Flowers in the Attic Essay - Critical Context

V. C. Andrews

Critical Context

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.