I recall the moment in my high school math class (my least favorite subject) when I spotted a classmate with a paperback copy of Flowers in the Attic stashed under her desk. I began to see the book floating around the halls and whispered about in the girls’ locker room—something about child abuse, incest with a brother. Beyond intrigued, I immediately bought a copy from one of those revolving racks in the drugstore. I read it in one day and never forgot it. It wasn’t just the unsavory sex that kept me riveted. The subject of family secrets, a mother and grandmother doing horrible things to children, was something rarely–if ever–discussed at that time. The gothic melodrama catapulted to the top of the bestseller list, threatening to topple Stephen King from his throne. And who can forget the cover!
When King accused VC Andrews of writing bad prose in his book On Writing, I doubt if it was just professional jealousy at work. If I’m being generous to Mr. King, I believe he meant that she is a bad writer in the same way Margaret Keane is a “bad” artist. I’m sure their popularity drove the cognoscenti of both art and literary worlds mad, but still, as Warhol quipped about Keane’s art, “If it were bad, so many people wouldn’t like it.”
We don’t expect ” good ” literature when we read VC Andrews or the many series penned by her ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman after her death. But we do expect to be entertained in the way only connoisseurs of the genre understand. And what is the genre exactly? Well, that’s been debated, but in Neiderman’s new VC Andrews biography, The Woman Beyond the Attic, he asserts that she created her own genre. I agree. And what a fun genre it is—a bit of romance, but no syrupy happy endings, a lot of sex and suffering. In other words, it’s like life, for many women especially, the keepers of family secrets.
Neiderman’s The Woman Beyond the Attic delves into VC Andews’ life and exposes some secrets along the way, including her mysterious illness, relationship with her mother, and the impact of her work.
Although I suspect many fans won’t be satisfied, I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Below is my video where I discuss the book in more detail.