Flowers in The Attic by V.C. Andrews: a saga of consensual incest

Flowers in The Attic was the first installment to a five book series about sole heir Corinne Foxworth who married her half uncle Christopher Foxworth. As a consequence to the incestuous union, Corinne was disinherited by her parents, Malcolm and Olivia Foxworth. Nevertheless, the union produced four seemingly perfect children – Christopher Jr., Cathy and twins Cory and Carrie. The family had then changed their last name to Dollanganger, a distant Foxworth relative. Upon the death of Christopher Sr., Corinne was forced to crawl back to her parents being unable to financially take care of the four children.

After many letters appealing to her parents, the latter finally agreed to allow Corinne and her children to live in the Foxworth mansion under one condition – no one is to know about the existence of the children. Arrangements were made for them to stay in the attic of the mansion where they remained locked up for three years as their mother made them believe that she was making efforts to get back to her father’s good graces, get herself back in his will and the children along with her would become very rich – all they had to do was wait for their grandfather to die.

In the attic where Christopher Jr. and Cathy were forced to spend all their time together, an unusually strong bond  developed. They adapted the role of mother and father to the twins. They watched each other grow from children to adults, and they only had each other to answer questions that arise with the onset of puberty. As both tried to resist the temptation of surrendering to their raging hormones knowing they were brother and sister, they both eventually lost the battle and ended up sleeping together.

Grandfather Malcolm Foxworth finally died to the benefit of Corinne but not her children. She ran off and married lawyer Bart Winslow and left the children wondering when she was going back for them.

Christopher Jr. and Cathy, tired of their mother’s empty promises, devised a way to escape from the attic along with Carrie. At this point, Cory had died of pneumonia. The three children escaped from the attic and took a bus back to where they came from, with no idea where they were going back to.

PETALS ON THE WIND

After escaping from their three year confinement in the Foxworth attic, Christopher Jr., Cathy and Carrie are taken in by a rich generous doctor Paul Sheffield whose house keeper Henrietta Beech happened to be in the bus they were on.

Christopher Jr. moves on to medical school, Cathy pursues her dream to become a ballet dancer. Christopher Jr. cannot get over the feelings he developed for Cathy during their attic days. Cathy, in an attempt to escape from her brother’s longing, moves to New York to pursue her dancing career. Here she meets and marries fellow dancer Julian Marquet.

Carrie never fully recovered from her years in the attic, the deprivation of sunlight stunting her growth. Nevertheless she meets a pastor’s son who asked to marry her. She seeks out her mother Corinne to invite her to the wedding. At this point, Corinne has taken on the role of Mrs. Bart Winslow and denies having any children. Devastated by the rejection, Carrie kills herself.

Cathy vows to seek vengeance against their mother for all they suffered. Upon the death of her husband with whom she has her first son Jory, she goes after her mother’s second husband. She succeeds in getting herself pregnant with her second son Bart Winslow Sheffield.

Cathy devices a plan to present herself and her brother back in her mother’s life at a party in Foxworth Hall, after the latter has established to everyone she has no children. At the same party, Cathy announces her pregnancy with her mother’s second husband.

Unable to bare the humiliation of the present and the confrontation of the past, Corinne sets Foxworth Hall on fire. Cathy and Christopher Jr manage to escape. Bart Winslow dies in the fire attempting to save his mother in law, the already bedridden Olivia Foxworth. Corinne is taken to a psychiatric ward.

IF THERE BE THORNS

Unable to deny the feelings that continue to perpetuate, Christopher Jr and Cathy move to another state to establish a life as husband and wife under their adoptive name Sheffield, with Cathy’s sons Jory and Bart. For some years all is well and the family manages to keep the truth from discovery.

Then a mysterious woman moves in to the next door mansion. She tries to win over Bart and asks him to call her grandma – yes, Corinne Foxworth is back. She moves in next door with her butler and now third husband John Amos, her uncle and the cousin of the late Olivia Foxworth who was taken in to serve at Foxworth Hall. It turns out John Amos had his eye on the Foxworth fortune which he expected to inherit all along had Corinne not returned.

With Corinne’s reappearance, Christopher Jr and Cathy are forced to admit to their sons their true relationship as brother and sister. Jory eventually accepts them as they are. Bart continues to struggle with such acceptance for the rest of his childhood.

