Saturday, January 11, 2014

Petals on the Wind, Part Seven: In Which Cathy Marries in Haste

Fun Fact: the file from which I'm working is titled "Peddles on the Wind" which always makes me think of this:

We are on the cusp of Part Three, the shortest section of this book at about fifty pages.  It's also, strangely, a very eventful section: Cathy embarks on her violent first marriage, achieves her dream of becoming a world-renown ballerina, and becomes a mother and a widow at roughly the same time. Yet the plotting issues that have plagued the first three-fifths of the book are largely non-existent.  In fact, this is a section Andrews inexplicably glossed over long periods with a handwave even when the story might have done well to linger on a few scenes.  There's barely even a Christmas to mark the passage of time.

There are other things, though.  Horrible things.  Implication-y things.

Anyway: very short section, but a longish review.  We have an entire marriage to get through, so let's get to it!

When we last left off, Cathy had just married Julian before immediately flying off to London.  This, says Awesome Madame Zolta, will be their proving ground, the thing that will make or break careers.  All eyes will be on Julian and Cathy, the newlyweds, so try to act like you can tolerate one another, you lovebirds!

Between practices, Julian hits all the buttons of a creepy woman-hating stalker: he demands to know every thought in her head at all times; he follows her everywhere, even into the bathroom, because he can't stand for her to do anything he doesn't know about.  Most especially, he wants to know every detail of her relationship with Paul and Chris.

Eventually--as in, within three pages of the wedding--Cathy realizes she's made a horrible mistake.
Oh God, what had I done? What kind of person was I?...Momma had a way of acting impulsively and being sorry when it was too late.  I wasn't like her underneath; I couldn't be!...I floundered again, caught, as always, in the quicksand of her making.  All of it was her fault, even my marriage to Julian!
Cathy, if there is one thing in this entire series that your mother can't be blamed for, it's your marriage to Julian.  That's all on you, girlfriend. 

The rest of the London trip is summed thusly: "Our weeks in London were busy, exciting and exhausting."  Apparently they don't even swing by Oxford to pick up a comma for that sentence before returning home.  We don't get to see how the performance went, nor does Cathy tell us if it was successful or not.  We spent five pages in London.  Literally three sentences were used to describe the experience.  When Cathy returns to Paul's house in Clairmont, she spends more time describing the Spanish moss in the trees in his front yard than she wasted on her first trip to London.  Priorities.  This book has none.

Cathy walks into the house to find Paul snoozing with Carrie playing with her porcelain dollhouse dolls beside him.   After the plot dutifully reminds us Carrie is still here, she is sent to bed.  Even Julian gets plunked in front of the television to allow Cathy and Paul to discuss things alone, even though Julian has previously been established as the guy who won't allow his wife to use to the toilet alone and who doesn't trust his wife to be alone with any other man, even her own brother.

Cathy confronts Paul about Amanda.  "Amanda," says Paul, "and her half-truths.  Why didn't you ask why before you flew to London?  Why didn't you give me the chance to defend myself?"  I would like this question answered too, so let's hear it.  Traditionally, one stows one's crazy first wife in the attic, but we've already run that plotline into the ground.

Paul tells her that yes, Julia lived after drowning Scotty, but that she was in an irreversible coma thereafter.  She died shortly after he and Cathy became lovers.  Cathy recalls noticing that Paul seemed a little depressed around this period (though the book said nothing about it at the time) but she dismissed it.  Paul never bothered to tell the kids because their own traumatic past weighed too heavily on them and he didn't feel the need to burden them with his.  It's all a little too shady to be wholly altruistic on Paul's part, but I'll grant that it's a very painful, complicated situation.

Cathy admits--finally--that she married Julian just before leaving for London.  Paul, is, of course, the perfect combination of crushed, forgiving, and understanding.  He gives Cathy his blessing because love means letting the ones you love make stupid horrible dangerous ill-thought-out decisions based on bad information and a desire for revenge.

Paul is such a weird character.  I don't know why I tend to give him as much credit as I do.  On the one hand, he's altruistic and understanding and forgiving to a fault--literally; he forgives a lot of things he probably shouldn't.  On the other hand, he commits statutory rape with his underage adopted daughter.*  The book keeps trying to gloss over the fact that this is creepy.

