Saturday, November 12, 2011

Petals on the Wind: The Covers

Once upon a time, when I was a mere slip of a lass, there used to be advertisements in the back of the original first-edition V.C. Andrews paperbacks from which you could, if you were so inclined, order poster-sized prints of the covers of the first three books in the Dollanganger series.  Suitable for framing and hanging over the fireplace.  I swear, this happened.

The artist for the original four Dollanganger (and My Sweet Audrina) covers was Gillian Hills, a woman whose face and life both resemble a V.C. Andrews heroine's: she was a stunning, globe-trotting blonde debutante whose C.V. includes starring roles in several reputable but mostly forgotten films (including a blink-of-the-eye cameo in A Clockwork Orange) and a career as a chanteuse.  Her music was typical girl-pop for the time, but her voice was surprisingly sweet and sultry, with a lot of emotional depth--even beyond the "everything sounds awesome in French" aspect.

Yes.  That is the woman who painted the original V.C. Andrews covers.  As much as I was surprised to be able to find any information about her at all, to find that she was such an impressive, multi-talented woman was incredible.

This is a much-later edition of Petals.  How do we know this?

One day, I aspire to have my name as a registered trademark.

Anyway, this is the classic black background/foil illustration cover.  Later covers would be more elaborate.  I don't think I even need to bother with the symbolism here: three petals have separated and are drifting away, the three kids have escaped.  Interestingly, there's a British variant cover where the flower is a sort of mutant rose/tulip thing:

 Also interesting about the British variant cover: V.C. is credited under her full name of Virginia Andrews.  The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that when Andrews was originally published in America, she was surprised to see that the name on the cover was "V.C. Andrews."  Her publisher apologized, saying that it was a mistake at the printer's and that it was too late to correct it.  It was years before Andrews finally learned the truth: that her name had been deliberately shortened to apostrophes in an effort to sell her books to teh Menz.  This is a pretty common trick in publishing; apparently men won't read books marketed to women, but women will read books marketed to anyone--possibly to make up for all those centuries when there were no books marketed to women because we mostly weren't encouraged to read.  Because the mass-market publishing industry hasn't updated its business model since 1801.

Nobody would have read this book if they thought a woman wrote it!


I am deeply disappointed that this was the best picture of the stepback that I could find, because you're only getting half the story.  This one was full-length, carrying on even unto the interior front cover itself, so that you could see the grandmother sprawled out in all her paralytic glory, wizened kneecaps and all.  Hubba-hubba!  Actually, this is kind of disturbing because she looks as if she's dead and laid out on some sort of pyre.

I am really loving the textures in this, though.  It's hard to tell from the muted colors in this reproduction, but in the original, the satin of Carrie's dress is lovingly rendered, as is the lace on the grandmother's pillowcase.

Other details just don't seem to work.  I'm assuming Cathy is meant to be wearing a tutu, but it also appears to be made of stiff satin, and there's some significant shadow between the bodice and Cathy, as if the dress is a size too large and floating loose over her torso.  It's also quite a lot of pink satin in one small area, as Carrie's pale-pink satin dress and Cathy's pale-pink satin tutu seem to merge.  It would seem more logical to dress Carrie in her beloved red-and-purple clothes, but Wells had a very muted palate going on here, and dressing her in a bright color would have made it seem as if Carrie is meant to be the focus of attention--and poor damn Carrie isn't the focus of much of anything.

As for Chris . . . Chris, honey, no.  No turtlenecks.  If that's your fashion sense, I understand why we didn't get to see your shopping montage.

Carrie is portrayed with her great big honkin' lollipop head, except . . . it doesn't look that oversized, to be honest.  Cathy's height is given as 5'4", so Carrie is a bit on the small side for a full-grown teen, but her odd proportions are not immediately noticeable, and given the amount of harping on how the child looks, I'd assumed that she looked like a Bratz doll.

Chris appears to be only a few inches taller than Cathy, which would put him at five-eight, max.  The grandmother, on the other hand . . . well, unless the kids are standing really far behind the bed, the grandmother is approximately eight feet tall.  Again, you're only seeing half the stepback; the grandmother has legs for days in this painting, and not necessarily in a good way.

Everyone wears an expression of dull surprise, but for the grandmother, whose eyes turned pleading toward the reader seem to say It's too late for me!  Save yourselves!

Finally, I expect that's meant to be a window behind them, since windows are Highly Symbolic in this series, but in the full view, it looks more as if they're in some Arabian Nights silken tent.

All in all, it's not a bad cover, even if it is a little misleading on the surface of things.  It hints that the kids are finally going to get their confrontation with their captors, and, as the grandmother is now weak, helpless, and near death, that the confrontation won't be all it's cracked up to be.


  1. This is crazy because I just watched this movie on Netflix streaming called "Demons of the Mind"(1972). And it's seriously like a prequel prequel of the Foxworths! The characters look just like they look. A brother and sister are locked away in their family mansion. But away from each other so they don't succumb to their incestuous obsession they can't control! So the blond girl is all tortured by her minder who's this tough woman. She cuts her with razor blades to "cure " her! There is some supernatural angle I forget. But the blond girl escapes to a doctor nearby! And the actress who plays this girl? Gillian Hills.

  2. omg, and it's on instant stream. Thanks for the heads-up, Anon! I am going to watch the CRAP out of this. It will be my reward after my psych test.

  3. And what the hell is Cathy holding in that picture?

    (I love this blog hardcore.)

  4. Gabbygrl:

    I think Cathy's holding a riding crop.

  5. Oh man you just made me cry hahahaha. Thank you- I can't stop reading this blog!

  6. I never cared for the Petals on the Wind picture. Frankly, I don't think they look as good-looking as they did in the Flowers picture. Cathy looks kind of old in the face for her age, Carrie's eyes are too cat-like, and Chris looks like Tony Geary as Luke in General Hospital. None of then look to me like older versions of the first picture.