Hey everyone! I promise that Petals coverage will begin again shortly, but first, here’s a look at some of the preview material for the new Dollanganger book being released tomorrow. That’s right! No one asked for this, but here it is: Christopher’s Diary: Secrets of Foxworth (hereafter SoF) is coming at us shortly (my copy is on its way!). Oh brother.
Now, there are two pieces of preview material that I’ll be discussing here. One is the excerpt from the book that’s up on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Christophers-Diary-Secrets-Foxworth-Dollanganger/dp/1476790582) and the other is the “Unsent letter” from Christopher Sr. to Corrine that I got when I preordered SoF. I’m starting with the excerpt since it’s shorter, and because I’ve got FEELINGS about this letter.
I don’t want to get TOO far into the excerpt since it’s just that, and there isn’t enough context for me to get but so snarky, but I just…huh. I’m wary about sequels like this as it is. I think there’s interesting information to be gleaned from “the other side of the story” narratives–I even read that Twilight one, guys–but overall I don’t have a lot of use for them. I am biased, I admit it. I have issues with much of what Cathy does but ultimately I like her. I like her cockamamie plans and her melodrama; I have less interest in what Christopher has to say. (This was also my exact reaction to that Gone with the Wind sequel about Rhett) I’ve been working on a piece about Chris for a while, I guess I’ll have to see what SoF brings to my understanding of the character. I just can’t help but feel that it’s going to turn into a sort of Cathy bashfest. Like I said, I don’t want to over-read yet, there’s barely any of the actual diary in the released excerpt.
The new book is from the POV of Kristin Masterwood, who is (through her mother) a distant cousin of Malcolm Foxworth’s, and thusly related to the Four Cs. The book takes place years after the events of Seeds of Yesterday, and the events of the first series have apparently become local legend. People know that there were four Foxworth children locked in the attic, and that one of them died (poor Cory is now a sad local ghost story). The exact circumstances behind the children’s imprisonment isn’t known, nor does anyone seem to know that Chris and Cathy lived in the rebuilt Foxworth Hall with their son Bart later on. Kristin has to deal with jokes at her expense related to the supposed madness of the Foxworth family, exacerbated by her physical resemblance to the family (of COURSE). God forbid a Foxworth is a brunette. She’s fascinated with the story and while accompanying her father on a trip to the remains of Foxworth Hall, they find a metal box containing Chris’ diary. How convenient. The excerpt ends with Kristin realizing what she’s found, so we get very little of Chris’ voice. What we do get…doesn’t thrill me. I DO wish the excerpt differentiated between Kristin’s POV and Chris’ a little better, hopefully the book itself will have better formatting. I had to go back a couple times just to realize who was talking. The diary is apparently more of a memoir like Cathy’s, written after the fact, so I wonder what events will get covered. Do you think it’ll be a straight rehash, with all of the big moments or will there be mainly new stuff (that, somehow, Cathy never knew about despite being trapped in one room)? What insight can we get from someone who was never far from the action in the first book and really far away from it in the second?
I’m not super enthusiastic about the whole Kristin/Foxworth connection. It’s just so obvious. Of course she can’t just be an unrelated outsider, she has to be a distant cousin. And blonde and blue-eyed. Hell, her name starts with a K but it’s still alliterative! It’s all a little much. The bit that I’ve read so far, I’m not dying to spend more time with Kristin, but I guess I am in this now, so here we go.
And now…the letter. Oh god you guys. This letter. You think finding the diary is super convenient? This letter. We learn from the addendum that it was passed along by the most convoluted game of telephone since Coolio’s “Too Hot”. Chris Sr. wrote this letter shortly before he died, and it was found amongst his papers in their foreclosed house. (Wow, Corrine really didn’t concern herself with stuff, did she?) So…not in a safe. Not under a floorboard. Like, probably on his desk, between the gas bill and a reimbursement form from work. So the bank clerk who finds the letter is soooo shocked by what it says that he leaves it in a bag, that’s left in a warehouse owned by the bank that’s filled with stuff from other foreclosed houses. You still with me? Okay. Four years later, one Steven Clarkson does an inventory of said warehouse and finds the letter and is ALSO sooooo shocked by it, so much so that he brings it home to his mother-in-law (Tamatha Williams) to read. Nice. Tamatha (presumably also sooooo shocked) brings the letter to her friend Bernice Wheeler because Bernice used to be the neighbor of a family named Dollanganger. (These people need hobbies) Bernice is, you guessed it!, sooooo shocked, and is the FIRST PERSON to suggest that maybe they should just destroy the letter, but she and Tamatha decide that maybe the Dollanganger kids will need to read it someday, so they pop it into Bernice’s safe deposit box. How does that help them read it??? What?
