Saturday, February 1, 2014

Petals on the Wind, Part Ten: In Which All Those Other Christmases Were Foreshadowing


Welcome to the conclusion of Petals on the Wind!  Shit's about to get Jane Eyre around here, complete with fire, crazy first wives, and people stuffed in the attic.

I'm going to apologize right now.  In this section I ended up extensively questioning a major plothole that quickly spun out of control, resulting in me spending two paragraphs analyzing how the definition of the word "to" changes the entire outcome of the book.  I am not exaggerating.  I'm not even being pedantic.  The editing in the final section of this book was so shoddy that I was reduced to close analyzing individual prepositions in order to figure out what the hell was going on.

In my defense, it was kind of an important part of the book--it might actually be the book, in my opinion--and it was done in an attempt to finally answer the number one question I've seen regarding this particular book: what happened to Cory's body?



Cathy is now madly in love with Bart Winslow, which was not part of The Plan at all.  As for Cathy's dance school, it's suffering from her lack of attention, but Cathy could care less.  "I was now a kept woman," she says, "paid to be his mistress."  So all those dreams, all that ambition, all that effort . . . nope!  Kept woman now!  Much more lucrative!

Also, Cathy's missed a period but she's sure that means nothing.  Oh, let's not kid ourselves.  No book in the history of literature has ever had a period plot without it ending in a pregnancy.

Okay, that one, but generally speaking...
Soon Bart reports that Corinne has come home from her long beauty retreat.  She's twenty pounds slimmer and has a whole new face and looks "sensational, and damn it, so unbelievably like [Cathy]!"  But she's changed in more than looks.  To Bart, it seems Corinne has returned to the sweet, affectionate woman she was when they first met.  Cathy is convinced that Mommie Dearest is only so lovey-dovey because rumors are going around that Bart has a mistress, and Mommie Dearest knows it's her own daughter.

Immediately after this, Cathy and Jory run into Mommie Dearest at the post office one day.  Mommie Dearest tries to look away (as opposed to, I don't know, leaving), but Jory notices Mommie Dearest's fur coat and goes to pet it.  "My mommy's got a fur coat," he says in all innocence.  "You're pretty--like my mommy."  He asks Mommie Dearest if she has a little boy he can play with.

Cathy snatches him back, looking Mommie Dearest dead in the face as she says "Some women don't deserve to have children."  Corinne flees to her limousine before Cathy can change into her leotard and go medieval on her ass, and I'm like, you took a limo to the post office?  Really?

Later that day, Cathy drops the baby-bomb on Bart.  He, of course, is furious.  "You told me there was no need for precautions!"  I'm not even going to ask what "precautions" you took when you raped her that time, Mr. Winslow.  The book's already forgotten that happened, and so will I.

Cathy says there was no need for precautions because this was her plan from the start.  If Bart doesn't leave his wife and marry her, she'll leave and take his child with her.  When he asks her what the hell game she's playing, she replies, "Just a woman's game.  The only game she can play and be sure of winning."  Oh, you wily women and your vaginas!

It's Christmas, everyone's favorite time of the year!  While Emma takes Jory on his first visit to Santa, since this is not a lost memory she will regret at any point in her future, Cathy stops by a dressmaker and orders an exact duplicate, drawn from memory, of the green velvet-and-chiffon dress her mother wore at Christmas in Foxworth Hall all those years ago.  Likewise she ships Emma and Jory off to a Disney movie while she has her hair cut in the exact style their mother wore that night.  I'm more shocked that Cathy dropped a pop culture reference.  Hurray!  Disney exists in Andrewsland!*  Let's figure out what movie!  Man, 1972** was a shitty year for Disney.  The most likely candidate is Snowball Express, which was Disney's Christmas release and involved a man whose wealthy uncle dies and leaves him a hotel, which makes it kind of thematically apt. This is the biggest digression I have ever written. You're welcome.


Buoyed by her plan, she invites Chris to come Christmas shopping with her.  Chris, of all the people in this carnival, shows some resolve, refusing to have anything to do with Cathy until she promises to leave Bart and their mother alone.

