Review: Beneath the Attic by V.C. Andrews
For fans of Flowers in the Attic of the many mysteries of the novel and its sequels is who was the first Corrine, the mysterious woman who slept in the swan bed, who gave birth to the formidable Malcolm Foxworth and whose granddaughter would be named after her and eventually persuaded to lock her children away in an attic and slowly poison them. Was Corrine the evil monster that Malcolm portrayed her to be? Or was she really the smartest Foxworth woman of them all, the one who was able to escape and leave every trace of Foxworth Hall behind?
Beneath the Attic, the first volume in a three part spin-off prequel series written by V.C. Andrews ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman seeks to answer that question. The novel opens in the late 19th century with Corrine a spoiled and sexually precocious young woman who finds herself in a bit too deep when she makes the acquaintance of Garland Foxworth, an ultra rich twenty-something. Garland wastes no time in taking advantage of Corrine, grooming, seducing and date-raping the young woman. What follows is an irate father, a shotgun wedding and a very foolish decision by a young woman too naive to know what is good for her, with parents who are easily seduced by the promise of money and a good family and business reputation.
While this novel certainly seeks to answer a question that has been debated by fans of the original series for almost forty years, what it lacks is depth and authenticity. In many respects, Corrine speaks and behaves like a modern teenager, rather than a young woman brought up in a respectable middle class family. There are also other problems--the speech used feels too modern. (I found myself raising my eyebrow just a little when a British maid used the term "loo" to describe a toilet, a word which was not commonly used in Great Britain until the 1940s.) As is often the case with the modern V.C. Andrews titles, there was a fair bit of uncomfortable sexual content that felt as though it was there for shock value, rather than adding anything to the story. (Yes, okay, V.C. Andrews herself was the queen of adding bizarre sexual content for shock value, but she had a unique way of weaving it into the story in such a way that the plot rarely worked without it.) Garland Foxworth is portrayed as a very different man to the happy, charismatic man who (lets face it) got away with marrying a woman forty years his junior in Garden of Shadows (also penned by Neiderman, and possibly based upon notes made by V.C. Andrews and VCA editor Ann Patty.) This Garland is controlling, calculating and a little cruel. Then again, he is also younger. And the Garden of Shadows version was a man seen through the eyes of Olivia Foxworth, a VCA character who would probably make anyone seem jolly and downright nice by comparison.
But perhaps the biggest failing of this book is the fact that very little actually happens. Yes, Corrine is pregnant with whom the reader supposes is Malcolm, but the whole thing could have been told in a short story, or perhaps even the first part of a longer novel.