Wilted, rotting, and sticking to the vase

I’ve mentioned Flowers in the Attic here before, and … I’m doing it again. Like most women born before, say, 1986 (in our day, we didn’t have Internet smut), I read a tattered copy when I was in junior high, loaned to me by a classmate who needed it back in two days or less because she had a schedule mapped out for it so everyone could read it on the sly.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books recently featured its revamped and oh-so-wrong new cover when the digital edition went on sale, pointing out that for some weird reason FitA was the “gateway” to romance for so many readers (for some bizarre reason). It was only $2 and I bought it. And read it.

Yes, it’s as insane as I remember, but for different reasons.

Flowers+In+The+AtticThis cover is a million shades of wrong.

Everyone who read it remembers THAT scene, on the “stained and smelly mattress” in the attic and if you were a healthy person, you were thoroughly revolted by it. Reading it 17-ish years later , I was more horrified and a little amused with the writing itself than the scene that scarred so many young psyches (and turned my stomach), the over-the-top dialogue—12-year-old Cathy tells us she should “not be the genuine clairvoyant I was”—the mother who paces rooms anxiously wearing only a black negligee cut to her hip, in front of her children and it’s normal in that family (“But Jessica, that’s the most normal thing that family does!” says you), and the foreshadowing. Oh, the foreshadowing.

“I stared up at the sky. It seemed to like an inverted deep bowl of navy-blue velvet, sparkled all over with crystallized snowflakes instead of stars—or were they tears of ice that I was going to cry in the future?” (32%, Kobo epub edition)

“This was all happening while I was up in the attic, sitting on a windowsill, waiting for Chris to reappear. I was thinking of the silver music box Daddy had given me, and wishing I had it back. I didn’t know then that the episode in Momma’s room was to have its repercussions.” (87%)

It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s weird and creepy. And yet, as so many reviewers have pointed out, V.C. Andrews did something right: Nearly 30 years after her death, the Dollanganger series is still in print and people continue to talk about them. The writing is clunky and awkward, its style very dated. But books are still being written under her byline by ghostwriters. When readers think of beach books, or trashy books, V.C. Andrews is one of the first names that comes to mind. Instead of celebrating or excusing the eccentricities of the obscenely wealthy characters in her books, readers are invited to gawk at them and even feel sorry for them. The common man may not have enough money to buy a small country, but at least we’re not marrying our siblings.

(When I decided on the title for this blog entry, it reminded me that I read a really good novel this month that featured actual roses: Jessica Clare’s Beauty and the Billionaire. I don’t usually go for billionaire romances, but Jessica Clare/Jill Myles is one of my autobuy authors and I liked the first book in her new series. Check it out.)

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