Disturbed by both the stories and confessions of his grandmother, Bart transforms from a shy quiet boy to a nasty and disagreeable one, an attitude he carries to adulthood. Upon learning he was a product of his mother’s revenge, he longs for a continuous reassurance of being loved. Such reassurance is long in coming as Cathy’s attention is divided between Jory, her dancing career and a newly adopted baby girl named Cindy. Bart harbors a seething resentment against everyone, particularly Jory who has more of Cathy’s attention being a budding dancer and, unlike him, being born out of love rather than revenge.

Cathy once again confronts Corinne for coming back in to their lives to wreak havoc. Corinne let’s her know she  wants to make amends with her only family left. John Amos takes advantage of the unguarded confrontation between mother and daughter by knocking both of them unconscious and locking them up. Being Corinne’s husband, he has another opportunity to inherit the Foxworth fortune. Christopher Jr eventually finds his mother and sister in captivity and attempts a rescue. John Amos sets the next door mansion on fire which killed Corinne.

SEEDS Of YESTERDAY

Christopher Jr and Cathy return to Foxworth Hall.

Corinne’s will is made public and she leaves everything to her grandson Bart Winslow who has now adapted Foxworth as his last name. Under the will, Christopher Jr and Cathy are to hold Foxworth Hall and the rest of the Foxworth fortune in trust for Bart until he turns thirty-five. This is an arrangement that does not sit well with Bart as he continues to resent the relationship between his mother and his uncle. He also resents his adopted sister Cindy who he feels is feeding off the Foxworth fortune which he feels she isn’t entitled to.

Bart’s resentment for his brother Jory has also not ceased. In a dance number arranged for Bart’s birthday party, Jory suffers an accident that leaves him paralyzed from the waste down. Melodie, pregnant with Jory’s twins, is unable to accept this and leaves for good shortly after giving birth. Though devastated by his paralysis and Melodie’s abandonment, he eventually moves on to marry his caregiver.

Bart’s antagonistic attitude towards his family eventually led them to decide to leave Foxworth Hall. On the day they were about to leave, Christopher Jr dies in a car accident. This twist of fate changed Bart’s attitude and made him more bearable to be with. The family ended up staying and amends were made between Bart, Jory and Cindy. Cathy died peacefully in her sleep – in the same attic where she spent three growing up years.

GARDEN OF SHADOWS

The final installment to the Foxworth saga drops a new bomb to the already explosive series of events. This last book is a narration from Olivia Foxworth, intended as a justification for her actions, from beating up Corinne and showing her children the torturous scars, to locking up her four grandchildren and refusing to acknowledge them as her grandchildren and calling them the devil’s spawn to their faces.

It turns out Olivia is really not Corinne’s mother.

This last book explains how Malcolm Foxworth ended up marrying Olivia. It depicts a sad story of a smart but ugly duckling who was just too grateful to be rescued from spinsterhood to see through the rotten character that Malcolm Foxworth truly was. While Malcolm and Olivia lived as husband and wife in Foxworth Hall, Malcolm’s father Garland Christopher came home to live with them, bringing with him his new and pregnant wife Alicia who was decades younger. Soon after their moving in to Foxworth Hall, Alicia delivers and their baby take on Garland’s middle name, Christopher.

Malcolm forces himself on Alicia. After Garland’s death, Alicia finds herself pregnant with Malcolm’s child. Not wanting the public to discover his crime, Malcolm conspires with Olivia who devices the plan of hiding Alicia in the attic until she delivers, Olivia will simultaneously pretend to be pregnant, then pass off Alicia’s baby as her own. Upon the maneuverings of Olivia, Alicia is compelled to cooperate, gives birth to a female child to become Corinne Foxworth, then disappears into oblivion with her son Christopher.

Decades later from Alicia’s death bed, a letter arrives at Foxworth Hall requesting Malcolm and Olivia to take in Christopher and continue the role of parenthood Alicia can no longer play. Malcolm and Olivia oblige in an attempt to correct what they did wrong. What they failed to anticipate was that Christopher and Corinne would end up falling in love, without regard to the fact that he was her half uncle.

As this last book reveals, Corinne not only married her half uncle. She unknowingly married her half brother – the father of her four children.

REFERENCES:

https://www.goodreads.com/series/42570-dollanganger

https://www.overdrive.com/series/dollanganger