Flowers in the Attic

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Flowers in the Attic
Dollanganger01 FlowersInTheAttic.jpg
First edition cover of Flowers in the Attic
Author V. C. Andrews
Country United States
Language English
Series Dollanganger series
Genre Gothic horror
Family saga
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
November 1979
Media type Print
Pages 400
ISBN 0-671-82531-3
OCLC 21616361
Followed by Petals on the Wind (1980)

Flowers in the Attic is a 1979 Gothic novel by V. C. Andrews. It is the first book in the Dollanganger Series, and was followed by Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, "Garden of Shadows", "Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth", "Christopher's Diary: Echoes of Dollanganger" and "Christopher's Diary: Secret Brother". The novel is written in the first-person, from the point of view of Cathy Dollanganger. It was twice adapted into films in 1987 and 2014. The book was extremely popular, selling over forty million copies world-wide.


In 1957, the Dollanganger family lives an idyllic life in Gladstone, Pennsylvania. After Christopher Sr., the children's father, dies in a car accident, his wife Corrine and their four children are left deep in debt. As Corrine has no work skills, the family is forced to move in with her estranged wealthy parents, who live at Foxworth Hall, in Virginia. Corrine explains to the children that she has been estranged from her parents because of something she did when she was 18. She then adds that their true family name is Foxworth. Upon arrival Corrine's mother, Olivia, sneaks the family into a small bedroom that connects to the attic and insists the children must be hidden from their grandfather. Olivia treats the children with disdain and threatens to severely punish them for any disobedience. Corrine meets with her father, and when she returns to the children, she has been savagely whipped by Olivia, who then tells the children that their parents were half-uncle and niece. Corrine confirms this and explains her plan to win back her father's love so she can introduce the children to him.

The older children, Cathy and Chris, turn the attic into an imaginary garden for the twins, Carrie and Cory, educate the twins as best they can, and read books to keep up their own education. At first, Corrine visits her children every day, sometimes bringing expensive gifts, but as the days and weeks turn into months, her visits become less and less frequent. Meanwhile, the grandmother physically and emotionally abuses the children and constantly threatens to whip them for doing anything she considers "sinful". When Christmas comes, Corrine allows Cathy and Chris to watch the Christmas ball from a hiding spot, where they see their grandfather, Malcolm, for the first time. They also see their mother with their father's attorney, Bart Winslow, who is helping draw up Malcolm's will. When Corrine discovers Chris was wandering around the mansion, she slaps him and threatens to whip him and Cathy, then immediately apologizes and promises to make amends to them for their confinement. While Chris believes her, Cathy points out how their mother has changed and worries that Corrine no longer cares about them.

A year later, Cathy and Chris have both entered puberty and taken on parental roles with Carrie and Cory, who no longer recognise Corrine. While Cathy and Chris are both entering adulthood, the twins have stopped growing altogether due to being imprisoned and the lack of sunlight and fresh air in their prison. Olivia catches Chris staring at Cathy in her brassiere in the bathroom and orders him to cut off Cathy's hair or all four children will starve. Chris refuses, but Olivia drugs Cathy and pours tar into her hair. She then abandons them for three weeks, driving the children to near-starvation. Cathy ends up cutting off her hair and when Olivia see this, she starts leaving them sugar-powdered doughnuts with their usual food. Corrine visits the children for the first time in six months, announcing that she has married Bart Winslow and they have returned from their honeymoon in Europe. Cathy and Chris react angrily, accusing her of abandoning them, and Corrine refuses to visit again until they apologize. Olivia continues to abuse the children, even whipping Cathy and Chris after he talks back to her. Cathy and Chris become physically attracted towards each other, and start to fall in love in spite of both feeling personal shame.

Alarmed by the twins' declining health and mistrustful of their mother, Cathy and Chris plan to escape. They begin to sneak into their mother's room to steal money and valuables. One night, Cathy goes down alone, and finds her stepfather sleeping in the bed. Curious, she kisses him. When Chris overhears Bart talking about this 'dream' to Corrine, he is enraged at Cathy and rapes her. Afterwards, feeling guilty and ashamed, he apologizes, and Cathy forgives him by saying she wanted it too. Chris confesses that he loves her, and although Cathy reciprocates his feelings, she is unsure how to respond. Cory becomes sick and Cathy demands that Corrine take him to the hospital. Corrine slaps her, but Cathy retaliates and threatens revenge if they do not help Cory. Olivia seemingly sides with Cathy, and they take Cory away. The next day, Corrine returns and tells them that Cory died from pneumonia. Carrie goes into shock and stops speaking.

Chris goes to Corrine's room for money but finds that his mother and Bart have moved out. He then overhears the head butler talking about how Malcolm died seven months ago and how Olivia has been leaving doughnuts sprinkled with rat poison in the attic because it is infested with 'mice'. Chris and Cathy give Cory's pet mouse a doughnut to confirm the story. When the mouse dies, they finally flee the house with Carrie and catch a train to Florida. At the train station, Chris reveals to Cathy that he discovered that Corrine's inheritance is conditional on having no children from her first marriage nor any she may have in the future. If were ever to be proven that she had descendants, she would lose everything. Cathy understands from her brother that their mother has been poisoning them for nine months to secure her inheritance. Chris and Cathy decide against contacting the police; their main concern is to stay together and be there for Carrie. Chris assures Cathy that they can make a new life without their mother, but Cathy swears that she will get revenge one day.


