Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “Flowers in the Attic”

Dear Frank,

So I can understand why you wanted me to tell you about V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic, because you probably have the same memories I do of seeing other girls read that book in elementary school and talk about how it was sooooo sexy but they wouldn’t tell you what it was about when you asked them at lunch because they were stupid bitches who can suck it. I mean, I’m assuming that’s what it was like for you. But now, having read the damn thing, I wish I could travel back in time and tell little Liz that she really wasn’t missing out on anything. Because, ugh. Ugh, this book. Ugh.

Let’s do this quick so that the dirt sticks to us less. Flowers in the Attic is about this 12-year-old girl named Cathy whose family is picture-perfect: awesome dad, gorgeous mom, cool-as-ice older brother Chris, adorable twin toddlers, lots of fancy presents. But then the dad dies in a car accident — on his 36th birthday! Oh tragic irony! That is why I rarely drive on my birthday, honestly.

He leaves the family broke, because they were in massive debt and ladies don’t get jobs, I suppose. So Mom, who’s kinda a C-word from the beginning, brings Cathy and the other kids to stay with her super-super-super-rich parents. However, as soon as they get to the fancy-pants house, it’s revealed that Mom’s parents have a major beef against Mom, and so the kids have to hide in a deserted wing of the house, basically locked up in a single bedroom that connects to the attic. By hide, I mean that they’re never allowed to leave, with meals brought to them once a day and silence and purity demanded at all times.

Purity? Oh, yeah. Grandma, who’s the only other person who knows they’re in the house, knows how to use a switch, knows how to do it often and is constantly looking for opportunities that prove that the kids are full of sin so she can punish them with religious fervor. (C-word-ness is hereditary, apparently.)

The reason for this is that — surprise! — Mom and Dad were related! Whoops! Dad was the half-brother of Mom’s father, though only three years older than her, and so when they met it was teenage love at first sight except for the part where they’re related and EWWWWWWWWWW.

Mom’s gravely ill father, who wrote her out of the will when all this went down initially, has reluctantly accepted her back into the house, but has no idea that there were any kids, and Mom’s determined to keep him from finding out as part of her “suck up to Dad and get back into the will” plan. So the kids are stuck in the attic until Grandpa dies, while Grandma, who sees any child of this union as being unclean, gets to constantly accuse Cathy and Chris of being naughty.

Eventually this becomes somewhat self-fulfilling, because thanks to the decision to lock all the kids up together for what ends up being YEARS, Chris and Cathy are forced to play mother and father to the twins and eventually start experiencing some for realz sexual tension thanks to the changes of puberty and EW EW EW EW.

Blah blah blah flagrant child abuse, attic romping and Cathy and Chris nearly fucking. Soon the kids start noticing more and more of Mom’s C-word-ness, like how she keeps saying that she’s going to secretary school and saving money to help them escape, but wears fancy clothes and jewelry and buys them fancy presents to keep them from complaining too much…

God, it just goes on forever. Frank, I’m just going to tell you the ending. After about three years of this, Mom gets married to this dude who has no idea she has four kids stashed in the attic; Cathy sneaks out one night and in a weird moment of confusion kisses her new step-dad, which makes Chris so jealous that he starts raping her, but then she gets into it so it’s not REALLY rape, which is what she tells him afterwards. So it’s not at all gross and totally consensual. DID I MENTION EW?

Then, one of the twins starts vomiting constantly and the kids convince Mom to take him to a hospital, where he dies, and while inititally they’re told it’s pneumonia eventually they figure out that their mother was poisoning their food. Also, Grandpa died like a year ago so in theory they could have been freed then, except that Grandpa added a clause to his will stating that if there was ever any proof that Mom and Dad had kids, Mom would be cut off from the family fortune forever. Hence, Mom’s motivation for… What’s the fancy Latin phrase for killing your own children? I’m too depressed to look it up.

Anyhoo, the surviving children escape using money they’ve been stealing for the last few months to hop a train out of town. At which point, according to Wikipedia, the sequels (FOUR SEQUELS, FRANK) continue the story.

Seriously, how the fuck do you pitch a series like this? “It’s like Wuthering Heights but with WAY MORE INCEST!” says the agent. “Turn that incest dial UP TO ELEVEN.” So gross.

I did not feel good reading this book, Frank! It was not a pleasant experience! Except for this one thing: I always figured the mean girls in elementary school were stupid bitches. The fact that they liked this book is, in retrospect, excellent proof.



About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on November 29, 2010, in All the Spoilers, Books and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Wow. I mean, my close (but now I’m silently reevaluating this closeness) friend was totally into these books in high school, as were a lot of girls, and she told me that it had to do with incest, but did not make it out to seem quite this fucked up.

    But, thinking about things a little harder, she does love books about really miserable good-for-nothing human beings, so once again, life makes sense.

    P.S. – you’ll write ‘fuck’ but not ‘the C-word’?

  2. Goodness. This puts Twilight in a whole new… light? How did we ever survive the seventies?

  3. Not to mention that it comes out later that the dad and the mother are not only half uncle and niece, they’re half brother and sister TOO.


  4. All of VC Andrews’s books are like this–all of them! They’re hilarious.

    …only some of them contain incest.

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