V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #3)

‘For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)

FITA

So for this third part of the group read of The Flowers in the Attic, we’re really getting into it. All of the setting up of the characters and the setting we have experienced in the first half of the book, are done now and we’re definitely getting down and dirty. So beware, there will be spoilers ahead as well as nakedness, so proceed at your own caution.
When we get into this part, we quickly find out that the children have been in the attic for two years. They have grown closer and closer and Chris and Cathy are more and more taking on all parenting responsibilities for the twins – as well as growing up and maturing themselves. And of course, what we have been waiting for to happen ever since the grandmother gave them her list of stupid rules, happens now.
When Cathy admires how she has grown and developed by looking at her naked body in a mirror, Chris comes and can’t stop looking at her too. And of course, the grandmother comes in, discovers them – and tells them that unless Cathy cuts of all her hair, they will not get any food for a week. Of course Cathy doesn’t want to cut off her hair but while she sleeps, the grandmother drugs her and puts tar in her hair. They manage to get the tar out but as the grandmother still doesn’t bring them any food, they have to cut off a part of her hair and conceal the rest under a scarf to pretend she cut it all off – but the grandmother still doesn’t show up with their food. Finally, when they are ready to eat mice after having starved for a week, she shows up with food. They even get sugar-powdered donuts after not having been allowed treats for fear of them ruining their teeth and needing to see a dentist.
By now, their mother isn’t showing up every day or even every week and both Cathy and Chris are starting to understand that they have to take care of themselves now and that they can’t really count on her. And they devise a way to get outside by hanging a rope and climbing down. So Cathy and Chris go night-swimming in the nearby lake and have a wonderful time but almost don’t make it bad up the rope again. So they realize they need another way to get out of the house.
Especially as their mother stays away for more than two months without any explanation. And during this time, Chris and Cathy finally crosses their grandmother enough for her to whip them. Severely.
And as if this isn’t bad enough, Cathy and Chris start to see that there’s something wrong with the twins. They are not growing, they’ve only grown about two inches while they’ve been there, from the ages of four to about seven.
This is also the time when the children get a new friend. Mickey the mouse. They catch a mouse in a trap one day and as it doesn’t die, Cory wants it as a pet. He manages to make it tame and he loves it. It is heartbreaking to read about how when their mother finally gets back, she ignores the twins and never praises Cory for his big accomplishment in making the mouse his pet.
When the mother finally do get back, even Chris, her favorite and the one who loves her the most, rebels against her. She behaves like a child and cries and makes them apologize and feel sorry for her – and realize that she has a point, namely that she’s the only one who loves them. She brings them gifts en masse but she leaves angrily.This visit almost makes Cathy commit suicide but she realizes that she is all her siblings have now.
We’re at the breaking point now. The mother has pushed them so far that the twins don’t know her at all anymore but see Cathy as more of a mother, even Chris is questioning her actions – and Cathy and Chris are considering taking things in their own hands.
When I began reading this book, I felt sorry for the mother. I saw her as one of those women from an earlier generation with no skills and no training whatsoever and who were forced to find someone to take care of her and I saw her as having no choice in returning to her parents. All that is probably true. But she did not have to lock her children away for two years and as if that isn’t bad enough, she didn’t have to neglect them and ignore her youngest. She is actually worse than the grandmother because the grandmother is true to herself and her beliefs while the mother should know better. After having lived in a loving relationship for fifteen years and having four children as a result of it, she should know better.
We’re nearing the end now – why do I have a feeling that this can’t end well?

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V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #2)

‘For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)

