Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews – 1979)

A psychological horror that subjects the children of a family to live in the attic of their grandparents after their father suddenly dies and the mother suddenly finds herself without a home, money or income.

The mother had been disowned by her parents, who are wealthy and live in a grand mansion. But with nowhere to go after the death of her husband, the mother reluctantly convinces her mom, a despicable witch of person, to hide the children in the attic of the mansion until the secret of the children’s existence can be revealed to the grandfather. But once the children are captive, their mother, who supposedly wants to learn how to be self sufficient (and at the same time tells her children that if she can get in the good graces of her dad, she would once again be heir to the family fortune) slowly changes. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months and as time goes by, visits by their mother become more and more infrequent.

The children slowly learn not only of the evil truth about their family but also about themselves as they grow up in isolation.The elder brother and sister become caretaker to their preschool aged fraternal twins while dreaming of pursuing careers someday. But they also hit puberty, a problem to say the least in their current predicament.

As we later learn, the crux of the problem is the fact that the relationship between the mom and dad was an incestuous affair between half-uncle and half-niece. A problematic situation in any normal family, but particularly so if the girls parents are religious fanatics. It doesn’t help when the parents consider all the children devil spawn in the literal sense.

The problem I had with the story was that while many aspects of the captivity were believable, there were many instances in which the children could have either escaped or made their presence known to others. While the older kids showed remarkable prowess at adapting to their situation and exhibited survival skills, the few times opportunity presented itself, the just folded and took things in stride. It just makes the reader want to scream. But if you can suspend your frustration when those escape opportunities are missed, it’s a pretty good and suspenseful story. I’d even call it horrific given the evil things the kids are subjected to by their grandmother.

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