29 October 2010

Book Review No. 41

So I'll be the first one to freely admit that I'm a quitter. I lasted all of 4 books on the "Banned Books List" before I'm ready to jump ship. It's not that I don't want to read banned books anymore, it's just that there are so many other things I want to read immediately--The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is at the top of my list as is The Kite Runner which is our next book club selection. I hosted our October book club and as I was all hyped up on Banned Books and I love a little controversy, I chose Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews--a book I had read when I was 16 and knew I wanted to revisit. Nothing like a little incest to get the discussion going...


So since I hosted this book, I did a bit more research than I normally would invest in a book so this book review will be a bit longer than my normal ones and will contain a few additional sections. But it's all intersting stuff--assuming you're a giant literary nerd like me. And here comes the big disclaimer: it's safe to assume that this post will contain SPOILERS so don't read it if you don't wanna know how it ends! Go read the book, then come back to this post. :)


Moving on...




Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Original Publish Date: 1979

Summary: I'll just leave you with this little blurb found from Google Books: "Way upstairs there are four secrets hidden. Blond, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive." *cue mysterious music now* I bet you're intrigued if nothing else right? Good.

My thoughts exactly: While researching this book, I came across an article written by Heidi Durrow of NPR where she admits that this books is her guilty pleasure. I thought she summed up my thoughts and feelings about why I love this book. Here's what she had to say:
"Flowers in the Attic is my guilty pleasure. I wish I could say that I love this book because it's a classic coming-of-age tale; a story of fierce familial bonds, and feelings of alienation and belonging. But it's not that at all. This story is just twisted. Told from the perspective of the teenage daughter Cathy, the story is about the four beautiful blond-haired Dollanganger kids, who are forced to live in the attic while their cruel and coniving mother earns back her father's affection and ultimately his fortune. The promised days-long confinement stretches into weeks and then years--yes, years! All the while, the kids are starved and tormented by the religiously overzealous grandmother who beats them with her bamboo whip and tars poor Cathy's hair while she's drugged in her sleep. It's a sick, sick tale--and I love it--and I can't help but wonder if that makes me twisted as well. It's a tale of forbidden love--not the Romeo & Juliet kind when the lover is from the wrong family. This is forbidden love because the lover is in the same family. It's scandalous. And I know that I should turn away from the passages when Cathy and her brother Chris seem to be falling for each other but still, I eagerly read on...