FITA

So this group read of Flowers in the Attic hosted by insatiable booksluts has finished the next part of  the novel and are now at the halfway point, more or less. So be warned – there will be spoilers below!
First of, I want to say that I get a weird feeling when reading this book. I’m not sure if it’s the mom part of me that really aches for these poor kids or if it’s because I feel a bit trapped in  life with every day being more or less the same: getting up, getting kids ready and taking them to kindergarden, going to work, picking the kids up, making dinner, eating, putting the kids to bed, going to bed myself and repeat – more or less. Whatever it is, the book makes me feel a bit besides myself. This is not necessarily a bad thing – right now, I don’t  quite know what it is…
When we finished last, we had just realized that the grandmother means business. In this section, we learn that at least she has a reason for being mad at her daughter and for not wanting her grandchildren – although not a reason strong enough to whip anybody or to treat the kids the way she does.
The children’s mother finally tell the kids the true story of their father and her. It turns out that the children’s father was the half-uncle of the children’s mother. They fell in love when he came to live at her home and then ran away, got married – and returned, expecting to be welcomed with open arms. When that didn’t happen, they left and lived in happiness until the father died. And now, the mother has to try to get on her parents’ good side again to be able to provide for the children. Or that’s what she says at least.
Where the first part introduced us to the four children and their parents and set up the story, this second part is all about life in the attic. The children now know they will have to stay in the room and the attic until the grandfather dies so Chris and Cathy try to make the twins have as good a time as possible. With the help of their mother, they create a beautiful fake garden in the attic for the twins to swing and play in and look at.
The mother visits regularly and tells them about her life and how she tries to learn a skill so she will be able to make it in the world. She’s trying to learn how to become a secretary. But when Chris and Cathy are allowed to sneak down and peek at the Christmas Party, they see their mother seemingly very close with a man. And for the first time they see their grandfather in his wheel chair.
When Chris afterwards goes off exploring the house and the mother returns to lock them in before he’s back, she for the first time reminds them of the grandmother – especially when she hits Chris when he returns to the room.
And every morning the grandmother with her silent disapproval and dressed as a grey ghost brings them their food, never with even a single kindly word.
The twins both get seriously ill during this time too and the mother is very worried about them. Luckily they both pull through, although they seem like shadows of themselves. Carrie for on doesn’t constantly chitchat anymore but is almost as silent as her brother. And this is probably a good place to show one of the novel’s issues. Cathy so misses her sister’s chitchatting – but then only a few pages passes and suddenly, Carrie is back to normal and Cathy is annoyed by it even though it was only a little while ago that she was so worried about her and was sure that she would never return to her own self. Another seemingly example of this lack of constancy is, when the twins just hate the attic and everything about it is scary to them – and then a few pages later exploring the attic is the best way to spend their time and Cory wants to spend all his day in the attic…
It’s like V.C. Andrews just changes the facts as it suits her and fits the story. To have the twins be so scared of the attic creates a good scene and some nice action – but she need them to get used to it later on and instead of showing how they gradually grow familiar with it and less scared of it, she just writes that now they’re fine with it. Of course, this is much easier – but it’s also cheating!
Despite this, I’m still interested in reading on but I’m also ready for something new to happen in the third part. I’m guessing that the oldest children’s sexuality will probably be in focus in this section which will give the grandmother a chance to some creative cruelty!

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V.C. Andrews: Flowers in the Attic (Group Read #1)

“For I think of us more as flowers in the attic. Paper flowers. Born so brightly colored, and fading duller through all those long, grim, dreary, nightmarish days when we were held prisoners of hope, and kept captives by greed.’ (location 33-38)
FITA

So apparently every teenager in the US has read Flowers in the Attic. I’ve never heard of it. But when Heather suggested a group read over at insatiable booksluts, I thought it sounded interesting and decided to join. I didn’t know much about what I was getting myself into except that it was something about a group of kids being locked in the attic and about some really nasty grandparents.
So after reading the first part of the book, I can easily see why this has been so popular among teenagers – I would definitely have loved it if I had read it some twenty years ago. This is the story of a beautiful and lovely family. Two loving parents, the teenagers Chris and Cathy and then the twins, Cory and Carrie.
But tragedy strikes and their father is killed in a tragic accident: ‘According to the accounts, which we’ve recorded, there was a motorist driving a blue Ford weaving in and out of the left and lane, apparently drunk, and he crashed head-on into your husband’s car. But it seems your husband must have seen the accident coming, for he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, but a piece of machinery had fallen from another car, or truck, and this kept him from copleting his correct defense driving maneuver, which would have saved his life. But as it was, your husband’s much heavier car turned over several times, and still he might have survived, but an oncoming truck, unable to stop, crashed into his car, and again the Cadillac spun over … and the … it caught on fire.’ (location 223-30) And then it caught on fire. Indeed it did.
This leaves the mother to care for the children on her own and since she has no skills, she decides to go back to the parents who disinherited her fifteen years earlier. She drags the kids along, forces them to leave most of their toys behind and doesn’t exactly tell them the reality of the house, they are going to.
Of course, no words could have prepared the children for the reality of their grandparent’s home. Or house rather, there’s not much home about it. The children are forced to stay in one room and are allowed to play in the attic. Their grandmother are a cold and cruel woman who reveals to the children that their parents were in fact related and because of that, in her opinion, the children should never have been born. And she gives the children a list of insane rules they are supposed to follow if they know what’s best for them. And she forces their mother to show them what happens if they don’t – she’s whipped their mother. Thirty-three lashes, one for each year she has lived, and then fifteen lashes, one for each year she lived with the children’s father.
So this is where we are. The children are stuck in a room in a house where they are not wanted. The mother is being whipped by the grandmother and the grandfather is lying in a bed, supposed to die soon.
This is definitely an engaging read. It’s not the best writing I’ve ever read, but it is very entertaining and creepy. I have a pretty good idea about what’s going to happen but I’m still looking very much forward to reading it.