The next chapter deals with all Julian's baggage: his estranged father is dying.  Madame Marisha tries to force a reconciliation before it's too late.

She also gives Cathy the worst marriage advice ever: to indulge Julian's whiny moods and allow him to be a clingy possessive man-child because it's all Madame's fault for not snuggling him more when he was a baby.  Julian's really deeply, passionately in love with Cathy and will obey her in all things if she puts her foot down (ha-ha, putting your foot down, that will be funny very shortly).  He only follows her into the bathroom because he's afraid she'll need him and he won't be there!

Chris finds out that Cathy's come home and makes a special trip from college to call her a whore to her face.  I would like to remind you that the last time we saw Chris, he was experiencing some manly big-bro butthurt among the roses and told Cathy that she'd be better off marry Julian than Paul because Paul would be dried-up and decrepit just as Cathy was going through her sexual peak. Now, it seems, Chris wanted Cathy to marry Paul because "he's the one who took us in, and fed us, and clothed us, and gave us the best of everything." 

Chris, I don't see you down on your knees blowing Paul for putting you through med school. 

Before she leaves, Cathy tries to give Paul back his engagement ring.  In typical Paul fashion, he tells her to keep it.  "Save it to hock, when or if you ever need a bit of extra cash."

Julian and Cathy move back to New York.  Julian forbids Cathy to allow Paul or Chris to visit them.  Carrie's okay; he likes Carrie.  He really likes Carrie.

Julian and Cathy work toward their big break, but it never seems to happen.  Julian, in particular, has a tendency to piss people off, making them shove him back into minor roles and take Cathy with him. But a television performance of Giselle is offered to them, and both of them feel that this could win them their stardom.  Giselle, for the record, is a ballet about pale, blonde, supernaturally beautiful women who lure men into dancing themselves to death.

...and they were in Harry Potter!
Unfortunately, the rehearsals start the same week as Chris's graduation from med school.  Cathy finds this out when she and Julian are vacationing in Barcelona since they can totally do that between gigs while maintaining an apartment in New York City even though they're always broke.  She wants to fly back to South Carolina for the commencement as Chris has semi-threatened to refuse his diploma if she can't be there because Chris is a horrible human being.  Julian hides Cathy's passport so that she can't leave, and the two of them have a knockdown, drag-out fight where Cathy throws back in Julian's face that she knows all about the underage girls Julian's been banging on the side.  Again, I hate to say this . . . but you'll need to know that later.

The fight ends with Julian "forc[ing] upon [Cathy] what should only be given in love," and if I had not just discovered that this line is not original to Andrews, I would be tempted to break out my bullet points.

However, even if Andrews didn't invent the phrase, it's significant that she chose it--that this phrase, of all possibilities, should so appeal to her that, consciously or not, she included it.  I am particularly intrigued by the strange proviso "what should only be given in love," a noble sentiment on its surface but one that dismisses the concept of sex for any reason other than love.  "Only" is a quite specific word.  Cathy always does it for love, therefore her multiple lovers do not reflect on her in the same way as Ho-Bag Yolanda's.  Yolanda sleeps with Chris and is condemned as a ho-bag.  Cathy sleeps with her own brother, and we're asked to suspend our judgement.  In Andrewsland it is more acceptable to commit incest than to be a slut.

But anyways this is derailing the very important point that we have encountered Confirmed Rapist #3 in our All The Men In This Book Are Rapists Game, for those of you playing along at home.

Cathy wakes up the next morning with two black eyes and possibly even more injuries.  When Julian arrives at the breakfast table, she's all smiles and kisses as she pours his coffee.  Julian apologizes for being rough with her, saying that he only goes to those aforementioned younger girls because he can do things with them he can't bring himself to do with Cathy.  Um.  That's not making this any less gross, Jules.  But Cathy kisses his cheek and forgives him.

An hour later, once Julian's unconscious from the sedatives Cathy just fed him, she's rummaging through the apartment for her hidden passport.  Before he wakes up, she's out the door and on a plane back to the States.

Well played, Cathy.  Well played.

Cathy attends Chris's graduation and is overwhelmed by emotions coming at her from every which way: memories of the two of them as kids, of Chris playing Little League . . . all those brief happy days when Chris didn't actively want to bone her.  Chris, too, is feeling a lot of different things, but mostly just horny.  When Cathy asks him if he's dating anyone, he tells her he still has eyes for no one but her--but, for once, he tells her that that's his problem, not hers.

