by V. C. Andrews
Plot Summary:Such wonderful children. Such a beautiful mother. Such a lovely house. Such endless terror!
It wasn't that she didn't love her children. She did. But there was a fortune at stake--a fortune that would assure their later happiness if she could keep the children a secret from her dying father.
So she and her mother hid her darlings away in an unused attic.
Just for a little while.
But the brutal days swelled into agonizing years. Now Cathy, Chris, and the twins wait in their cramped and helpless world, stirred by adult dreams, adult desires, served a meager sustenance by an angry, superstitious grandmother who knows that the Devil works in dark and devious ways. Sometimes he sends children to do his work--children who--one by one--must be destroyed....
Review:So many thoughts for this book! The things that happen to these children are so horrific and disgusting, I just wanted to stop listening (I had an audiobook) but I couldn't. I wanted the children to fight back, to wise up, to get the heck out of the attic! But it was so insidious how this story is unfolded. It's idyllic at first, with a loving mother and father and four loving, beautiful children - such a perfect family. But then the father dies, and it's just the start of an utterly uncontrollable nightmare for these children. The mother has promises and keeps the children complacent with hope and trades on their ignorance. And gradually each layer of gilded gold is stripped away and the children as well as the reader becomes aware of the horror of what these children have to endure. I think what is so compelling about the story is how much helplessness is imbued in the characters and in their actions. They are forced to comply with their Mother and their Grandmother's plan, and having everything the reader knows filtered through the the preteen narrator Cathy, keeps the reader handicapped as well. So much is going on outside the attic that with each visit and small revelation made by their Mother and Grandmother, the sense of foreboding grows.
Cathy as the narrator is easy to empathize with. She's innocent and naive, but strong-willed and intuitive. And her older brother is equally admirable (so when certain things happen with him, it's a pretty big blow) but all the Dollanganger children are so likable and sweet - it makes it doubly horrific to see everything stripped away from them. Grandmother's antagonist role as the religiously fanatical, cold-hearted attic-prison keeper is strikingly villainous and yet complex to define because with the complicity of the children's Mother it's hard to see who truly is at fault.
This is certainly a strange story yet sensational, so it's understandable that it was so popular when it was first released. It's very poignant and earnest, yet there was such a sense of oppressiveness when I listened to this book because of how these horrible things were so inevitable. It was so brilliantly crafted by the author, yet so difficult to bear sometimes. It's like this book isn't just a story, it's an experience. And one that I think is going to stick with me for a very long time.