Christmas Eve arrives.  On her way out the door, Cathy finds a heartbreaking letter from Henny.  Henny--who refers to herself in third person for some reason--writes that she's old and sick and that while she's happy her two "doctor-sons" are at her side, she's sad because her "fairy-child" Cathy can't be with her.
Forgive your mother, even if once she did evil.  Nobody all bad, and a lot of the good in her children must have come from her.  When you can forget the past, peace and love will come again to you...And if you never in this world see Henny again, remember that Henny loved you well, as her own daughter, just as she loved your angel-sister.
I love this letter.  This shows better than all the telling the cost of Cathy's revenge.  She is losing her last moments with a woman who really loves her to get some petty revenge.  In this letter, the book actually seems to reflect on what its heroine is doing to herself and others, rather than trying one more time to justify her actions.  For all her clumsy characterization--perhaps even because she's so firmly stuck in the background of all this--Henny comes off as the most genuine character going.

Cathy, of course, can't do it.
I put the note down with a heavy feeling of sadness in my chest, then shrugged my shoulders.  What had to be done would be done.  A long time ago I'd set my path, and I'd follow it, come what may.
Cathy Dollanganger, you cold-hearted fatalistic bitch.

Cathy drives to Foxworth Hall.  Again, she uses the little wooden key to slip in through a side door, which means they still haven't changed the locks.   She's been praying to whatever horrible vengeful gods she worships that her mother would not also being wearing green tonight, because there's nothing more embarrassing than wearing the same dress as your rival at a vengeance party.  Her prayers are answered: she catches a glimpse of her mother wearing a crimson lamé that rises to a high choker collar in front and is cut low enough in back that "a hint of her buttock cleavage showed."  Flaunt it if you got it, Corinne!

Cathy sneaks up to her mother's room.  "Oh golly-lolly!" The room's been slightly redecorated but the swan bed is still the same and I'm betting it's not a fucking lousy cheap-ass backlit swan headboard, Lifetime. 

Really, Lifetime? Really?
Cathy opens the combination lock on her mother's jewel box--the combination is still Corinne's birthday, which means that Corinne is as big a ditz as she is painted--and takes the emerald jewelry to match her gown.  Now Cathy has a couple of hours to kill before her grand entrance at midnight.

She creeps upstairs to their attic room.  Nothing has changed since the morning they escaped.  Even the dollhouse is still in place, all the dolls just as Carrie left them.  Cathy peeks inside and is stunned to see that the missing cradle has magically reappeared.

Funny you should bring that up just now, Cathy.

Way back in the Boarding School from Hell chapter, we were told that Carrie's dollhouse dolls have a miniature crib, but not a cradle, because back at Foxworth Hall, the dollhouse cradle mysteriously went missing.  It was kind of a big deal at the time, since it was implied the grandmother took it so that she would have an excuse to punish the twins.

The problem with this is that we were never actually told that the cradle went missing.  The first and only time Flowers in the Attic mentions the missing cradle is a scene wherein Carrie says that Chris replaced the cradle with a cardboard one.  It is a single sentence with absolutely no importance attached to it.  No trace of fear.  No weight of potential punishment.  It was only in the second book, and in particular, this scene, that any significance was given to the missing cradle.

There is a larger point to this, I swear.

The Case of the Missing Cradle is not the only time when something happens off-screen, as it were, that turns out to have greater significance, that we are not told about.  I'm not talking about a plot point so subtle a casual reader might miss it or one that might require more than a few seconds' reflection. I'm talking something that didn't get mentioned, period. 

I can think of four reasons why this happens:
  • The scene existed in the draft, but was edited out by mistake and no one noticed.
  • Andrews thought of this scene much later, then tried to gloss over the fact that she didn't include it earlier by pretending she had.
  • Andrews intended to include the scene, but forgot to write it. I've said before that Andrews seems to be a very unconscious writer; perhaps the scene was so strongly fixed in her imagination that she didn't realize she never actually wrote it down.
  • Andrews wanted the scene to be a big reveal and deliberately avoided including the scene so that it would be more "shocking" when she whipped it out apropos of nothing.
If the last scenario is what really happened, the only effect she seems to have is to make readers wonder if their copy was missing a couple of pages.  If it's any of the other reasons, it seems as if the editor really did Andrews a major disservice by not pointing out the continuity errors. 

