Saturday, March 1, 2014

If There Be Thorns: The Prelude

People tend to hate this book for two reasons, the first being the dual narrator thing.  I can't blame 'em: multiple first-person narrators are difficult to write and a pain in the butt to read, especially if the voices are not very distinctive.  She does a very good job of alternating between characterization--you can open the book at random and know after only a few words if you're in a Bart chapter or a Jory chapter--but voice-wise?  Not so much.  All of Andrews characters use the same syntax and vocabulary.  She makes an effort by having Bart drop his Gs and use a lot of sentence fragments, but for the most part, the narration is pretty uniform.

The other reason is Bart.

I'll make a case for Bart.  He ends up with the strongest, most complex characterization in the entire book, leaving the rest of the cast looking like indecisive, oblivious milquetoasts with their heads up their asses.  A lot of people find Bart creepy and off-putting, which is absolutely the case, but there is no denying that he is indeed Cathy's kid.

If There Be Thorns is arguably Andrews' most ambitious novel thus far.  She's writing from the perspective of two very young characters.  There are two narrators who alternate chapters.  And it's the only Andrews' novel with male protagonists.

That being said, all these things are executed pretty badly, though not all that much worse than in any of her other novels.  I've complained before that Andrews is terrible at writing realistic children, and males, and indeed human beings.  When all these elements are pushed to the forefront at the same time, the weaknesses are all the more obvious.

Yet on a technical level, this is probably one of Andrews' better novels.  Since she's dealing with a shorter period of time than the other books--a single summer, rather than years--a lot of the pacing and continuity errors that were so confusing in the first two books vanish.  And at times she gives a very clear image of the separation between adult-world and child-world, and the uneasiness of children who realize that their parents are untrustworthy even while they are totally dependent on said parents.  These are themes that were very prevalent in Flowers in the Attic, but here, she seems to get further under their skin.

Shall we start this thing?  Let's start this thing!


  1. Hi! I'm a long-time lurker who devoured one VCA novel (original and ghostwritten) after another in my early teens, and I've really been enjoying your recaps. I'm de-lurking now because If There Be Thorns was one of my absolute favorites, and I've been looking forward all month to see you start analyzing it.

    Let's do this thing, indeed.


  2. I'm another lurker who loved this book. Can't wait to see what you do with it. No one ever talks about this one.

  3. so excited for you to review this book!

    i have been really looking forward to your review of the lifetime movie version of FITA too. please post one!! i personally thought it was just okay, almost boring..?

    maybe that's why you don't want to review it.. but i'm still looking forward to the petals in the wind movie =)

  4. I also think Bart is one of the most interesting characters in this series (in both this book and Seeds of Yesterday) because, yes, he is so very, very much Cathy's child.

  5. Fellow lurker here who loved this book. Bart is a creepy character but he is the character that I have the most sympathy feels for. He truly is the end product of all the bitterness, lies, scheming and half-assed parenting that Cathy did.

    I can't wait :)


  6. I've read just about every V.C Andrews book there is from the original FiTA to Delia's saga. I've read about all the torture, rape and mistreatment of children and overall insanity that are found in all the books, however, this book Petals on the Wind is what I think shows just how much of a guy I am. Did I cry at Cory and Carrie's death or the death of countless other characters, naw. Was I upset about what happened to Audrina, yeah, but I looked at it as being part of the story.

    However, one scene in this book made me cry. "APPLE, poor Apple. How could he?" Wahhhh. Yup, I'm a guy.

  7. *gets snacks and drinks*
    *gathers blanket*
    *settles in*

    I've been waiting for this.