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?  Cathy's being all proactive and drugging her abusive spouse and Chris is accepting responsibility for his own feelings and . . . guys?  Guys . . . am I dead?  Is this heaven?

No, this is Heaven.
Cathy spends the next several days hanging out at Paul's house and enjoying being home safe with her family and, well, not being raped and slapped around, when she finds a news article stating that Julian has replaced her with Yolanda as his partner in Giselle.  On top of this, Cathy's missed a couple of periods.  She wants to fly back to New York, confront Julian, and get her role back, but after learning that Julian beat her, Chris won't let her go alone.


Cathy and Chris arrive in New York, where Julian and Yolanda are going over a routine for Awesome Madame Zolta and the tv director.  Julian, accustomed to Cathy's weight and height, can't work with Yolanda and nearly drops her.  This has been going on for hours now and the cast and crew are about to give up.  As soon as Cathy enters, Madame Z grabs her and tells her to get dressed and get up there before Julian ruins them all.  Yolanda tries to keep Cathy from going on, but Cathy straight-up Showgirls-shoves her out of the way. 

 Who is this Cathy?  I like this Cathy!  This Cathy is a tiger!

She and Julian dance together, and it's perfect and awesome and the rest of the cast sighs with relief while Julian and Cathy whisper nasty, angry things to each other under the cover of the music.  Julian sneers at Cathy that she never really loved him and that he doesn't need her anymore.  Suddenly, he breaks the routine, jumps into the air, and comes down with all his weight on Cathy's feet.  Cathy collapses to the ground with multiple broken toes.  Madame Zolta rushes Cathy to the troupe's orthopedist and fires Julian on the spot.

Cathy has enough broken toes that Chris must literally carry her back to her apartment, only to discover that the place has been trashed.  Julian and Yolanda have destroyed all of Cathy's belongings, including taking a hammer to Paul's engagement ring.

Chris begs her to leave Julian before he does something to damage her permanently, an intervention that might have sounded more sincere if Chris didn't use it as a prelude to start making out with Cathy.  Chris!  Stop it!  You were being normal for like a whole chapter!  Now you're making out with your sister while she has two black eyes and two broken feet and she's doped up on pain meds and can't run away from you!  This is unacceptable even if the woman isn't your sister!

Cathy finally tells him mid-make-out that she's pregnant and Chris reacts like she's just told him that her vagina is full of spiders.  "I could have slapped him from the way he jerked backwards, abandoning the sweet ecstasy of kissing forbidden places that had aroused me," says Cathy.
  • Making out with your sister?  Okay!  Making out with a pregnant lady?  EW GROSS.
  • It's gross for a lot of reasons, Chris.  It's gross because in Andrewsland, knocking a woman up is irrefutable proof that another man has tapped that and that you will have to live forever with the idea that you're always taking his sloppy seconds.  It's gross if you can't get over the idea that a woman's body is always a man's property.  It's gross if you're a misogynist, is what I'm saying.
  • I sincerely hope all this "sweet ecstasy" stuff is the drugs talking, Cathy, otherwise you are so not helping
"Always you manage to defeat me," says Chris.  "First Paul, then Julian . . . and now a baby."  He begs Cathy to leave Julian so that they can raise the baby together.  But Cathy says no.
"I've failed [Julian] in so many ways.  Failed him because you and Paul got in my eyes, and I didn't appreciate what I could have had in him.  I should have been a better wife, and then he wouldn't have needed all those girls [...] I didn't realize that to love me, even when I denied him, was fine and noble in itself."  
She even says she's okay with never dancing again and watching Julian go on to fame without her if it means having his child.

Chris, echoing my sentiments, slams out of the apartment in disgust.

But you know, I'm glad Cathy's finally moving forward, taking responsibility for her decisions, making strong, firm, declarative statements and setting new goals and rededicating herself aaand something's going to happen in the next two pages that will render all of this moot, isn't it?