Again: remember this, because it's about to come back to haunt us.

Cathy lights a candle and climbs the attic stairs.  Again, she is stunned that nothing has changed: the paper flowers are still hanging, Carrie's worm and Cory's snail are still there, all Cathy's old ballet costumes are mouldering on their hooks where she left them.  In the old schoolroom, she finds the message she left for the future, never suspecting that the next person to read it would be her:

WE LIVED IN THE ATTIC
CHRISTOPHER, CORY, CARRIE, AND ME
NOW THERE ARE ONLY THREE



Suddenly a wind gusts through the attic from the snowstorm outside.  "With the storm came the drafts to blow out my candle!"  She panics and runs downstairs.

On the same balcony from which she and Chris watch that long-ago Christmas party, Cathy waits for the stroke of midnight.  People look up, expecting Santa Claus to arrive, as Cathy descends the stairs and shouts, "Merry Christmas!"

"I'd like to introduce myself.  I am Catherine Leigh Foxworth, the firstborn daughter of Mrs. Bartholemew Winslow, whom most of you remember was first married to my father, Christopher Foxworth....What's more, I have an older brother, named Christopher, too...Once I had a younger brother and sister, twins seven years younger than I, but Cory and Carrie are dead now, for they were--"

Meanwhile the guests are all like


Bart jumps in to stop her.  He introduces her to the guests as Catherine Dahl, ballerina and actress, and tries to pass her off as a Christmas prank he's pulling on his wife.  Nobody buys it.

Bart demands to know what the hell kind of stunt she's pulling.  Cathy repeats that she is his wife's daughter--how else would she have known about this dress?  How else would she have known the combination to get the jewels?  How else would she have known that Bart's secret sex manual in the bedside table?

Bart, who's having the worst Christmas ever, drags both women into the library for a come-to-Jesus meeting.  The grandmother, confined to her wheelchair, is also waiting in the library.  Bart orders all the servants out, then demands that someone around here best start telling the truth or it's rapin' time.

Cathy produces the four children's birth certificates and hands them over to Bart for proof.  All the while she taunts her mother, calling her a murderess, blaming her rejection for Carrie's suicide, while simultaneously telling Bart the full story, arsenic and all.

Bart finally tells Corinne that if she ever loved him, she will tell him if she is Cathy's mother.  After a pause, Corinne confesses that she is.

In the silence that follows, Cathy has only one more question.  What did Corinne do with Cory's body?

Corinne shrinks a little, before admitting that Cory died before they reached the hospital.  In a panic, she threw his body into a ravine and covered it with dead leaves.

Cathy, too, goes quiet.  "No, Momma," she says.  "You didn't do that."
"I visited the end room of the northern wing before I came down here." I paused for better effect and made my next words more dramatic.  Before I came down the stairs to confront you, I first used the stairs that lead directly to the attic, then the hidden little stairway in the closet of our prison.  Chris and I always suspected there was another way into the attic, and correctly we reasoned there had to be a door hidden behind the giant heavy armoires we couldn't shove out of the way no matter how hard we pushed.  Momma . . . I found a small room we'd never seen before.  There was a peculiar odor in that room, like something dead and rotten."  [Bolding mine]
I'm sorry, Cathy.  No you didn't.  That never happened.  We were just with you on your trip to the attic.  You went up the closet stairs; you lit a candle; you saw the titular flowers in the attic; you went into the schoolroom and read your message on the blackboard; the wind starting blowing and you ran.  At no time did we see you pushing aside any armoires and finding any secret hidden rooms with dead Corys in them.
In context, it feels as if this reveal was extracted from thin air.  I suspect that Andrews wanted this to be a big shocking climactic reveal and couldn't figure out a way to keep it secret from the audience.  But you can't just not mention a scene that significant and then expect the audience to play along when you trot it out later.