A little background--About V.C. Andrews:
V.C. Andrews was born Cleo Virginia Andrews on June 6, 1923 and died from breast cancer on December 19, 1986. While in high school she fell down a stairwell which, combined with poor medical care, led to severe progressive arthritis and she underwent several surgeries on her back. She was in chronic pain and spent much of her life on crutches or in a wheelchair. She had a relatively good life with no evidence of abuse or incest; however, her life was controlled by her mother--and it is interesting that she chose to dedicate this book to her mother--a book about an evil, greedy, selfish, abusive mother dedicated to her mother? Her mother was very private and didn't like the publicity associated with her daughter's fame. She was ashamed of Virginia's medical condition and didn't allow many visitors and even lied to say she was simply recovering from surgery. Therefore, Virginia suffered from clinical depression and even tried to kill herself twice. She turned to writing to escape the dullness of her day-to-day life. She was strikingly beautiful but photos published in a People Magazine article from 1980 were altered to make her appear shadowed and dark to fit with her genre of writing (gothic horror). This interview infuriated her to the point that she refused interviews for the rest of her career and stands as her only published interview.
A little background--About Flowers in the Attic:
This book was originally titled The Obsessed but it was returned and Virginia was told to "spice it up" so she did a 98 page revision and added "unspeakable things my mother didn't want me to write about" and published it as Flowers in the Attic. It has long been speculated as to whether this is a true story or not. Virginia admitted that a few incidents are autobiographical and in 2009 one of her relatives publically said, "Flowers in the Attic was based on a true story. Virginia was a young lady when my dad made arrangements to take her to the University of Virginia hospital for treatment. While she was there, she developed a crush on her young doctor. He and his siblings had been locked away in the attic for over 6 years to preserve the family wealth. Obviously she cut the time back [in her novel] to be more believable. That area of the country has a lot of very wealthy people. I do not know who they were." There is no evidence or proof as to who the doctor was or if his story was actually true; however, in Virginia's pitch letter to the publishing house, she hints that it is a true story. She states, "This is the fictionalized version of a true story. Real children who struggled to survive under almost unendurable circumstances. Basically a horror story...I call my novel, which is not truly fiction...FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC." A film adaptation of the book was made in 1987 but it doesn't remain true to the book at all. Supposedly they are in talks to remake the movie with a more accurate representation of the plot but nothing is confirmed as of yet.
Wanna know more? There is a great website http://www.completevca.com/ that has tons of information about V.C. Andrews and her other writings.
Why it was banned/challenged:
Extreme themes of sibling incest and child abuse and neglect.
The Children: Chris (14), Cathy (12), and twins Carrie & Cory (5)
My Critique:
Love love love this book! I read it when I was 16 but now at 31 I had a completely different perspective. As a teen I was drawn in by the sex/incest because it was so taboo...it was shocking and that kept me glued to the pages until the bitter end. However, this time around I found myself sympathizing with the kids and completely furious with the mother. I remember as a teen I came away blaming the grandmother for everything and somehow completely missed the mother's greed/selfish behavior. This time around I found myself wanting to jump through the pages and smack her. She pissed me off so bad! I've never hated a character more than I hated the mother in this book. I will definiately be reading the books that follow in this series.
Why it's a good book club selection:
It is so incredibly controversial and it sparks BIG emotions in people. For example, I love this book but the first thing my friend Mindy said when she came it was, "I hated this book so much! Never have I hated a book more than this!!" She was so furious with the mother in the book that she was almost sick reading the book. This is exactly why I chose this book. It sparks a reaction which leads to great discussion. We delved into the psychology of the characters and our friend Rachael provided some great insights into the psyche of abused children thanks to her psychology studies. It took us beyond the realm of the book and even led to discussions of survival...what would we do to survive...fight or give up? Very good discussion.
Possible Discussion Topics/Questions:
Perspective:
Had you read this book before? How has your perspective changed this time around?
All About the Incest:
Incest is a constant theme throughout V.C. Andrews' books. There is no evidence to suggest that Virginia herself was a particpant/victim of any sort of incest during her lifetime but one has to wonder. In fact, her very first publication was a short story titled I Slept With My Uncle on My Wedding Night. Of course, this could be because incest was a common theme in gothic horrir novels at the time--or because she experience such soaring fame after adding this subject matter to Flowers in the Attic that she decided to keep it a running theme throughout her works.
Do you think the love between Chris and Cathy was an inevitable happening due to their circumstances or was it the result of their grandmother's forbidding it and her constant reminder of lustfulness? OR was it inevitable due to their family history of incest (i.e. their mother and her half-uncle)?
Let's Talk About the Father (Christopher):
He's supposed to be the tragic hero of sorts in this scenario (if he hadn't died their perfect lives wouldn't have been destroyed) but did you find him at all manipulative? Consider the following passage: "Do you love me? For I most certainly love you; did you miss me? Are you glad I'm home? Did you think about me when I was gone? Every night? Did you toss and turn and wish I were behind you, holding you close? For if you didn't, Corrine, I might want to die."
Chris vs. Cathy:
Do you think Chris had a sort of Freudian fascination with his mother? Chris is so naive. It seems that Cathy is the only one who sees their mother for who she really is. Why does Chris remain loyal to his mother for so long? Do you blame Christopher for Cory's death because he refused to leave earlier?
Mother vs. Grandmother:
Who's to blame for their situation...the mother or the grandmother?
Do you think the mother ever planned to take the kids out of the attic or did she have this plan to lock them away and poison them all along? Do you think she was sincere in her thoughts to win back her father's love and thereby her inheritance? (During the chapter titled "Momma's Story" she seems to know how the story in regards to the children will play out).
Who do you think was poisoning the children? If Corrine was poisoning them, why did she continue to visit them after they were being poisoned? Also, if it was Corrine, do you think the grandmother knew? Then again, Corrine got married and moved away and still the powdered donuts were coming...surely in her selfishness she didn't come back every day to make their basket of food which leads one to wonder if maybe it was the grandmother.
Do you think they actually took Cory to the hospital?
Hope you've enjoyed my little bloggy-poo. Now, if you haven't read the book...READ IT! Talk amongst yourselves.
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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in the afore mentioned book, Flowers in the Attic, are the sole views and opinions of the author and have nothing to do with me or my views/opinions/beliefs...so get off my back. I am in no way affiliated with the afore mentioned author...except that one time in Vegas---------------uh, nevermind.

04 October 2010

And who doesn't love makeup anyway?

Hi guys. Just started reading book 3 on the banned books list so be expecting a review of Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews soon.

I wanted to pass along the blog site of my beautiful and talented friend Kendra.
See...beautiful. Told ya

Kendra has started a blog all about makeup and skin care. You should totally check it out. Right now she's doing a lots of really great Halloween looks.

http://simplykendra.blogspot.com/

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