Oh golly-lolly day! Here we go.
Flowers in the Attic presents itself as a true story. The short prologue is Cathy noting that she’s masking her life story as fiction, but that she’s still hoping that the people who should be affected by her story (who are…who, at the point that she’s writing this? SPOILER: Everyone’s dead) will be affected and something something she wanted to call the book Open the Window and Stand in the Sunshine, which is amazing.
Our story proper begins “back in the Fifties” (fun fact: by the last Cathy-narrated book, it’s actually *the future* since it would have been taking place in the late ’80s/early ’90s) as Cathy describes her bland as hell blonde family. They live in Gladstone, PA, where their “all-American, wholesome, devastatingly good-looking” father works as a PR man for a computer-manufacturing firm. NOTE: that was the description that his boss gives of him. Harassment! Chris the Elder is 6’2 and blond and hawt and everyone loves him, especially his gorgeous wife Corrine (who spends all day on Fridays getting made up for her husband’s homecoming, yet he thinks she doesn’t wear makeup because he is an idiot) and their two children, Christopher and Catherine. Remember them now, kittens, we will never tolerate Christopher again. One winter afternoon Chris and Cathy come home to find their mother knitting tiny clothes and eventually she tells them that she’s pregnant with twins. Chris can’t even handle feeling the babies kicking because he already has boundary issues and Cathy freaks the h out because she worries about being supplanted in her father’s heart. Chris the Elder comes home that night and gives Cathy a ballerina music box and a birthstone ring and assures her that he’ll always love her, no matter what. Awwww, that’s actually sweet. Now, in the movie they throw some Corrine drama into this scene:
but in the book she’s pretty happy with how much her family loves each other.
So eventually the babies are born and are twins Cory and Carrie and Cathy loves them and everyone is happy. EXCEPT for their neighbor/babysitter who thinks that Chris the Elder and Corrine look “more like brother and sister” than they do spouses (FORESHADOWING AND ALSO THE TRUTH), but everyone just laughs that away and life is good for a few years.
How awkward must that have been for Chris the Elder and Corrine?
And then Chris the Elder dies. It’s a pretty sad scene, all told, they’re waiting with a surprise party for him and instead the police come to the door, but this is not why we’re here. We’re here because as soon as he dies, Cathy gets snotty that they never had a pet, because if they’d had a dog or a hamster who died it would have prepared them for the death of their father. JFC Cathy. Then she decides that she’ll just pretend that her dad is on a business trip and that he’ll come home one day, but Corrine shuts that down right quick.
So they start to lose all their stuff to the repo men because Chris bought his wife whatever she wanted on credit and eventually she gathers her children around to tell them something weird. See, they’d always thought that their parents were both orphans, but, turns out, that Corrine’s parents are alive and extremely wealthy. She was disinherited for reasons she doesn’t get into and oh by the way, their real last name is Foxworth, not Dollanganger. (Cathy is pissed that they changed their name to something so hard to spell.) Long story and striding around in a negligee short, Corrine tells her older kids her brilliant plan: they’ll go live with her parents, as her father is dying, and she’ll use the time he has left to charm him into writing her back into the will. Cathy and Chris are swept away by her descriptions of wealth and agree that this is a good plan.
It is not a good plan.
Just in case you wondered.
So off they go one night, on a train to Virginia. Chris and Cathy are a little suspicious when the conductor calls Corrine by an assumed name, and when they get off the train in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, and when she leaves her luggage in the station, but they shrug it off and march down the road to their grandparents’ house. And what a house it is and what a creepy old lady lets them in and leads them up some back stairs and into a bedroom. And boom! yep, this old lady is their grandmother. She’s tall and severe and her bosom looks like twin hills of concrete (it says that!) and Cathy immediately dislikes her. It probably doesn’t help that like the second thing she does is ask Corrine if the kids are pretty but stupid. Chris and Cathy dress the twins in their PJs and put them into one of the double beds, where they immediately fall asleep. They then huddle together a bit under the grandmother’s gaze and she instantly points out to Corrine that they can’t sleep in the same bed. Corrine protests too much at this, but her mother points out that she used to believe that Corrine and her “half-uncle” were innocent too. Ooops. Chris and Cathy are just a little shocked to get this tidbit. It’s now that they find out that they’re all (sans Corrine) going to be sleeping in this one room, as it’s the only one where their grandfather and the servants won’t hear them.
It’s now that another part of this whole plan is revealed: see, while Corrine is busy trying to win back her father’s love, her kids have to hide upstairs and pretend not to exist until she brings them down. Oh. Also, the grandmother (okay, enough of that—OLIVIA) will bring the kids food and milk in the morning, but they have to make sure to hide all evidence that they’re there before the maids come in and clean once a month. They move the twins to different beds and get ready themselves, and Corrine assures her older kids that it won’t take her but so long to win back her dad and she and Olivia leave. Chris and Cathy muse over that “half-uncle” thing for a bit, but finally decide to wait until their mother explains it and go to sleep.
OKAY so here we are. Next time: Olivia’s rules, the attic, some Corrine backstory and that time the grandmother lifts Carrie by her hair. Fun times!