The only possible explanation for not including the discovery of Cory's body is that Cathy is lying.  This, at least, would be prime evidence for the "Cathy is an unreliable narrator" camp.  It would certainly explain why Cathy turned the reveal into a deliberate production, complete with "paus[ing] for better effect."

Judging by Corinne's reaction, however, I don't believe that is the conclusion we're meant to reach.  Corinne has denied the truth so far, so why would such a flagrant lie be the thing that pushed her over the edge?  Furthermore, her reaction, which we shall soon see, hints that Cathy really was telling the truth.      
Corinne seems to suffer a psychotic break.
Her expression went totally blank. She stared at me with vacant eyes and then her mouth and her hands began to work, but she couldn't speak...Bart started to say something, but she put her hands up to her ears to shut out anything anyone would say.
In the midst of this hullabaloo, Chris arrives to retrieve Cathy.  He has his own moment of grim satisfaction over the grandmother: "Merry Christmas, Grandmother.  I had hoped never to see you again, but now that I have I see that time has worked its own revenge" which is about a million times more classy and effective than anything Cathy did in that Crowning Moment of Batshit.  When you've been out-classed by Chris Dollanganger, the man who regularly tries to make out with his own sister, you need to reevaluate your whole life.

Corinne mistakes Chris for the spectre of her late husband and begs him to forgive her: "Chris, don't look at me like that!  You know I wouldn't ever kill our children!"  She suddenly turns and bolts, screaming, out of the room.

Chris confirms to Bart that he is Corinne's son, and that she was also the mother of Carrie and Cory, before begging Cathy to leave with him.  There's been an emergency; Jory and Emma are waiting in the car.  This is perhaps the one time Chris does not want Cathy to run away with him for some creepy sexual purpose, and she ignores him.

Screams come from the ballroom outside.  Cathy smells smoke.  Bart, realizing the house is on fire, runs to find Corinne.  The guests stampeded the main door, but Chris leads Cathy to safety through a side door.  On the lawn, Cathy waits in dread, but Bart doesn't emerge from the burning house.

Bart finally appears on the front steps, just as Corinne, who has also made it out, screams that her paralyzed mother is still trapped inside.  Bart turns back to rescue her.  POSSIBLY SO THAT HE CAN RAPE HER.  I'm sorry, I'm sorry; I still can't get over that. 

Corinne turns on her daughter, screaming that Cathy betrayed her, and that now, because of Cathy, Bart will die.  Chris yet again takes charge.
"No, Mother.  It wasn't Cathy who cried out to remind your husband your mother was still inside.  You did that.  You must have seen he couldn't go back in that house and live.  Perhaps you would rather see your husband dead than married to your daughter."
This realization finally stops Corinne.  As Cathy and Chris watch, "some minute thing that had lent clarity and intelligence to her eyes dissolved."  She begins babbling to Chris, mistaking him for the child he was in the attic.  "Christopher, my son, my love...Don't you love me anymore?...[My father] will die any day, any hour, any second, I know! I swear you won't have to be up here much longer!" until at last the ambulance drivers take her away in a straitjacket.

And you know what?  I'm good with that.  That's an appropriate fate for her.  Let her spend the rest of her life trying to make amends to ghost-children.

Cathy stays until the fire is completely out.  In the ruins, she finds a few shreds of their paper flowers from the attic, which I'm totally not buying.  I stopped forgiving this book for minor indiscretions around the same time it told me to fuck off.  Enough time has passed for the ashes to grow cold, so . . . how long has Cathy been here?  Like, a day? 

Bart's body is found in the library, along with the grandmother's.  The officials say that the fire originated in the attic room at the top of the stairs.  Returning to my earlier theory--that Cathy was telling the truth about finding Cory in the attic--we could assume that Corinne went into the attic and set the fire to destroy the body.

There is an alternate interpretation, and forgive me for continuing to go both ways about this, but considering this is still an issue of confusion for readers--myself included--I want to address everything while it's in front of us: the language the book uses makes it uncertain if Cathy's candle was actually extinguished when she left the attic.  In that scene Cathy states that "with the storm came the drafts to blow out [her] candle."  "To" in this statement could be interpreted as "with the intention of," rather than "as the cause of" her candle blowing out.

