Jealousy, tragedy, survival, and revenge- the discovery of Christopher’s diary in the ruins of Foxworth Hall brings new secrets of the Dollanganger family to light and obsesses a new generation. With Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind both now major Lifetime TV events, this first new addition to the Dollanganger story in nearly thirty years is a timely look at the events in the attic- from teenage Christopher’s point of view.
Christopher Dollanganger was fourteen when he and his younger siblings-Cathy and the twins, Cory and Carrie-were locked away in the attic of Foxworth Hall, prisoners of their mother’s greedy inheritance scheme. For three long years he kept hope alive for the sake of the others. But the shocking truth about how their ordeal affected him was always kept hidden-until now.
Seventeen-year-old Kristin Masterwood is thrilled when her father’s construction company is hired to inspect the Foxworth property for a prospective buyer. The once grand Southern mansion still sparks legends and half-truths about the four innocent Dollanganger children, even all these decades later. Foxworth holds a special fascination for Kristin, who was too young when her mother died to learn much about her distant blood tie to the notorious family.
Accompanying her dad to the forbidden territory- they find a leather-bound book, its yellowed pages filled with the neat script of Christopher Dollanganger himself. Her father grows increasingly uneasy about her reading it, but as she devours the teen’s story page by page, his shattering account of temptation, heartache, courage, and betrayal overtakes Kristin’s every thought. And soon her obsession with the doomed boy crosses a dangerous line…
In the year since I originally read the V.C. Andrews Dollanganger series (Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, Garden of Shadows), I have wondered why I wasted so much time on such a twisted and yet, poorly written series. With the exception of Garden of Shadows, the series highlights the spoiled and hateful Cathy Dollanganger and her pursuit for “justice.” Though she and her siblings suffered at the hands of her grandparents and especially, her mother, by the end of the series, there is not sympathy left for Cathy.
It was by chance that I saw V.C. Andrews had not one new book, but three, featuring Christopher’s point of view. I can say I was somewhat surprised, since let’s face it, V.C. Andrews died a year after I was born. So needless to say, it’s clear this was written by a ghost writer in light of the success of the first two movies on Lifetime. Despite my hatred for Cathy (on which, I could rage about for days) and with the premiere of Lifetime’s rendition of the final two books airing soon, I couldn’t help placing the newest books on hold with my local library.
The story itself is about more than just Christopher’s point of view. It’s focused on a distant relative of the Foxworth family, Kristin Masterwood. It’s been decades since the end of Seeds of Yesterday and more than a decade since Bart Foxworth has abandoned the legendary Foxworth estate. The estate itself is left in ruins after a fire yet again, destroyed its infrastructure and Kristin’s father is leading the construction crew that is going to rebuild a new home on the property. While searching through the ruins, they discover a box dated from 1960 and inside it contains Christopher’s diary.
Despite her father’s hesitations about her reading it, Kristin is allowed to delve into the mind of Cathy’s brother and lover from the original series. The beginning comes off as a bit confusing, as it’s not clear if it’s a dedication within the book’s opening cover or if an older Christopher is transcribing his recollections. In fact, by the end of the book, I am still uncertain if the diary is supposed to be younger Christopher writing or adult Christopher. For one, ten year old Christopher shows a maturity and understanding for the world around him that doesn’t seem to be normal for a child of that age. Actually, he is described as methodical and makes observations from a sidelined, scientific point of view.
Though I understand what is to come, it’s sometimes troubling to hear Christopher’s thoughts and descriptions of Cathy and her behavior. Yes, Cathy is vengeful and in the end, she’s her own worst enemy. But in the beginning of Flowers in the Attic, there is no indication that she’s a spoiled brat, determined to have it be her way or no way at all. When in truth, she was just able to see through her mother’s facade and they shared a mutual jealousy of one another. Now, Christopher claims to also see the truth about his mother and though he claims he doesn’t lie to himself about it, he really does from time to time.
This first book barely makes it through the first fall the Dollanganger spend in the attic. Nonetheless, it’s interesting from a psychological point of view. For example, Corrine is a needy desperate woman who uses every trick she has to manipulate those around her. Even to the point of making her own children feel sorry for her and forcing the two oldest to step into the parental roles when she doesn’t feel up to it. Freud would say she and Cathy display the classic Mother/Daughter envy scenario. Neither can live with one another and they scrabble for the attention of the men in their lives. Meanwhile, Christopher displays an unhealthy infatuation with his mother (which was originally observed by Cathy in Flowers in the Attic) and despite the ghost writer’s attempt to dismiss this fact, it’s clear she represents the type of woman he will grow to idolize and look for when trying to find a lover.
However decent of a job the ghost writer does in developing the chaotic and explosive relationships between all the Dollangangers, they fail in providing accurate details that were given in the first book. For example, the maids came to clean the room the children were hidden in, the last Friday of every month. In this version, the maids come weekly. Also it is proclaimed that Corrine gives the children real flowers for their “garden” in the attic. This is never mentioned in the original book and the only flowers they ever possess comes from their grandmother.
Outside of Christopher’s memories, Kristin is struggling to maintain some sense of normalcy in her life. She becomes obsessed not only with the diary, but also Christopher. She begins to let her schoolwork slip, begins avoiding her friends and is burdened with the knowledge that she’s strictly forbidden from sharing the diary’s contents with anyone. That is until the end of the book, when her new boyfriend, Kane, discovers the diary and propositions her to allow him to read it aloud (as Christopher) to her in the attic. Kristin’s story is actually a dull point in the story and it constantly drags. Nothing about this girl is intriguing or interesting. She spends so much time psychoanalyzing the diary and becomes so obsessed with Christopher, even her inner monologue shows signs of jealousy towards Cathy. Some of what she ponders are normal questions one might consider. Especially for a single child, whose mother died when she was five. That being said, if she continues down this path, I would say she’s in need of some serious therapy.
The story would have been stronger if it didn’t contain so much of Kristin’s dull story. Also, if they are so insistent on intertwining her story, they should have made her the daughter of Cathy’s adopted daughter. And last but not least, why couldn’t the be bothered to put in some freaking chapters? I don’t know if I’ve ever complained about that before, but when you are reading and it’s time to go to sleep, there’s nothing worse than struggling to find a stopping place. The first evening I spent thirty minutes reading until I came to a new page that started with a new sentence. That is not only annoying, but pointless.
Now on to book two, so I can roll my eyes at Kristin’s and Kane’s “attic play.” At the very least, it should give me some decent material to mock.