Later that night, Cathy wakes from a dream of having sex with Bart Winslow while she's dressed as her mother--NO REALLY, THAT JUST HAPPENED--when the phone rings.  It's a hospital telling her that Julian has been in a serious car accident and that she needs to come right away.  Cathy screams for Chris, even though she doesn't know he came back while she was asleep.  He did, and has apparently been sitting in the dark watching her sleep all this time which is par for the course for Chris's bottomless creepitude.

Julian has broken his neck.  Yolanda, who was in the car when it crashed, is dead.

When he finally becomes conscious, Julian is convinced that he would rather be dead than crippled and unable to dance again.  Cathy tries to persuade him that he has to live for her and his child, but Julian tells her flatly to abort the baby.

The next morning, Cathy wakes beside Julian to find that he's stolen the nurse's sewing scissors and cut his IV tube.  An air bubble reached his heart, and he's dead.

After Julian's funeral, Paul invites Cathy to come back to live with him until the baby is born.  Everyone in the house dotes on Cathy and pampers her hand and foot and it's pretty much the rosy image of maternity

Another Christmas comes arounds--yay, Christmas!  I can't tell the time around here without a Christmas!  Apparently they don't have them in New York or something.  But it's a tiny little Christmas scene, made awesome only by Madame Zolta sending Cathy a sweet note inviting her back to the ballet company.
Dear Catherine, my own luv,
I grieve for your beautiful dancing husband.  I grieve for you most if you decide not to dance again just because you are a mother!  Long ago you would have been a prima ballerina if your husband had shown less arrogance . . . Life offers many chances, not just one.  Come back.
(Spoilers from the future: Cathy never dances professionally again.)

Paul comes in and asks Cathy why she's smiling, and she shows him the letter.  Then this happens:

He read it, then held out his arms, inviting me to come and cuddle on his lap and in his arms. Eagerly I accepted his invitation. I was hungry for affection. Life seemed to me nothing without a man.

Friends, I invite you to look at that bolded sentence.  Read it aloud.  Taste it.  Savor it.  Everything about this sentence, both in sentiment and in structure, is quintessential Andrews.  If you boiled a V.C. Andrews novel for twelve hours, this sentence would be left in the bottom of the pot.  There are four other places in the body of that sentence where she could have squeezed in "to me" and she put it in the strangest, most atypical, clunkiest spot.  If this sentence appeared before me on the GRE with the instructions to "find the most grammatically unique place to insert the phrase 'to me'", never in a million years would I have thought to stick it where it is.

And that is why V.C. Andrews is a goddamn genius. Because sometimes her very sentence structure is so incomprehensible that it loops back around to being brilliant.  You can't write like this on purpose.  She is inimitable.

Cathy climbs on Paul's lap and begins making out with him, just as Chris walks in. Chris dipped out to get Cathy some ice cream she wanted, only to come back to find this going on. No wonder Chris is bitter: he literally cannot step away for fifteen minutes without getting cockblocked.

Cathy goes into labor on Valentine's Day, which would have been her sixth wedding anniversary with Julian.  This information baffles me, both in the fact that they were married on Valentine's Day (information that was not given earlier and that had to be purely coincidental since she pretty much eloped on the spur of the moment) and that we're just now being informed that the past fifty pages actually totaled six years of narrative time.  The pacing in this book is mind-boggling.

Anyhoodle, welcome Julian Janus Marquet, a.k.a. Jory ("the J will stand for Julian and the rest for Cory").  We will spend exactly one chapter reveling in Cathy's adoration of her beautiful son before Jory is shuffled off to a series of convenient babysitters and family members so that Mommy can get her revenge on.  It is not dissimilar to the book's treatment of Carrie.  Unsurprisingly, Carrie becomes Jory's primary babysitter in the pages to come.  One can assume that Carrie envelops the child and draws him into the alternative universe in which she exists whenever the narrative doesn't need her.

And yay, we finished Part Three!  Up next: the book becomes suspiciously Carrie-centric, Jory ages four years in ten pages, and the return of Bart Winslow's moustache!   



*I deleted a huge super-boring paragraph about the age of consent in South Carolina in the 1960s, but this IS supposed to be the annotated VCA, so here it is: in the 1960s, due to the feminist movement and the introduction of the Pill and the Vietnam War, the age of consent was in flux over a lot of America.  South Carolina, however, was a little late in the game, and it wasn't until 1975 that the age of consent was changed from 18 to 16.  In other words, Cathy was good to go at the time this book was written, but not in the time it was set.


