Virginia C. Andrews “The Dollanganger series” (4th and 5th parts) SPOILERS!

                Okay, I wasn’t supposed to read the rest of the Dallaganger series, but somehow I managed to finish it. I don’t usually waste my time reading books I don’t like, so there must be something I liked about them, even if I don’t realize it yet. Or maybe it’s because it’s kind of a social thing for me now. My friend reads them, then I do, then another friend reads them and then we talk about it. About how silly they are and which character annoys us most. Seriously, I’ve got no other excuse.

                I could summarize Seeds of Yesterday (4th part) sorta like this: for the first 100 pages (give or take) all the family comes to the infamous Foxworth Hall. Then, after painfully long time, one of the characters has a serious accident. Then for the next 300 pages or more there is a lot of crying, complaining, talking, persuading, arguing, moping around doing nothing, some more talking about the same thing over and over again, some screaming, some beating up – and nothing comes out of any of it. For the last 30 or 40 pages, everything happens at once – and with the death of one of the characters, everyone is suddenly good. Seriously. We have close to zero character development (in some cases) throughout the whole book, and then everyone is good and loving and we have one big happy family – out of nowhere. At least that’s how I see this book. I might not be so trustworthy, however, since I was omitting long parts of the first 400 pages or so. Maybe that’s why I read it so fast.

                One thing stands out in my mind that was in this book, and it has little to nothing to do with the book itself. One of the characters is 16 and I really liked how her mother was trying to put into the girl’s head that she should respect herself and not sleep with everyone. Waiting till you’re married is of course an exaggeration for me, but still… What I didn’t like was when the girl said that other girls are losing virginity at the age of 11, 12 or 13, and she’s the only one to wait till she’s 16. I mean really? ELEVEN years old? Seriously? Is that true? I don’t have kids or close nieces, so I know absolutely nothing “first-hand” about the teenage world nowadays. I also sort of think/hope Poland is not “as bad” about it as the States might be, but still. ELEVEN? What the fuck? I refuse to acknowledge it.

                Garden of Shadows, the fifth and last part of the series, is in my opinion the best. It’s actually a prequel, and most of it happens before Cathy, the narrator of 1st, 2nd and 4th parts, was born. I must admit I have a thing about prequels. I like to know “how it all started” and why the characters acted a certain way later. The narrator here is Olivia, Cathy’s grandmother, who locked the children in the attic in the first part. I’m guessing we are supposed to feel sorry for Olivia and try to understand her motives, and I WAS feeling sorry for her at the beginning. I’m a sucker, though, and I feel sorry for almost everyone in the world. The other word for it is emphatic, I guess, but I know most people would probably just call me a sucker. Never mind that. I stopped feeling this way pretty soon. Even I couldn’t justify in my head some things Olivia was doing. The only moments I sympathized with her again were when her sons died.

                Despite my stating that the fifth part was the best of the series, I am far from stating it was good in general sense. The style was easy to read, and it mostly avoided the childish tone from the previous parts, but that’s about it. Some of the characters are just so over the top unrealistic, it still made me want to scream. Take Malcolm for example – the grandfather, Olivia’s husband, and “the devil” of the family. I couldn’t find a single good thing about him, cause even his love for his daughter seemed wrong; close to obsession. It felt like most of characters were either good or bad, with no shades to them.

And the obsession with beauty is present in this part, too. The tall Olivia is the ugly one, who never gets the chance of real love, because well, she’s tall and plain. All the rest of the women seem to be over-the-top beauties. Beginning with Malcolm’s mother, through his 19-year-old step-mother (what the fuck?), and then daughter. I’m not buying it, nobody is so beautiful as described in these books. And yet again we have the everlasting obsession with money – but of course! Yes, people get greedy, and can do a lot of awful stuff in the pursuit of fortune, but the way it was presented in this saga annoyed me to no end.

                What is the phenomenon behind those books, though? The answer – for me – is simple. The incest theme. I didn’t care about this subject at all. Not even when I found in the fifth part that the parents of Cathy and the other kids locked in the attic, were in fact brother and sister, not uncle and niece. That was like a major roll my eyes moment. I guess nothing could surprise me with these books anymore. Maybe the author thought the more shocking, the better, but just went much too far with this theory?

                However, despite my negative opinion about the series I did read 5 parts. So there must be something more behind them than just wanting to talk about those with my friends. Maybe I just needed a light reading? Despite the serious subject of incest, it was a light reading for me. Perhaps I needed a little fairy tale with monsters and beauties and true love? I’m not sure, but I’m surely glad I’m done with them.

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