This sentence is another example of Andrews' wonderful wonky syntax and could be read either way.  If "to" is "intention," the candle was not blown out, and Cathy left a lighted candle in the attic.  If "to" is "cause," Cathy ran when the candle blew out.

Long story short: if Cathy was lying about finding Cory, she set the fire by accident. If Cathy wasn't lying, Corinne set the fire on purpose to destroy Cory's body.

Fuck it.  It was gremlins.  Gremlins started the fire.


Only after the fire is "last wisp of smoke [is] blown away" does Chris bother to mention that the reason he came to get Cathy was because Henny died of a fucking stroke.  In trying to save her, Paul had a heart attack.

CATHY DOLLANGANGER, YOU ARE THE WORST.

What with one thing and another, three years pass. Cathy has married Dr. Paul and given birth to Bart’s son (also named Bart). They haven’t had sex since they were married—Cathy and Paul, I mean, not Cathy and Baby Bart, because in Andrewsland, you have to clarify these matters—but it no longer matters because she loves Paul, who is now an invalid after four heart attacks.

But Paul feels he is being unfair to Cathy and compares their current situation to that of Cathy waiting for Granddaddy Warbucks to die before she could be set free of the attic.   I totally agree, except for the part where she chose to be here of her own free will.  Oh, and the part where she’s free to come and go as she pleases.  And the part where she’s not being beaten, starved, raped, or poisoned.  But other than that? Devoting yourself to a loved one in the sundown of his life is exactly like being locked in an attic.

Anyway, Paul wants Cathy to go ahead and marry her brother. His logic? “Chris has waited for so long.” Um. Chris can wait until Hell sells Slurpies but he is never going to stop being her brother. There’s no statute of limitations on siblings. Maybe the problem isn’t that Cathy keeps pushing him away; maybe the problem is that Chris needs to put on his big-boy britches and get the fuck over it.

Shortly thereafter, Paul dies. It is actually a nice death: he falls asleep on the front porch, in his white wooden chair, and never wakes up.  Once again, Cathy and Chris are orphaned.

Reader, she marries him.

Cathy and Chris move to California, where no one knows them (except for Emma, since, as previously stated, they can never fire that woman now). Cathy is unable to have any more children after Little Bart, so at least we found one place that Andrews refuses to go. Three generations of incest is just excessive.

Mommie Dearest, utterly insane, sits in a mental institution back East, where she has attempted to claw her own face off to destroy any resemblance to her daughter.  The grandfather’s codicil held true, and she lost all her millions after it was revealed she had children by her first marriage.  However, in a bit of irony that does not escape even the generally oblivious Cathy, the fortune then reverted to the grandmother, who, upon her death, willed it all back to her daughter again, no strings attached. If only Mommy Dearest had considered poisoning the Trunchbull all those years ago, she night have kept all the loot, her new husband, and her children’s love, and we wouldn’t have another three novels to sit through.

But Cathy dreads the day when the world finds out her secrets, and fears what this discovery and the subsequent publicity will do to her two sons, in spite of the fact that she has by this point supposedly written two very incriminating books about it.

More disturbingly, she finds that somehow, in a trancelike state, she got into her car, drove to the nearest Ikea, selected a pair of twin beds, waited in a checkout line, pulled out her credit card, bought the beds, drove back home, brought them upstairs, and assembled them in the attic.  Unconsciously!  She also bought a picnic basket exactly like the one the Trunchbull used. All this would be ominous indeed if anyone bothered to follow through with it in the next book.***




I have a lot of questions.

First....WHERE WAS THE EDITOR?

I realize I gave Andrews a remarkable amount of flack for this book, but there's only so much for which she can be blamed.  A lot of the problems I found could have been solved by an editor--not just the enormous plothole at the end, but the pacing, the characterization, the repetitive scenes, and the overall internal inconsistency.  This is a massive, sprawling, disorganized book that could have improved vastly from some tightening up, and I believe Andrews was done a major disservice.  No mainstream publisher today would have touched this hot mess.