  1. You talked about Andrews glossing stuff over, etc. There is one sentence my friends and I always laughed at because you can smell the lie a mile away. In the section where Julian and Cathy get in that fight, after he tells her to get an abortion - Cathy says this:

    "In the room next door, Chris held me in his arms all through the night".

    What's wrong with this sentence you may ask? We know from the entire last book and a half that since those lust filled days in the attic, Chris has NEVER been able to simply hold Cathy in his arms without a make-out session commencing.

    Taking a pair of scissors in her side, risking the possibility of being caught by Santa Claus under the Christmas tree, then suggesting getting it on in the same room their sister is sleeping in, laid up in bed with broken toes - nothing can deter these two. So I have my own theory:

    **Potential spoiler alert** -

    I don't think Cathy waited until Paul croaked before bedding her brother. Our narrator wants us to see her sympathetically. She's never had a problem before - going into full detail with every make-out session with Chris, but this one time she claims he held her in his arms all night, and that's all that happened. This - after he was all over her back at her apartment?

    No; Cathy says she rented a room in the hospital, and slept there, but I don't think sleeping was all that went on. I'll wager some major sexing was going on too, but Cathy wouldn't look too sympathetic if she admitted: I spent the entire night indulging in incestuous comfort sex with my brother while my husband was committing suicide in the next room.

    1. I'm sitting here trying to say that couldn't happen? But I literally cannot think of a way it couldn't have happened. You're right. There is literally not a single time those two have been in each other's arms without at least getting to second base. Damn you, Anon, your logic is impenetrable! ::shakes fist::

  2. I read a post on a VC Andrews message board that theorized that Chris actually murdered Julian and made it look like a suicide (and repeats this with other men who get in his way). I think that could be a real possibility. What do you think?

    1. I can't remember if it's a fan theory I've read or if Cathy herself accuses Chris of telling her that it was okay to have sex with Paul after his heart attack when Chris knew it would kill him. The only problem I have with that theory is that it doesn't give Paul a lot of credit; the guy wanted Cathy bad, but did he want her bad enough to risk suicide-by-sex? Paul's a doctor too, and he would have known better. But the last thing he tells Cathy is that if he should die, she should marry Chris. That seems a little *too* convenient. I could totally build a conspiracy theory from that: Chris and Paul come to an agreement that Paul will encourage Cathy to marry Chris, and in exchange Chris will euthanize him?

      Chris could have easily murdered Julian by that same theory, though: steal the scissors from the nurse, cut the IV line (and why wasn't Julian on suicide watch anyway?), plant the evidence, and since No One Calls the Cops in Andrewsland . . . hmm . . .

      The only death Chris couldn't be blamed for is Bart's. I don't even really blame Corinne for sending him back into the house. No one held a gun to the man's head to make him run back inside.

      As much as I like the idea of Christopher Dollanganger: Doctor of Death, I don't know if I could find enough evidence in the text to bear it out. He had the opportunity and the motive in two cases, but that doesn't necessarily mean he did it.

    2. After I posted that I just read the bit in ITBT where Cathy blames Chris for Paul's death. lol

      I definitely think Chris had something to do with Julian's death. I think Julian was suicidal, but I'll bet Chris helped him along.

      And I like the idea of Chris and Paul coming to an agreement about Cathy. I never thought of that!

      One of the many reasons I am loving this blog as I re-read this series...there are so many things I missed in previous readings and I love your comments and thoughts! :)

      As far as Bart...I'm not entirely convinced that Chris didn't start the fire at Foxworth Hall, maybe not to kill Bart, but for his own revenge? Or as a way to show Cathy that he was on her side?

  3. Love these recaps, makes me seriously wonder about my 12-year-old self and why I didn't realize how completely creepy these books were. Minor nitpick re: the note about the age of consent in NC -- doesn't Paul live in South Carolina?

    1. Oops, you're right. My bad! Fixed now. Thanks!

    2. (The footnote is still correct; I just inexplicably wrote "North" twice.

  4. I find your posts hilarious. I used to eat this stuff up during my early teen years and now find it as implausible and ridiculous as you do--I just couldn't describe why as eloquently as you do! Looking forward to more :-)