Author: V.C. Andrews
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: September 1, 2019
Copy: Borrowed from my local library
Flowers in the Attic, and the other books in the Dollanganger series, were books that I loved as a teenager and that love has remained over the decades. I re-read the books a number of times, back in the days that I had time to revisit the same books; I have watched the movies. I still love the story but with a lot more life experience the tale becomes more and more disturbing.
I headed to the website for my local library, I can’t even remember why, and right there on the front page was a new book in the Dollangager series. I was intrigued, for many different reasons, and I just had to know what new and disturbing tales there were to tell about the origins of this series.
Beneath the Attic is set in the late 19th Century, long before the events of Flowers in the Attic. We are looking at generations before Corinne Foxworth so if you haven’t read Flowers that isn’t going to matter. I’m not sure if this is something you would pick up unless you have read the series though.
I am struggling with how to approach this review, which you may have noticed by the waffly beginning, because I really am torn about how I feel. I have just spent some time scrolling through reviews of Goodreads and there are some pretty brutal ones on there, and I can agree with a lot of what they are saying.
It is no secret that V.C. Andrews works have long been written by a ghost writer, and it has been the same ghostwriter for all of that time. Originally brought in to finish the works that were already in progress I could understand that. I actually think that the first one of the books that I purchased rather than ‘borrowed’ from mum’s bookshelf was the first that the ghostwriter worked on. We are now over 30 years on and there are a multitude of books with her name, brand new series and new books in the series that we know were all her own. At what point did this go from finishing her works to simply stamping her name on works that she had absolutely nothing to do with. That is where my issue with following her work came into play, about 25 years ago. I think I have only read a few of her earlier series, and that’s why. But this was a tie in to Flowers in the Attic so I couldn’t resist.
Beneath the Attic was a struggle for me to get into, I often referred to it as a trainwreck, but I did persevere and I got through it… eventually. The reason I describe it as a trainwreck is that though at times I didn’t want to look, I couldn’t put it down and walk away.
The main reason I read this one was because I did have such a love for the Flowers series, and a desire to know how it got to the point it did, and this promised to answer those questions. Unfortunately I don’t think it did. The Foxworth family was already messed up so you would need to go back at least one more generation, except I’m beginning to think that it’s Foxworth Hall at the bottom of it all which would mean going right back to when it was built.
Corinne Dixon was a superficial, selfish adolescent obsessed with her own beauty and the effect that she knew she would have on any man. She kind of reminded me of the Corinne that would come after her actually. Surprise surprise, her self-obsessed desires to capture the eye of a more sophisticated upper class man got her in deeper than she had expected. She fell for the suave charm of Garland Foxworth and fast found herself in a situation she couldn’t control.
The novel is set in 1890 but it doesn’t feel like the late 19th Century, the behaviours don’t fit with the time period and there are some historical inaccuracies.
The first few chapters are all about Corinne demonstrating how worldly and mature she is in comparison to her contemporaries and teaching them all about the ways of the world while totally looking down her nose on all of them. But she actually doesn’t really know any more than them, except what she has learned of her own body through her own self-exploration.
Garland Foxworth puts on a good front; he’s charming, wealthy and knows how to make a good impression. Time will show that there is a lot more to Garland Foxworth than meets the eye and it isn’t all as attractive as he seems.
We do get a look into earlier generations and an inside view of the original Corinne Foxworth but it isn’t as in-depth and insightful as I would like and it doesn’t really answer the questions. If anything it leads me to ask new ones.
In my Goodreads trawling, mainly as procrastination because I didn’t know where to start, there’s a reader question that compares the blurb for Beneath the Attic with the story of Malcolm and Olivia (Garden of Shadows) and it has me thinking that from what I remember there are striking similarities between Garland and Malcolm, especially when it comes to their relationships with their mother.
Still, I can’t tell you with all certainty how I felt about this book. I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t love it. The story was disturbing, which was to be expected, some of the behaviours exhibited by many of the characters were reprehensible and the theme of unhealthy sexual relationships, and familial relationships, that runs through this series was well and truly present in Beneath the Attic.
The historical accuracy was off, the characters weren’t as well developed as they should have been and the integral elements in earlier books almost seemed to be thrown in just to have them there as a connection to the series we know.
Once I got past the first few chapters of Corinne carrying on about her irresistibleness and managed to get involved in the story I was hooked, but mainly because I had to see it through. Now that I’m finished I can walk away wondering what that added to the overall picture of the Foxworths and whether it was worth the time I spent on it, yet still I have gone and chased down other books that claim to be linked to the Dollanganger series; which I think should probably be called the Foxworth series now that it’s grown so much from the original four books.
Would I recommend this book? I’m not actually sure. How did I feel about it? I’m still not sure. I wouldn’t read it again but I liked it enough that I will read the sequel when it’s released next March.