Published by: Pocket Books
First and foremost, I want to say thank you to Pocket Books (imprint of Simon and Schuster) for both providing complementary copies of these books (Flowers in the Attic and Petals in the Wind), and for also partially inspiring the idea of the special “Friday Feature!!” Without them, this snark-ridden review, along with next week’s snarky reflection the sequel Petals on the Wind would be impossible!
Disclaimer: There is snark aplenty in this review, and if you do not like snark in any form or find it to be unprofessional in any way or any form, you probably won’t enjoy reading this review! Also, know that my statements in my review do not need to be shared in any way by you!! This review is meant for pure fun, and know that the books themselves are of the type of genre-the penny dreadful, pulp fiction, campy horror film variety- that are essentially begging to be reviewed in a snarky way. I really enjoyed the book, but not in the same prudishly, literary snob fashion.
So, please enjoy this special Friday Snark Edition of “Snark in the Attic:” (Beware, there are a few explicit spoilers, as I just have to mention certain moments of this book that stuck out to me as being other weird, or something that is borderline balderdash, or just plain funny (yet deeply disturbing in its real-life implications!!!
If you have seen the recent horror film parody Cabin in the Woods or have a strange, morbid appetite for pulpy, campy horror of the penny dreadful variety, you have probably long ventured past the saccharine section of Sweet Valley High Books, and have long has a rather fond, though shameful (or shameless) love of VC Andrew’s 1979 Southern Gothic Classic: Flowers in the Attic. Flowers in the Attic earned a lot of its well-deserved notoriety for being a book that had both equal levels of sadism, abusive parents, excessively abused Aryan children (who are cruelly sheltered away in the attic of some huge Southern mansion), children that are the psychological progeny of incest (thus, we are meant to see their seemingly abnormal behavior of their parents and them, as explained by genetics), and of course, swooning, somewhat awkwardly romantic development of a subversive, incestuous love between the brother and sister of this Aryan band of children.
Mind you, I use the term Aryan, for all the children are described idyllically, as not being genetic mutations or complete ahem….”retards…” (antiquated, pejorative (demeaning) word used in the novel to describe those with mental handicaps. It is not a word I usually use.). They have the standard blonde hair and blue eyes, which Hitler never had. They are the true embodiment of the Nazi dream, and as such, we are supposed to wonder why it is the Aryan children,who are ironically having to be shuttered away in the dismal attic of some Southern Mansion. I don’t know if VC Andrews was seeking to be ironically humorous in this moment that it was the supposed “master race,” who in this novel are marginalized and hidden away, which is a complete reversal of what happened during World War II. Of course, I might be over-thinking this point, but it is interesting to ponder why VC Andrews chose to have the children be bestowed with ideal Nazi features, and then have them be the ones that are victimized in this novel, reflecting on the fact that any person has the propensity to hold psychological power over another human being. So, it is through the realm of Southern Gothic fiction, which VC Andrews allows all human beings in this novel, no matter their racial background, to have equal chance at being harshly abused in some way or some form. Hitler’s dream of the master race are dashed, as the Dollanger children are hidden away from the outside world.
So, who does hold the power in this rather twisted realm of Gothic Fiction? Well, it is a villainous grandmother, along with a rather extremist variation of Christianity (that has all the worst underpinnings of classic ruthless, patriarchal fundamentalism). Strangely enough, we are led to believe that it is the male master of the house- the unseen grandfather- that truly holds the power. Yet, his power is merely symbolic, as most of the clout (or inheritance money in this case) is actually legally owned by the grandmother, though it was the grandfather that punished the Dollanger’s mother for her sinful action (if you read the book, you will learn of what act led to her being exiled from the mansion). Both the grandmother and mother, though, are directly two different approaches to evil in this story. The mother, represents the seemingly innocent, benign form of evil that shows itself as being loving or caring, in a more sneaky, manipulative fashion. Meaning, the mother is shown to be selfish and conceited to a certain extreme, and she uses her charm to try to win back favor with her father, and thus earn back some share of the coveted family inheritance.
Whilst, the grandmother of this estate is just pure sadistic evil; she represents a woman that has grown tired of the emergent advances of modernity, around the time of the late fifties (and on the cusp of the early sixties). She is the generic, spurned southern dame, who knows that the age of the great slave estates has crumbled in the South, long after the Civil War. As a genre, Southern Gothic stuff is often typified as showing the deterioration or erosion of a certain bygone era of grandeur and power. In some ways, the children are satirically represented as a last desperate move for the matriarch of this Southern Estate and for the mother to preserve the antiquated conventions of this bygone era of the Southern estate, and the world of the South prior to the Civil War.