  • Catherine Leigh "Cathy" Dollanganger: The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Cathy is the second child and older daughter of Christopher and Corrine. She becomes an accomplished ballerina and later a novelist. During their time in the attic, she falls in love with Chris.
  • Christopher Garland "Chris" Dollanganger, Jr.: Older son and oldest child of Christopher and Corrine. Chris is the older brother of Cathy, Cory, and Carrie. He is an over-achiever and later becomes a doctor. During their time in the attic, he falls in love with Cathy.
  • Cory Dollanganger: Twin brother of Carrie and younger brother of Cathy and Chris. The "quiet one" of the twins, Cory is introverted but musically talented. He becomes ill during their time in the attic and dies from arsenic poisoning at the hands of his mother.
  • Carrie Dollanganger: Twin sister to Cory and the younger sister of Cathy and Chris. Prior to Cory's death, she is an extroverted girly girl, but after Cory dies she refuses to speak for months.
  • Corrine Dollanganger (née Foxworth): Mother of Chris, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie and widow of Christopher Dollanganger. Eventually becomes an antagonist in the story when she tries to kill her children in order to gain her father's inheritance. She marries her father's attorney, Bart Winslow, later on and loses interest in her children and late husband.
  • Bartholomew "Bart" Winslow: Second husband of Corrine. He is a trophy husband and marries her thinking that she doesn't have any children. Cathy is shocked to discover that he is eight years younger than Corrine.
  • Olivia Foxworth (née Winfield): Wife of Malcolm Foxworth. Grandmother of the Dollanganger children. Cousin of John Amos. Olivia and Malcolm are co-antagonists in this book.
  • Malcolm Foxworth: Father of Corrine and grandfather of the Dollanganger children. Husband of Olivia. He is described both as having a heart condition and as heartless, a symbolic paradox. He dies during the story, though Chris and Cathy do not learn this until the end. He was also the older half-brother of the children's father.
  • Christopher Dollanganger, Sr.: Corrine's first husband; father of the children. He was Malcolm's younger half-brother, making him Corrine's half-uncle. He is described as a wonderful father who couldn't bear to be separated from his children for longer than five days. He is killed in a car accident on his birthday at the beginning of the book.
  • John Amos: A butler to the Foxworth family. Chris overhears very horrible information from him during one of Chris' expeditions to steal from his mother.


In 1993, Flowers in the Attic was awarded the Secondary BILBY Award.[1] In 2003 the book was listed on the BBC's The Big Read poll of the UK's 200 "best-loved novels."[2]


In 1987, the book was adapted into a film of the same name starring Louise Fletcher, Victoria Tennant, Kristy Swanson, and Jeb Stuart Adams and directed by Jeffrey Bloom.

A second adaptation was released on January 18, 2014, on the Lifetime network starring Heather Graham as Corrine and Ellen Burstyn as the Grandmother, with Kiernan Shipka as Cathy, Mason Dye as Christopher, and directed by Deborah Chow.[3] The film received mixed reviews, but critics praised Ellen Burstyn's performance.

The book was adapted into a stage play by V. C. Andrews's ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman, in the form of an e-book and was published by Pocket Star. The stage play was released in October 2014 and is 80 pages in length. In August 2015 the stage play received its world premiere production in New Orleans, Louisiana. The play, which received positive reviews,[4] was produced by See 'Em On Stage: A Production Company and was directed by Christopher Bentivegna.


The book's success was not without controversy. The depiction of incest between an adolescent brother and sister in the novel has led to its being banned in certain areas at different times. Chariho High School in Rhode Island removed it because it contained "offensive passages concerning incest and sexual intercourse." In 1994, it was removed from the Oconee County, Georgia school libraries due to "the filthiness of the material."[5]

The claim that the novel was based on a true story was disputed. For many years, there was no evidence to support this claim, and the book was passed off as fiction. Nonetheless, the official V. C. Andrews website claims to have contacted one of Andrews' relatives. This unidentified relative claimed Flowers in the Attic was loosely based on a faintly similar account. While at the "University of Virginia hospital for treatment...she developed a crush on her young doctor. He and his siblings had been locked away in the attic for over 6 years to preserve the family wealth."[6]


  1. ^ "Previous Winners of the BILBY Awards: 1990 – 96" (PDF). The Children's Book Council of Australia Queensland Branch. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "BBC – The Big Read". BBC. April 2003, Retrieved August 23, 2017
  3. ^ "V.C. Andrews' 'Flowers in the Attic' to Premiere on Lifetime January 18 – Starring Heather Graham, Ellen Burstyn & Kiernan Shipka". 14 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Complete VCA: Flowers in the Attic: A Stage Play". 
  5. ^ Doyle, Robert (1998). Banned Books Resource Guide. The American Library Association. 
  6. ^ F., Jennifer. "Biography: Based on a True Story". The Complete V.C. Andrews. Retrieved 2010-01-09. It has been widely speculated that Flowers in the Attic was based on a true story. But there has been no physical or historical evidence to support that claim. Virginia herself has admitted that a few incidents are autobiographical, and she has also stated that her stories have been influenced by experiences of friends and family, her own dreams and memories, and even popular and literary fiction.