I honestly believe that publishers took the success of Flowers to be a one-trick pony and that they pushed Andrews into producing a sequel for which she was not prepared and which suffered from lack of editing in order to ride what they probably felt was a short-lived wave.  In books after this one, a lot of these technical problems disappear and quality control creeps in: Andrews' signature stylistic quirks are still there, but the stories themselves are tighter and more contained, and the pacing improves vastly. 

My primary frustration with this books that plenty of things happen, but there are few consequences.  Very little happens that has any bearing on the rest of the book.  Cathy achieves her dream of becoming a ballerina...but to what end?  Ultimately it has no impact on how the story ends, except for the very minor one of letting her mother knows she still exists.  The entire Paul romance only served to delay Cathy and Chris's inevitable hook-up and stretch the tension a bit longer. Other than getting a few babies out of the bargain, Cathy had very little growth as a character.  Neither did anyone else.  The only person to grow as a character is Carrie, shortly before the book axed her.  And I am not going to make a joke about Carrie and growth because I am better than that.


In a lot of aspects, particularly scope and Byzantine characterization, you can tell Andrews was a huge reader of Charles Dickens.  She even namedrops him in the first pages of Flowers.  Unfortunately, she had neither Dickens's skill nor the benefit of an infinitely patient Victorian audience.  She tries to cover huge sweeps of time, but it gets away from her.

She also has what seems to be a fear of character development.  Andrews is one of those authors who seems to take her characters very personally.  Character growth requires an acknowledgement that the characters are less than perfect, that they have room to change, and Andrews does not seem to want to take that step.  Instead she places perfect characters in less-than-perfect situations and then blames the situation for any imperfections in the character.  It's like those people who believe that every aspect of their lives will improve if only they can lose these last fifteen pounds.

Her love of Gothic themes also trips her up: Andrews writes very intimate books, where the meat of the story is how characters work to thwart one another.  These kinds of stories do not lend themselves to play out over the course of years, or else we end up with the sort of story this became: characters who have the same conversations and struggle against the same issues, over and over, at the expense of whatever plot may be.

Is it a good book?  No way.

It is a batshit awesome book?  Oh yes.

After this post, the Blog-O-Rama will be taking a month-long hiatus while I regroup, recover, and prepare for the next book in the Dollanganger Saga, If There Be Thorns.  With the long-running Cathy/Chris drama finally wrapped up, what surprises will Andrews have in store?








*Well, we kind of knew that with Mickey....
**Cathy says she's fifteen in November of 1960. She's twenty-seven at the Christmas party, so it's 1972.
***SPOILERS: They don't.


17 comments:

  1. When I first read this book, I thought Cathy was lying/bluffing to freak out Corrine even more - because, surely, something so important would've been mentioned earlier in the chapter. I actually flipped back and painstakingly re-read Cathy's jaunt in the attic. I'm just going to chalk this up as typical VC Andrews writing.

    I thought Cathy and Chris's hook up at the end was so anticlimactic. She basically gets together with him because all her other love interests are dead. And as we can see in If There Be Thorns, their relationship still remains as dysfunctional as ever.

    Are you going to a review/discussion post on the Lifetime movie anytime soon? That swan bed was the WORST. That and the wigs.

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    1. YES EXACTLY. There is no way that scene could have happened off-camera. And it's not the only time Andrews does this, although it's probably the most important time. She does it again with a smaller scene in Heaven, and the rest of that book is pretty solidly put together so I can't blame the editor for that one.

      I agree about Cathy and Chris. It's like she married him because she'd run out of men. I'm reading the third book now, and Chris definitely mellows out once he's gotten what he wants (gross). I never thought I'd complain about Chris getting boring, but it happened.

      I wrote about half of a review of the remake. I just didn't know if I wanted to post it since everyone else was doing the same thing. If I can come up with a full post that wasn't done better by someone else, I'll pop it up during the break.