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR

toptentuesday-1This is a difficult list to make. I sort of have two lists in my head. One with the books I really want to read – and the other with books I ought to read because they are part of my goal for the year. Even though there’s not much left of 2013, I’m not willing yet to give up completing my goal so I’ve chosen to write the second list (with bits from the first list thrown in!).
As always, the Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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  1. John Irving: Widow for One Year. Each year I set a goal of reading a book by each of my favorite authors. I only need to finish this one to have completed this goal and I’ve already read about a third of it and so far I love it.
  2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I have been postponing this for years. I’m not sure why I keep on procrastinating on this one but I think I have to read it this year or I never will. And it’s one of those books that you really ought to read and I think I will appreciate it so there’s really no reason to not just get on with it.
  3. Doctor Who and Philosophy. I try to read some non-fiction every year and I haven’t been doing very good this year. So I’m currently working my way through this one. It seems fitting since it’s the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Year to be reading this book.
  4. VC Andrews: Flowers in the Attic. So when I saw that my book twin Heather had joined the Insatiable Book Sluts blog and was hosting a readalong, I was immediately interested. Of course. So I plan on reading this book even though I’ve never heard of it before. It sounds like a great read and something that will give me a breather before I tackle some more of the leftovers from my list of reading goals.
  5. Thomas Ligotti: Teatro Grotesco. Every year my boyfriend, my best friend and me challenge each other and decides a book for each of the others. I have already read the one my boyfriend chose for me (Martin Amis: Lionel Asbo) but I need to read this one as well. And I have to admit – I have zero interest in it. It’s short stories, it’s horror. Sighs.
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  6. Don DeLillo: Underworld. And if that one wasn’t bad enough, there’s this huge novel by Don DeLillo. I have a hard time with DeLillo. I really don’t get him. I sense there’s something – but I can’t quite understand what he’s bring to do with his novels. And this one I’ve already tried to read but failed. And I never fail at finishing books. So I dread this one. A lot!
  7. Frederick Copleston: A History of Philosophy. And there’s this one … I was intimidating to begin it and I’m still intimidated by it … I’m really not sure if I will get through this one this year!
  8. Margaret Atwood. I have on my list that I have to read something from Margaret Atwood this year and I really want to! I just don’t own anything by her so I’m hoping to receive some of her books for Christmas.
  9. Arthur Conan Doyle: The Complete Sherlock Holmes. So I have read – and enjoyed – about 30% of this one. But – I still have to read 70% more. And it’s been a long while since I read it so I am actually planning to start at the beginning… I’m starting to feel like I have been a bit too optimistic about what I was able to read this year!
  10. Some sort of non-fiction. At this point I’m not sure what this last book will be about – or whether I will even make it this far…

So that’s it for me. If I’ll make it through these books this year, I will be thrilled and absolutely ecstatic. Unfortunately, the chances of that happening are really very low indeed. But I’ll try! Luckily there’s not that many work days left this year and I have a rather long Christmas holiday so if I just prioritize reading every day for the rest of the year, maybe I have a small chance… Well, not really, but it’s fun to try!

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