|Not even half of my VCA collection. Judge me all you want.
I may not be a 90s kid, but the V.C. Andrews fever didn’t escape me (V.C. = Virginia Cleo; yes it was a woman behind a man’s name). After flipping through Tarnished Gold on the library bookshelf in ninth grade, the scandalous behavior depicted (somehow) fascinated me. I ended up borrowing Flowers in the Attic and managed to finish it within a night. While it seemed as if I was the only one in my school reading them (incest and family drama did not appeal to my friends–though interestingly enough many of them are Game of Thrones fans right now). One Amazon review described the books as “a bag of potato chips” and I have to agree. The books weren’t the best writing I’ve read—not to mention the dialogue had me cringing sometimes. Yet, the family dynamics and the emotions conveyed were so compelling that I couldn’t help but binge-read them all and recap them on my old blog. As of today, I’ve read the following V.C. Andrews books:
- Flowers in the Attic
- Petals on the Wind
- If There Be Thorns
- Seeds of Yesterday
- Garden of Shadows
- My Sweet Audrina
- Dark Angel <–hands down my favorite VCA novel
- Fallen Hearts
- Gates of Paradise
- Web of Dreams
- Secrets of the Morning
- Twilight’s Child
- Midnight Whispers
- Darkest Hour
- Pearl in the Mist
- All that Glitters
- Hidden Jewel
- Tarnished Gold
Notice how all of these (for the most part) are in publication order–and how a few of them are published after V.C. Andrews died. When V.C. Andrews died in 1989, the Andrews estate employed Andrew Neiderman to write stories under Andrews’s name and continue her “storytelling genius”. Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, If There be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, My Sweet Audrina, Heaven, and Dark Angel are all Virginia’s works. According to several sources, Garden of Shadows, a prequel to the Dollanganger Saga, was incomplete at the time of Andrew’s death and was completed by Neiderman prior to publication.
And initially–at least in my opinion–Neiderman managed to preserve some of Andrews more brilliant storytelling techniques. While fans might not agree with me on this, I quite enjoyed Garden of Shadows and felt it was necessary in the Dollanganger Saga; I’ll never be able to pinpoint where Neiderman picked up the novel after Andrews died. Twists in family trees and betrayals formed the backbone of the Cutler series. While the Landry series marginalized character development and chose to rely on archetypes, the research Neiderman dedicated toward capturing such a captivating setting made it one of my favorite series. However, after reading Melody, I realized I had read this story before; story lines were repeating themselves, only this time with one-dimensional characters who were not particularly likable. I decided to fast-forward a bit and tried reading The Heavenstone Secrets (2009)–only to stop midway; the whole innocent vs sinister sister plot–I had read that already in Ruby. The main character getting pregnant after rape? Web of Dreams, Darkest Hour, and Tarnished Gold. The villain dying after getting pushed down the stairs? My Sweet Audrina. None of the newer books presented new ideas–or titles for the matter:
At some point, the originality of the ghostwriter novels had died with Andrews. One possibility could be V.C.A. only written so many outlines; once those were out, the ghostwriter went off original ideas while trying to include V.C.A. elements. Also supporting this is an interview
with Neiderman that indicated that the Cutler series were mostly from Andrews’ notes. To add insult to the injury, close to the release of Lifetime’s Flowers in the Attic adaptation
, Neiderman announced the release of a two-parter companion novel to the Dollanganger Saga titled Christopher’s Diary
; the novels narrate the events of Flowers in the Attic
through Christopher Dollanganger’s point of view
I could delve into literature-based arguments and how another point-of-view should only be used if there are additional details necessary for the storyline, but that’s beside the point. Why is it acceptable for authors to start profiting by writing fan fiction off another author’s work? Why does publishing have to be so desperate to sell instead of write? I really don’t think this book is necessary, and to a certain degree, I feel its offensive to V.C.A’s original work. Thank goodness George R.R. Martin has forbidden a ghostwriter from picking up A Song of Ice and Fire in the event of his death. But anyways…
Yeah it was only a matter of time I could go without discussing these. I was actually glad Lifetime decided to follow through with this project; after seeing both movies trend on Twitter, I realized how huge and long-lived the V.C. Andrews fandom was. Given the 1987 disaster, I actually enjoyed the Lifetime adaptation and its faithfulness to the book. That being said, my reservations about this movie were depicted in my brother’s take: besides hiding in his blanket during the incestuous scenes, his reaction read “what’s the big deal?” Most of the horror and character development wasn’t translated on-screen. Major characters, such as the twins, were virtually non-existent. I was hoping some of these issues would be remedied in the sequel film Petals on the Wind.
Well, turns out hope is a b!tch.
On the positive side, the performances were stronger than ever. Despite a cheesy, unrealistic script (even by V.C. Andrews standards), Rose McIver (Cathy) was able to flesh out a multifaceted character. The star of the movie, however, was hands down Bailey Buntain (Carrie) who managed to depict a lost girl’s suicidal path with more than just tears. I had mixed feelings about Heather Graham’s (Corrine) child-like approach to her character in the first film; her descent into madness, however, was so powerfully done—even if it only took five minutes.
However, ultimately, flaws from the first film–and new ones to boot–brought this film down. There simply wasn’t enough time to summarize a book that covers approximately fifteen years of twisted family history. This reflected in the choppy direction, with characters and story lines going nowhere until the last fifteen minutes. While the omission of characters such as Paul Sheffield was understandable, given the time constraint, certain additional characters such as Sarah (Christopher’s girlfriend, not mentioned in the book to my recollection) were unnecessary and just wasted screen time. Corrine’s point-of-view wasn’t needed either; yes, I get that Heather Graham is an amazing actress, but it just detracted from the film as a whole. The Christmas ball scene at the end was so anti-climatic in comparison with the book; it was years of betrayal and revenge coming to a confrontation–and yet it felt so diminished in the film. Part of this has to do with Cathy’s character being silenced, with her fierceness and passion barely depicted. While the performances were great, the script and direction took away from what could’ve been a redeeming ending to 90 minutes of boredom.
But as they say, between movie and book, pick book (unless it’s Lord of the Rings–then pick either). Oh and as a #TBT (whatever that stands for), here’s a graphic from one of my old Flowers in the Attic blog posts!
Cringing at the editing, but more or less the book in a picture.