So then one day, Bernice dies. (I have NOT EVEN GOTTEN TO THE LETTER YET) Her sister, Christina Brooks, (will these names mean anything? Doubtful) finds the letter in the safe deposit box and reads it and, instead of being sooooo shocked, sends the letter to a friend (Tad Jenkins) who works at the Charlottesville paper. DAMN CHRISTINA. THAT’S SOMEONE’S PERSONAL BUSINESS. Tad delivers the letter to “our source, who must at this time remain nameless”.
OH COME ON.
We’re told that we’ll get the source’s name in a “subsequent publication”. I tell y’all now, and I tell it true: If we get Surprise! Not dead! Cory! in a later book you will hear my screams from wherever you are. And yes, I know some of you are on other continents. You’ll hear it.
There is another theory though, one that Flowers in the Attic 2.0 puts forth in her discussion of the letter, and I think that’s probably the likely one. (fingers crossed) More on that in a moment.
This. Letter. Guys. Firstly, this family doesn’t shy away from flowery language that’s for darn sure.
“I have begun and stopped writing this letter many times. We live in a dangerous world, as you know all too well with the loss of your brothers and I always fear that someday I might lose you or you might lose me. If something happened to me tomorrow, for example, there would be so many, many things I would wish I had said.”
Calm down dude, calm. down. But I guess he has some reason to be a tad emotional about all of this, given the big reveal.
Let me throw out the biggest gem right away:
Chris Sr. knew he was Corrine’s brother.
Once more time.
Chris Sr. knew he was Corrine’s brother.
“I am not your half-uncle, my love. I am, in fact, your half-brother and not your half-uncle. Your father impregnated my mother. Actually, he forced himself upon her when she was living in your house. I stumbled upon a letter my mother had written to Olivia, a letter in which my mother was thanking her for bringing you up as she would her own daughter. Yes, my dearest, you and I had the same mother.”
What is with this family and these letters? I don’t necessarily expect a lot from poor Alicia, but dang girl. Now, we don’t get an exact time for when he learns this information, but it’s at least before the birth of the kids because he TELLS HER HOW AFRAID HE WAS EACH TIME SINCE THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING WRONG. Dude. DUDE. What???
“You never saw the abject terror and fear in my eyes every time one of our children was born. I knew what Olivia and your father meant when they talked about our children being born with horns and hooves and who knows what. I anticipated something terrible like two-headed babies, and then the doctor looking at us and wondering who and what we really were to each other.”
Sooo…what you’re telling us is….you felt like you had a solid reason to be fearful for the health and well-being of your children (and wife!), yet you kept your mouth shut because the doctors might look at you funny?! CHRISTOPHER. I know, he’s also concerned about the effect that this knowledge would have on Corrine, but it really comes across as “I was afraid you would leave me and also that people would judge us”.
“Perhaps, I didn’t tell you because I was so afraid you would leave me.”
Chris has got a lot of, shall we say, interesting interpretations of character, though.
“Olivia always knew all this. She knew what your father had done, but she had a way of willing the truth out of this world. Perhaps she did what she did to keep the peace and make all our lives possible after such a sin had been committed, a sin that could have doomed us all.”
I’m gonna go with “probably not”.
“Your father was your father and as any father who loved his daughter well, he lavished so much attention on you. However, every time he set eyes on you, especially in Olivia’s presence, he must have felt pangs of guilt. I think he was always trying to make it up to Olivia, thinking that every time she looked at you, she saw the child her husband had created with his sister-in-law.”
Yeah, also no. Oh, and Alicia was Malcolm’s STEPMOTHER not his sister-in-law. Come on, Christopher, draw a family tree, dude.
The rest of the letter is a lot of apologies and the talk about guilt and sin that we’ve come to expect from these folks. Oh and some stuff about the kids that just sticks in my craw:
“Does this make everything worse for us, and more important, for our children? I don’t know. When I look at Cathy, at how beautiful she is, how intelligent Christopher Jr. is and how like precious jewels our twins are, I feel confident that we have somehow escaped the curse of incestuous love. Perhaps our love for each other was and has been too strong for it to matter. Is that a romantic idealism? Maybe.”
Thank god Cathy is pretty, I mean good LORD can you imagine the world for a girl who isn’t?? The twins are…non-entities and OH THANK HEAVENS OUR SON IS SMART. Boys SHOULD be smart, you know, they have to do all the work!
