Virginia C Andrews – the Dollanganger series (first three parts)

I wanted to read these books because of my everlasting interest in the subject of “hurt children.” Give me anything about abandoned, abused, fostered or adopted children and I’ll read it in 1 or 2 days – if it’s any good, that is. I have a friend who’s similarly interested in such matters, and I knew she wanted those books, so we bought her the first three parts for her birthday. She read them first and then lent them to me. I read them pretty quickly; it took me about 2-3 days for each. However, I don’t think I could honestly recommend it.
First part, called “Flowers in the Attic,” tells a story about a mother who locks her 4 children in the attic of a huge, rich mansion. They stay there for more than 3 years. That’s basically the story. The father dies, the mother is in debt, so she comes back to her parents’ home, but the dying grandpa can’t know about the children, so she “temporarily” puts them in the attic – with the help of the grandma. The rest of the book is about that they were doing in the attic, ending – SPOILERS – with their escape.
Second part, “Petals on the Wind,” picks up immediately after their escape. It focuses on Cathy – one of the children and the narrator or the first two parts. The third book, “If There be Torns” is about Cathy’s two sons, who are the narrators, and I think I could call it a thriller. It’s also more mature than the other two.
I was on a creative writing course once and we were talking about each other’s writings; the teacher said we should be focusing on the good part of the things we read. I can’t do this with these three books. The only good thing I can say about them is that they for some reason were interesting. They were written in an uncomplicated way and were engaging enough to keep me reading through the night – way past my bedtime. I can’t think of another good side of these books. The bad sides? Oh yeah, there were plenty.
First of all, the language. I’m not sure if this was the writer’s fault or the translator’s, but I am leaning towards the former. Sometimes it was so badly written that I thought I would just throw the book against the wall. Okay, I get it, the narrator is a teenage girl, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that she has to be writing about the desire to take revenge on her mother like in every freaking chapter. And with the same words. Or that she should be making basic stylistic mistakes, or write like a 10-year-old at times. I must admit this time part of my reading those books so fast might have had something to do with omitting parts that were extremely irritating for me.
Cathy, the narrator, was especially annoying in the second part. It felt like all she could think about was men and how she desired to be wanted by EVERY MAN she ever meets – or at least it seemed that way to me. And of course every man in the book wanted to have sex with her, because she was such a beautiful and sexy and talented young girl. All of the male population would just swoon over her like immature jerks. Even if they were around 25 years her senior.
This is what caused another problem I had with the books – the characters were so freaking perfect, which in my eyes made them unhuman. The four children, the mother, the father – they were all simply beautiful to the point that no-one could resist them. And talented. Cathy was the perfect dancer and her brother, Chris, was like a genius in his chosen field – medicine. Seems like an unreal fairy tale to me, and I was never a fairy tale kind of gal. My friend said she was okay with this, but it annoyed me immensely.
Yet another thing that I truly didn’t like was the constant talk about money in the first part. It’s as if all the characters thought about and cared about was money, beauty and talent. It made the book look shallow, it increased the idea that it was just a bad fairy tale, and it made it even more unrealistic. Also, it was boring as hell, since they were repeating this over and over again. Okay, we get it – you want to be rich. Move on already.
The third part, though, was actually better – maybe because there was a change in narrator and it was a little like a thriller; darker, more mysterious, with a clear “evil character” and some twisted behavior or a child. The “evil character” was an exaggeration, of course, but by the time you manage to get to reading the third part of the book, you get accustomed to the fact that the characters are inhuman puppets. Even though the book was far from perfect, I still enjoyed it best from all three. The worst I’d say was the second part, mostly because of Cathy’s behavior and almost total absence of the other children.
I guess the hype that these books got was, at least in part, caused by the incest theme, so I should probably address it. However, I don’t have an opinion. Honestly. I’m not especially religious, and if I am, it’s in my own way. I don’t think it’s immoral if it’s with both people’s consent. I generally think it’s none of my business what other people do with each other in bed. It’s as simple as that. The only issue I might have would be the children of those in such a relationship, but according to the book the children were perfect; and Cathy and Chris (SPOILERS) – the other incest couple – didn’t have biological off springs, only Cathy’s sons and an adopted daughter. So what’s the big deal? For me – none.
All in all, I can just say one thing about those books – don’t start. They are infantile, unreal, the characters are artificial and the plot is just simply unbelievable. My friend is now reading the fourth part and she is having troubles getting through it at all. I have doubts I will read the rest of this saga, because basically it’s just a waste of time.

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