It has been too long since we posted a book review. I’m not sure if all of you know, but last Saturday evening Lifetime premiered their re-make of Flowers in the Attic, based on the 1979 novel by V.C. Andrews. Since I first saw the trailer for this film (while watching Project Runway All-Stars), I became as obsessed as I was as a kid reading this novel. I also tried to remember how old I was when I read the book and decided I had to be around eleven years old. Read on, but know that I am no film or book critic. I just thought I would share my thoughts, feelings, and reaction to all of this.
Honestly, I was too young for all of the issues the book dealt with, but I was an early bloomer when it came to books. I was a voracious reader whether I completely understood everything in the book or not. And the stories of the Dollanganger family mesmerized me. I believe it was the cruelty they faced by the hands of their grandmother and mother. I also have no doubt that the “other stuff” in the book was fascinating to me as well.
Last week I re-read Flowers to be prepared for the film. And I watched the 1987 version of the movie. I’m not going to waste much time on that film version. Victoria Tenant was great as Corrine, the mother. And Louise Fletcher was frightening as the fanatical grandmother. But the movie was trash for the most part. The horrible wig that Kristy Swanson (who played Cathy) sported after the forced haircut was appalling. I walked away from it (and yes, I saw it in the theatre here in Oxford) a bit angry. Not closely true to the book.
Reading the novel again as a 41 year-old was fascinating. And thinking of myself as a pre-teen reading it made me laugh and cringe a bit. Flowers is dark and graphic. But once again, I was captured by this story of the four children who were locked in one room and an attic so their mother could inherit a fortune. I finished it Friday night and then could barely hold on until the Lifetime movie Saturday evening. Why? I think it was because this series of novels was a huge part of my childhood and I wanted to see it portrayed in a better way than 1987. I was not disappointed. Except that this should have been a three night event. This version was much closer to the novel but was too short to get all of the beauty and evil of the book covered. And Heather Graham? Well, no offense to her. I have loved her in many things (Twin Peaks) but she did please me. I really loved Ellen Burstyn as the grandmother. She is exactly how I imagined her as a child. Ruthless, built like a tank, and unwilling to show any mercy. And Sally Draper aka Kiernan Shipka as Cathy Dollanganger? I adore Mad Men so I was so excited to see her in a different role. Her Cathy was great but rushed. That’s where Lifetime made a mistake.
This film version was so much closer to the novel than the previous one. My opinion is that HBO or Showtime should have taken this twisted tale on. It could have been longer with no commercials (although I now want to see Lizzie Borden staring Christina Ricci) and more of the violence and darkness of the book. And who knows? In 20 more years, another film could be shot that will finally be “the” film that truthfully depicts this book.
I will end this ramble with a sincere thank you to my mother. She allowed me to read things that were probably ahead of my age and ability to understand. But she knew that I was ready to explore things and issues through the written word. Many people have told me they passed Flowers in the Attic around because they were not allowed to read it. I am grateful that I had the freedom to devour this book out in the open. I’m sure I bought it and the sequels from Square Books when it was above Neilson’s on the Oxford Square. I spent so much time during the past two weeks in my pre-teen head. I think that can be an enlightening thing.