Whenever a spooky or sinister holiday arrives (one that isn’t Valentine’s Day), literary enthusiasts tend to proudly bandy Edgar Allan Poe as the author to read for celebrating said balefulness. And sure, reveling in your The Fall of the House of Usher here or your The Tell-Tale Heart there is all well and good for getting in the spirit of the macabre. But ultimately, what’s going to disturb you more than anything is the V.C. Andrews’ gothic horror classic Flowers in the Attic.
Focused on the Dollanganger family post-crisis (their patriarch has just died in a car accident, highlighting just how deeply in debt they are and unable to function without a breadwinner), Corinne, the matriarch, gathers her children, Cathy, Chris, Carrie and Cory (yes, their names have a certain Kardashian motif), and takes them to her affluent parents’ home, Foxworth Hall in Virginia. From the moment they arrive on the estate, it’s evident that there’s something very amiss with the goings-on there, and that whatever happened in their mother’s past is clearly affecting her behavior now as she lives in a constant state of fear, sparked by her parents, Olivia and Malcolm (who presents the first instance of a quagmired family tree by being the older half-brother of Corinne’s now deceased husband/half-uncle).
Though, at first, Corinne “visits” her children in the attic–where they’ve been instantly cordoned to by their grandmother–her time spent with them quickly diminishes, and the quartet is left alone on a constant basis, save for when Olivia makes cameos to beat them to a pulp for acting in any manner she deems “sinful.”
With the hint of something foreboding constantly lurking, just waiting to bubble to the surface at any moment, the bizarre truth behind the secrecy and sexual repression that pervades Foxworth Hall comes exploding to the surface after numerous allusions to incest are at last confirmed by, well, a rape. But ultimately a retrospectively consensual rape if that makes you feel any better. And in the only poetic quote ever to exist about incest, Cathy insists, “Love doesn’t always come when you want it to. Sometimes it just happens, despite your will.”
And, sometimes, despite your will, you just need a really fucked up Friday the 13th read. And it ain’t Poe when you’ve got V.C.’s works on your shelf.