★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Around us, below us, this huge house seemed a monster, holding us in its sharp-toothed mouth. If we moved, whispered, breathed heavily, we’d be swallowed and digested.
Flowers in the Attic is pure escapism – a bit silly but enjoyable nonetheless. Ironically, it also locks you up in a horrible old attic for pretty much the full 400-odd pages. But then, the whole book is one big ironic tale about fear and manipulation.
I missed this series growing up, although it would definitely have been right up my street. It’s dark and twisted and quite Tim Burton-esque with all the blonde doll-like children, messed-up mothers, creaky old mansions and a gothic fairytale feel. Adolescent me would have been all over it. I almost certainly missed out on some of its shock-factor by reading it for the first time in my twenties, but even so, I found it fun in a creepy way.
Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie are four perfect children with perfect lives, until something happens and they find themselves hidden away in their grandmother’s attic, like the dolls they resemble, with no end-date.
They have absolutely no contact with the outside world apart from what they see on telly or read in books. So the children create their own world with their own norms. There’s a real conflict in this strange limbo between what they remember as right and wrong from before the attic, what their grandmother tells them, and what their new environment and changing bodies do to their values and roles as children. Chris and Cathy are changing rapidly as they reach puberty. Meanwhile the young twins Cory and Carrie are stunted by lack of light, food and stimulation.
Flowers in the Attic feels rather allegorical in a Victorian kind of way. It’s a clever story that’s satisfying and loops back round on itself nicely, which is great for the first book in a series. I haven’t read the rest of the Dollanganger series yet – although I probably will get round to it at some point – but I do like it when books in a series feel complete as a standalone piece.
It’s full of taboo, sexual tension and symbolism. It’s claustrophobic. It’s dark. It’s titillating and all kinds of wrong.
It’s definitely best read with your inner-teenager unleashed; hidden under the duvet with a torch, way past bedtime.