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  2. Fellow FITA blogger here. I just had to tell you you're my hero and I love you. Is that weird? We're not related so it's not incestuous. Anyway, I love you! I had a horrible couple weeks and reading your special Cliff Notes made me laugh when I thought nothing could perk me up. And I am so glad you did POTW. I sincerely believe that this was the crown jewel bodice ripper in the annals of V.C. Andrews' rabbit hole universe. It's soooooo cuckoo-doodle-do good!

    P.S. Chris didn't regain my love until Seeds of Yesterday, and the Lifetime Swan Bed looked like some odd composite resin that was popped out of a mold. Not even a queen size!!! More offensive than any incest/murder plot. Still, I, er, already have the whole movie memorized...

    xoxo
    Rock on!

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    1. That was the tiniest damn swan bed. No romping was ever done in that bed. I think even the kids' beds upstairs were bigger.

      And thank you! I am glad I could make you happy at what sounds like a really crap time. I hope you feel better. Chaste non-incestuous hugs!

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  3. The worst part is, I can even think of a way to fix it so that we knew (inasmuch as we can trust our narrator) that Cathy wasn't lying about the room: Have her mention the whole suspicions that there was another way into the attic while she's in there, look around, and then give it the fade to black treatment with a "My suspicions were confirmed, but they revealed something I had never dreamed of" or something to that effect and then save the full "This is what it was" until later. Still not GOOD pacing, but it's at least a step up because we know this scene at least OCCURRED.

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  4. Great post. Petals was the first batshit crazy brilliant Andrews book I read, so I have a sentimental attachment to it. I remember not quite knowing how to compute the book in junior high, and wondering what the HECK the whole attic thing was about. Because, years in an attic? And what your brother, and poison doughnuts, and dead bodies?

    I agree with the swan bed comments -- Lifetime should have not gone there if the best they could do was a Kmart special headboard -- but for me, the bigger problem with the Lifetime version was the lack of wacked out Gothic sensibility. I enjoyed the movie, and the actress who played Cathy had a Drew Barrymore thing going on I liked, but it didn't quite capture the crazy. You're right that Andrews doesn't have the chops to handle her own Gothic themes, but they do give the whole messed up book a sinister, weird-ass glory. OTOH, the 80s version riffed on the Gothic but made everything else even crazier than Andrews intended, which is a feat in itself (Exhibit A: EAT THE COOKIE!!!).

    Apparently, Andrews still gives me endless entertainment, years after junior high. Who knew?

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    1. Yours is the most prevalent (and accurate) complaint I've seen about the two movies: the original had the right atmosphere but little competency, while the remake had competency but little atmosphere. There's a little flutter in my tummy regarding how Lifetime will adapt Petals based on how the treatment of Flowers panned out. I wonder if they're going to treat it as a story in its own right, or if it's going to be like the Lord of the Rings movies where it's basically one long, continuous story split in two for easier consumption.

      One of the things I love about doing this blog is the numerous people who talk about "I cannot believe I still have all these feels for these books!" Hell, that's why I ~started~ the blog. People still have such a huge emotional response to them. I kind of hope that in thirty years all the Twilight fans will be having as good a time revisiting their series as we're having with this one.

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  5. I just reread FITA and then this book for the first time. I have to say, I like your synopsis waaaaay better than I like reading those books. I sort of have to do read the book to fully appreciate your summaries, but man, these are way more fulfilling. You also help to clarify stuff that I find to be really confounding in the book - thanks so much for doing this.

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  6. I'm so happy that you're doing this! You seriously make me crack up with some of these reviews and I cannot wait for you to do Seeds of Yesterday. I haven't even read the book yet, I planned to read the first few chapters near the end of February or over Spring Break when you post the review.
    And thank you for reviewing the movie that I could not bring myself to watch. The acting in that movie just did not draw me in, and the fact that they didn't include the incest just made it less appealing to me (though Cory's hair could've kept me interested for a little while longer). I haven't seen Lifetime's remake yet, but, again, I can't wait for your review!
    I haven't read any V. C. Andrews books except for Flowers in the Attic and Petals in the Wind, my favorite being Flowers even though Petals has more drama. Flowers in the Attic just draws me in despite some of the most rediculous writing I've ever read through. I guess it's the fact that they're stuck in their own world inside of that attic, their own kind of "brave new world." In Petals on the Wind each of them are trying to find their own way out of that world. Cathy's the only one trying hard to do this. Chris doesn't want to escape it and Carrie can't escape it because of her body being stuck the way it is and her twin dying.
    Sorry for babbling. I'm an aspiring lit major and psych minor and this stuff just intrigues me. Did I just write something completely rediculous?
    P. S. Sorry for the spelling and grammar errors.

