece, or "half-uncle" as their grandmother pointed out). Not only that, but the eldest two children, Cathy and Christopher, begin an incestuous relationship after he rapes her. Disturbing, yes, as the zealots that are their grandparents remind them daily as they stay locked up in a wing of their enormous mansion, while their mother tries to win back the inheritance she lost from her ailing father. However, though it may seem a bit far-fetched, the incest itself is not too far from what does happen in this society. Though children may be better off being shielded from it, I think high-schoolers are mature enough to deal with the topic. Another note: perhaps the fact that it's supposed to be such an unspoken topic and all is part of its appeal, which is one fact that the people who try to censor books should realize, with more than just this book.

Based on writing alone, I'm inclined to tell you to skip this one, just because it's so melodramatic it's nearly as laughable as Twilight; however, the subject matter and storyline (not to mention plot) draw you in much more effectively than does the latter series, though it's quite trashy, trust me. Oh, well. We all need some shame reading in our lives now and then.

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