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Flowers in the Attic

Flowers in the Attic - V.C. Andrews Apparently, this is the year I reread all the books that enthralled me as a kid. I wasn’t setting out to do that, but it’s a fun ride, so I’ll go along with it.

I didn’t expect this one to hold up too well. I mean, come on. It was the Twilight of its time. Everyone was reading this. Teenagers, suburban moms, little old ladies – this was the book in everyone’s hands. You could start a conversation about Flowers in the Attic with a total stranger and, provided she was female and over the age of five, you’d be safe in assuming she’d read it often enough to be able to discuss the plot in detail.

The two questions on everyone’s lips were: Was this “novel” really nonfiction, the way the author claimed in the prologue? And, if so, did she and her brother really do, you know, that? And would that really have been so horrible and unforgivable and just plain wrong if, after all, they’d been trapped in an attic together for years plus the brother was totally hot?

(Okay, that’s three questions. Sorry. All the girls my age were reading this through math class.)

I remember getting into an earnest conversation about this book with a friend of mine who was a serious student of ballet. I felt absolutely sure this book was an autobiography. Heaven only knows why this was so important to me, but it was. My friend, on the other hand, said that she felt fairly convinced this was actually fiction, because there was no way the narrator could have kept up her ballet studies all by herself for those crucial years she’d spent locked up in an attic.

I love that that’s what tipped my friend off. Not “My mother married her gorgeous young half-uncle and then locked us away for years so she’d have a shot at inheriting beaucoup bucks from her dad” . Not “...and so now my brother and I have the permanent hots for each other” . Those might have happened. Teaching herself to go on pointe alone? Forget it.

Okay, so Flowers isn’t an autobiography. I’ve come to terms with that. But it turns out that it may have been based on an incident in someone else’s life. According to the Way Official V.C. Andrews web site, the young V.C. Andrews developed a crush on a doctor who said he’d spent over six years locked away in an attic “to preserve the family wealth.” Here’s the page where you can read the whole story, as well as taking a look at the pitch letter Andrews wrote for Flowers.

Agents, take note: This pitch is riddled with every rookie error you sneer at us poor writers for making. And Andrews wrote a bunch of bestsellers you may have heard of. So KISS MY QUERY LETTER. Whoops. Sorry. It’s late and I’m tired. Forget I said that. Here’s a link to the page:


So I loved this book as a kid. Does it hold up? Or was I just an idiot who has no right to jab at people who adore Twilight?

I think I loved this book for a perfectly good reason: It’s a ripping good yarn.

And I thought it must be real because it feels real. Andrews may have been given the premise by someone else, but she really knew how to run with it. She dove into the idea of what it would be like to live an imprisoned but strangely pampered life, and she didn’t miss a detail.

As a child, I found this book the most engrossing story I’d ever experienced. I think if I were reading this for the first time as an adult, I’d find it a far more wrenching experience. Betrayal follows betrayal, and the victims are terribly young. (And how weird is it that I was reading this book when I was 12, and felt fine with it?)

So, yeah. This book passed the test of time.

I’m not sure the sequel does – but that’s another story.