Content warning: this novel contains a depiction of sexual assault.
When a novel starts off with a young girl being chastised for getting her first period earlier than expected, you know you’re probably reading something historical. But when said novel is by V. C. Andrews, it’s just another day for the Dollangangers.
Beneath the Attic (Gallery Books) is the story of Corrine Dixon, the beginning of her relationship with Garland Foxworth (Foxworth Hall’s attic is the main setting of Flowers in the Attic) and the mysteries and secrets surrounding the estate and its owner. This novel is one of two prequels to the controversial and wildly popular Flowers in the Attic written forty years ago, with a third prequel planned for 2020. This story sets us two generations before Corrine Foxworth locks her grandchildren in the attic and sets the stage for what’s to come in the series.
Foxworth Hall, the grandest estate in Virginia, is a looming and haunting character throughout the novels. If you are new to the Dollanganger series, Beneath the Attic is an introduction to the imposing estate, and even though it is “newer” in this novel, Andrews’ descriptions show it had a heyday, but we’re now on the waning side. With several rooms closed off, darkness abounding, and out-of-date items all around, one can feel the layer of dust of the Hall as if it were literally on the page.
However, if you have read Flowers in the Attic, this novel’s depiction seems like a sort of homage to Foxworth Hall and the terror to come for the Dollanganger children (here, Corrine Dixon’s great-great-grandchildren). There are several attic mentions, and as Corrine Dixon explores the great ballroom and beyond, one is reminded about those scenes from the origin story. It is as if you were looking backward and forward in time at the same moment.
Also created as a homage character is Corrine Dixon. This book is told in the first person from her point of view. Immediately, readers get a flawless representation of a nineteenth-century “Mean Girl.” Corrine knows she’s pretty, but she also feels she’s the most knowledgeable of her friend circle when it comes to sexual matters. But when she meets Garland Foxworth, she finds she may not be as knowledgeable as she thought. She’s going to have to use some of that false confidence and real bravado and stubbornness to hold her own with him. The personality characteristics throughout the novel remind readers of Flowers’ Corrine Foxworth, the judgmental, cruel grandmother who thought herself superior and kept appearances up and her chin held high, even as she trapped and tormented her grandchildren.
Garland Foxworth is older than Corrine by seven years, and more worldly, but he’s also a bit delusional, and like Foxworth Hall, he’s haunted by the past. He’s managed to charm most of the people he meets, including Corrine, but cracks in his façade show even through Corrine’s love-clouded vision.
Whether you’re new to the Dollanganger series or looking for more, Beneath the Attic’s story will keep you turning pages. One thing’s for sure: you’ll never look at limoncello the same way again.
Beneath the Attic is now available for purchase.
V. C. Andrews’ Ghostwriter, Andrew Neiderman
Andrew Neiderman was born in Brooklyn. His family moved to the Catskills of New York when he was an infant. He is a graduate of the State University of Albany where he received his Masters in English. He taught at Fallsburg High School for 23 years before leaving to pursue a career as a novelist and screenwriter. As a teacher, he served as department chairman, faculty president, county teachers association president, director of dramatics and wrestling coach. He has been married for forty-four years to the former Diane Wilson of Fallsburg and they have two children, Melissa, a teacher at the Palm Valley School in Rancho Mirage, California and Erik, a private commercial jet pilot. The Neidermans have three grandchildren.