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    1. Thank you! The next book is If There Be Thorns, which is kind of a divisive installment. People either really hate it, or are indifferent. I kind of like it? But in working on the posts, I've noticed that the book lends itself to recapping much better than even Petals does, so I'm hoping it might lure some people into giving it a second chance. I myself am looking forward to the fifth book, Garden of Shadows.

      Your "brave new world" interpretation is a really good reading! That's would be another reason Carrie becomes a tragic character. Unlike her siblings, even if she wanted to put the attic behind her, she physically can't; it's literally left a permanent mark on her.

      Good luck on the lit/psych combo! I double-majored in lit and psych, and the two actually fit together really well.

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  7. Can you imagine Cory's body rotting (mummified?) for 15 years up there, and Corinne & Olivia go on about their lives without once considering moving the body elsewhere?

    Question: Did Olivia ever tell Corinne that her first husband Christopher was her half-brother instead of her half-uncle?...and did that information contribute to the abandonment of her children?

    -Sergio

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  8. Can you imagine Cory's rotting (mummified?) body up there, and Olivia & Corinne going on about their lives without pausing to consider moving the body elsewhere?

    Question: Did Olivia ever tell Corinne that she is not her biological daughter? Or reveal to Corinne that her first husband was indeed her half brother? And would this information contribute to Corinne's complete abandonment of her children in the attic because they are defective?

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    1. Fun Fact! Arsenic is a preservative. It actually used to be used in early embalming, and in taxidermy up until pretty recently. If Cory had enough to kill him, he might have had enough to mummify him. On second thought, that fact is less "fun" and more "nightmare fodder."

      I think we're to assume from Garden of Shadows that Olivia sat on those secrets until twenty years after her death, by which time Corinne was also dead. Olivia doesn't seem the sort who would spare anyone's emotions, and yet she consistently tells both the kids and Corinne that Chris Sr. was only a half-uncle for as long as we see her in FitA. I think if she'd ever told Corinne, the kids would have found out, one way or another, so I think it's safe to assume that if beans were spilled, Olivia didn't do the spillin'.

      However, Olivia also told John Amos the truth back in GoS, and John Amos ends up blackmailing Corinne into marriage in If There Be Thorns. I don't remember if it's ever mentioned what, exactly, he's blackmailing her with, but it's a perfectly valid reading that he might have told Corinne the truth, and it doesn't seem likely he would have told her as long as Olivia was still around (I seem to recall that he stood in line for a cut of Olivia's will since he's blood kin, which would be sufficient motivation for him to keep his trap shut until she died).

      I don't know if it would have changed her motives had Corinne known the full truth from the time she came back to Foxworth Hall. She's such an erratic character, and it's a given that she lies to everyone, even herself, all the time. I can see her locking the children away to hide her own shame, then telling herself she's doing it for the money, and then lying to herself about doing it for the money. But I don't think she knew about Chris Sr. being her half-brother until the third book, if ever.

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  9. Thanks for your insight into this matter! I just reread Garden of Shadows and I didn't find any passage in the text which would clue in the reader to any dark character flaws that Corinne might possess, other than being spoiled.

    I never thought I would feel bad for the grandmother when I initially read this one year's ago!

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    1. You're welcome!

      I keep hoping that the little flashes of sympathy we got from Olivia in the Lifetime move are setting up a GoS movie in the future. I loved that book.

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  10. Yeah I think Bart was really commiting suicide running back into the fire, after seeing those two crazy women and being married to one and expecting a child with the other, he said to himself "NOPE!" and ran back into the fire in a "Fuck this shit!" move haha

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