“You knew how much I had wanted to be a doctor and how pleased I am that Christopher not only has the intelligence to become one but sees it as his true destiny, his purpose in life. I will live my dream through my son. I was willing to make that sacrifice for you and I’m willing to keep making it.
You must promise me, however, especially if you’re reading this letter after I have been taken away from you and our children, that you will do everything you possibly can to see that Christopher lives his dream, his and my dream. I know it would be an unfair burden placed on your shoulders for I have not yet become the provider I dreamed I would be, but you surely will feel the same need to make this happen and somehow find the way.”
“I will live my dream through my son.”
“his dream, his and my dream.”
“I was willing to make that sacrifice for you and I’m willing to keep making it.”
Ooof, pal, get down off the cross, we need the wood.
“We both feel that our Cathy will do something wonderful with her fascination with dance. She is so graceful, even now, so young. It’s easy to see she has inherited your beauty, your lithe, angelic movements. She must be encouraged, but more important, supported. Artists, musicians, anyone in entertainment have a special temperament, just like we can see Cathy has. Nurture it and like a candle that flickers to drive away the darkness in our lives, keep her flame burning.”
“Cathy is so pretty and graceful but also a big old drama queen, we should probably just give in to that”. (I love Cathy but…yeah)
There are a couple of tidbits that may (in the case of the first) or may not (the second) mean anything in the long run. The first is actually the confession that starts the letter, I guess Chris wanted to start off small.
“Sometimes, however, love can be a very selfish thing. I wonder often if I didn’t take advantage of you. I know you will never say I did, but you were so young, and, although I never told you and indeed pretended the otherwise, I was not a virgin when I returned home from college and we first made love in your grandmother’s Swan room. I pretended to be because I thought it made you more comfortable, although it was clear that neither of us could keep away from the other much longer.”
Now, we know from Corrine’s side of the story that she was setting her cap for Chris for a while, but without my books immediately to hand I don’t want to try to figure out who made what move first. The point of this quote was the comment about not being a virgin, which has to mean something later, right? Like I mentioned above, Flowers in the Attic 2.0’s theory is that said sexual encounter led to a child, who will turn out to be the ~*secret brother*~ of upcoming book fame, rather than a grown-up Cory/descendent of Cory. This is my going theory too. I don’t want any secret brothers of any stripe, frankly, but I would MUCH rather have Chris Sr’s College Lovechild than Amnesiac Cory in an Orphanage any day.
And for the second little something
“John Amos was always preaching to us, telling us things like the sins of the father will rest on the heads of his children. I saw the way he looked at you whenever he said something like that. At first I had no idea why and then, when I knew, I understood. He always knew the truth. He was a hateful man. It was more him than anyone who turned Olivia and Malcolm against us.”
John Amos is just the weirdest character of all. He’s banging maids in FitA, LET’S NOT EVEN DISCUSS ITBT RIGHT NOW, he’s basically what Joel became in SoY, preaching into Olivia’s ear in GoS…and now I guess he’s the villain of the whole series? He’s definitely pouring poison into Olivia’s ear in GoS, that’s true, but I don’t think he engineered her entire personality all on his own. Ugh, I don’t like even talking about John Amos yet, let’s deal with him when we have to.
“I will put this letter in an envelope now, but I will not write your name on the outside until I find the courage.
Something I might never find.”
Obviously (see above paper trail)
Oh man. I don’t think I like this letter, you guys. I’ve never thought a lot about Chris Sr. He lived, he died, he’s set up as a good man who loved his family. And that’s fine, for the most part. He’s a little too revered, maybe, but I don’t think that’s uncommon for people who have lost a loved one, especially children who lose a parent. Now all of this…I can’t get over the fact that he just stood by through three pregnancies and what, crossed his fingers? What was he going to do if something WAS wrong? What if something was wrong that had nothing to do with his and Corrine’s relationship? Would he just assume the worst and lose it? Was he going to hide the baby? Pretend it died? Cover–
Oh god you guys you don’t think.
MOVING ON. I WILL NOT THINK ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW.
The letter’s existence seems to hinge on the virginity revelation, and possibly the John Amos stuff, and I don’t know if that’s worth it? It was a fun feature to promote a book release, I will say that.
This has become a ramble, so I’m going to close it up. Please discuss in the comments! Did you like the letter? Did you think it was necessary? Do we all agree to form a We Hate John Amos club? And what are we thinking about SoF? So much is happening!!