But, my discussion of this novel might be a tad bit disingenuous to the overall campy mood that pervades this story, as a whole. This is definitely a Southern Gothic, penny dreadful, and it shouldn’t really be read, in any way, as a serious literary work (although, it certainly can still, of course, be read in this way). That does not exempt it from being analyzed, but we must accept that the novel is foremost meant to tantalize, disturb, and titillate, and entertain the reader. It is the subversive novel that teens often hid underneath their desks at school to indulge in something forbidden and lurid. And, this is something that the novel achieves very well; it is great campy fun in the spirit of watching an old eighties horror movie or something off of FearNet. It is generally a very entertaining novel, even though it has some rather one-dimensional characters, instances of slippery, inept prose, and moments of absurdity that make you question the realism of the novel. There are also moments of ridiculously stilted dialogue.
But, how do you look past the supposed literary inadequacies of the book? You have to realize that these literary inadequacies are probably meant to be, as this book is part of the penny dreadful genre. See, this genre has long been a staple in the history of fiction. The point of these novels is to display an ulterior subversive dimension of our world, and allow us to explore some of the more morbid and tantalizingly “forbidden” impulses and thoughts of our subconscious. We are meant to feel bewildered by the ridiculous hyjinks of these novels, and we are supposed to have a lot of fun, in the end.
And, this classic novel is a hell lot of fun to read!! I had a grand time reading this book, and cannot wait to start the sequel. Of course, some people might see this novel in a more serious light than me, and that is perfectly acceptable. The point of reviewing this book is not to forcefully contrive this book as being a certain type of novel, rather, I am supplying my own idea of the book’s purpose, according to my own expectations of a novel. Quite bluntly, I really did find this novel to be nonsensical and silly, though it is also a lot of fun, and it really does an adept job of putting you through the disparity and horror that these children felt, as they are trapped in the attic.
More importantly, there are some really quite intense scenes that will have your barfing more than the Exorcist lady! I mean, some of the sadistic ploys that the evil, Southern Grandmother overlord concocts are downright horrifying and disgusting. And, the way these scenes abruptly catch the reader off guard, as we are distracted by the seemingly calm, almost pedantic descriptions of their dull days spent up in the attic. It grabs you by the neck, and suddenly you are feeling stiff and out-of-breath. Then of course, there is the sickening realization of the stuff you are reading about (in classic horror brilliance) and you feel sickened, yet you are also laughing at the same time in a rather unsettled way going, “How the hell could this have happened? Why don’t those damn kids climb out the window, or something? Where is the Child Protection Agency?” But, you once again feel sickened, and continuously read the rest of the book in a delightful, masochistic way.
Then, there is the Swan Bed of Incestuous Doom!! I will only say that Swan Bed scene is a very weird detour in the novel, and I won’t contextualize the scene for you, because its a nice, little lurid surprise to hear all about a certain “Swan Bed.” The picture doesn’t do the true metaphorical Swan Bed justice in the novel, where it serves as a key to a deeper, more horrific understanding of the evil that this Southern estate is mired in. This bed serves as not just a figment of the reader’s imagination, but a depiction of the chaotic, almost silly insanity of this book. You laugh at the Swan bed, you feel overwhelmed by its nonsensical characteristics, but you nonetheless love sleeping indulgently in said Swan Bed. Yep, Flowers in the Attic is totally the same sensation of sleeping in a swan dead-with a water-filled mattress with disgusting fish swimming in it. And sometimes, you catch of whiff of degradation of some kind, like a potent dead fish smell, yet you keep sleeping anyways, wondering why am I reading this book. Oh yeah, it’s so subversively entertaining, all kinds of weird, and I am so compelled to keep reading anyways.
So there you have it!! More than enough reasons why you need to get yourself a copy of Flowers in the Attic,and indulge in a modern, penny dreadful classic!! It’s a hell lot of fun, and you’ll be laughing, vomiting, and certainly smiling sadistically that you weirdly are enjoying this book!!
NEXT WEEK ON “SNARK IN THE ATTIC:” It is no “Springtime for Hitler,” With the Dollanger, Aryan children, in the sequel Petals on the Wind!
Here are some Links of Interest and other related information for us that unabashedly love the campy thrills of reading this penny dreadful classic series:
FICTION INTO FILM: Pick up Petals on the Wind May 20th and watch the movie May 26th!
WATCH: The movie trailer, and tune in to Lifetime on Monday, May 26th, 9:00 pm ET to watch the World Premier of Petals on the Wind!
ENTER TO WIN: Go to the Pocket Books Facebook page beginning May 20th to enter the sweepstakes for a prize pack of Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind, and the Flowers in the Attic DVD. Visit right before tuning into Petals on the Wind late May for the sweepstakes giveaway (date to be announced)!
Petals on the Wind cast:
Heather Graham as Corrine
Ellen Burstyn as Olivia
Dylan Bruce as Bart
Rose McIver as Young Cathy (played by Kiernan Shipka in Flowers in the Attic)
Wyatt Nash as Christopher (played by Mason Dye in Flowers in the Attic)
More importantly,Check out new information about the new Dollanger books coming out
Please see the announcement from The Hollywood Reporter on the new titles:
Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth and Christopher’s Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger will be released in October 2014 and January 2015, respectively.