Flowers in the Attic, its three sequels—Petals on the Wind (1980), If There Be Thorns (1981), and Seeds of Yesterday (1983)—and its “prequel,” Garden of Shadows (1987), are a series of books that present how evil is born out of a desire for money and power. Malcolm Neal Foxworth, jealous of his father, makes wealth the primary focus of his life, suppressing all the good that is within him. He marries a woman whom he does not love because she is a good secretary, alienates his children when he finds that he cannot force them to become what he wants, isolates his daughter from friends and neighbors so that she will be completely dependant on him for affection and support, and forces his grandchildren to live a suffocating existence in his attic in order to punish Corrine.
Because Malcolm is a Foxworth, the patriarch of the wealthiest and most powerful family in his town, he feels superior to other people and thinks that he can do whatever he wants to whomever he wants. He encourages dependency within his family that inevitably leads to incestuous relationships; his lonely fourteen-year-old daughter falls in love with her half uncle because the elder Christopher Dollanganger is the one man whom she is allowed to see. Because Corrine’s children, Cathy and Chris, are confined to live together without any semblance of privacy as they become adults, they form an inappropriate attachment and, unavoidably,...
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When V. C. Andrews’ book appeared in 1979, it proved to be a remarkable success, although a hard-to-categorize one. Flowers in the Attic was only released for two weeks before it made the best-seller lists and remained there for fourteen weeks. The first three Dollanganger novels were recordbreakers for Pocket Books, the first two alone selling more than seven million copies within two years. Other books by Andrews, drawing on the same themes, would follow: My Sweet Audrina (1982) and the Casteel series, including Heaven (1985) and Dark Angel (1986), among others. The popularity of her themes has continued beyond their creator’s death. After Andrews’ death in 1986, her family selected a ghost writer not only to finish Andrews’ Casteel series for publication but also to continue writing novels in her name, such as Dawn (1990).
Although she is frequently depicted as a writer of mainstream horror and a contemporary of Steven King and Richard Matheson, Andrews saw herself as a writer of adult fairy tales, situations where individuals face enormous odds in life and are strengthened by their trials. Flowers in the Attic does what no previous book had done—present a terrifying but believable account of family cruelty and incest to young adults. Because of its strong content, the book was called pornographic and banned from library bookshelves in some places. Andrews’ own secrecy about her birth year and her general reclusiveness did little to dispel the rumors that swirled around her. Instead, before her death from cancer in December, 1986, Andrews chose to write in spite of the moral qualms of those who would be offended by what she had to say. Her stubbornness, like that of her character Cathy, allowed her to write memorably about developing strength of character.