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Garden of Shadows (Dollanganger)
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81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2005
Somewhere along the line, the Flowers In The Attic series lost its luster. The original is a classic tale of horror and betrayal, still shocking to this day. Its sequel, Petals On The Wind, seemed approrpriate in that it answered that question all good books leave one asking: "I wonder what happened next?" And who didn't want to find out not only how these children survived in the outside world, but in what way they lashed out at those who had harmed them? Books three and four - If There Be Thorns and Seeds Of Yesterday, respectively - were... well, less interesting would be a kind way of putting it. In fact, many a reader got to the midway point of Seeds and couldn't help but be struck by a sense of "been there, read that." And perhaps that was, in part, the point of the book: To show that no matter what Cathy and Chris did, the horrors of the attic would haunt their minds and influence their actions.

It's not surprising, therefore, that many readers probably opted to pass on the fifth installment, Garden of Shadows.

How sad for them!

In what would later become a hallmark of the typical VC Andrews series - and continue with the books written by the far-less talented ghost writer in the wake of her death - the final book in the series is, in fact, a prequel, giving us a glimpse into the life of Olivia - aka the mean, awful, hateful grandmother from Flowers In The Attic - and allowing us to better understand her actions.

As would also become a tradition in the VC Andrews novels, this book also reveals a final, shocking twist which allows readers to see the entire series in a new light.

How well written is Garden of Shadows? Well, a friend who was not familiar with the works of VC Andrews read this book before reading Flowers in the Attic. As a result, it pained him to see the grandmother portrayed as cruel and hateful. Given her actions during the course of Flowers in the Attic, that's really saying something!

Without giving away too much of the story, Garden follows the story of Olivia, who is brought to Foxworth Hall as the wife of the tyranical Malcolm Foxworth. She is innocent, young and beautiful - the perfect heroine, given the emotional tortures we know Andrews will unleash upon her! Before long, her husband's dark desires turn the innocent young woman's life upside down.

Were VC Andrews still alive, I would like nothing better to see a sixth book in this series, telling the events of Flowers in the Attic through the eyes of Olivia. Sadly, under the current writing regime and their "crank it out even if the books suck" this promising premise would no doubt be unworthy of the paper it might be printed upon.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2000
Absolutely Riveting!
Although Garden of Shadows was the last book written in the series of the Dollanganger family, it is the prequel to Flowers in the Attic therefore it was the first book I read in the series. Having seen the movie Flowers in the Attic, many times, there were a lot of questions I had. Well, Garden of Shadows answered my questions ten times over and left me with my eyes wide open (and probably my jaw dragging the floor). Once I started reading I found it hard to put the book down. Sometimes I would read it until my eyes watered. It shows how Olivia goes from being a sad child/teenager growing up without her mother, to being a hopeful and seemingly sweet teenager with dreams of her own to being one of the most wicked people you've ever known. It's symbolic how she relates life to her dollhouse in the glass case with the perfect family of untouchable, porcelain people inside because once she moved into Foxworth Hall, that's how her life was; not perfect but untouchable. This book portrayed how the one person Olivia came to depend on, who she thought would be the light of her life, the one who would turn her otherwise gray life bright, had the exact opposite affect. It portrayed how one man can have so much more than others but still want so much more and will walk over anyone and anything to get it. It also shows Olivia's devotion to Malcolm even when she could have easily walked away. The detail in the book made me see everything exactly the way it was supposed to be. I felt as if I was living everything the characters in the book lived. The way the narrator described the house, each room, each piece of furniture (down to the rugs), each character, their clothing, their expressions and what they were feeling was all so real. The only thing that could have been more developed were the male children's characters; Mal, Joel and Christopher. The narrator mentioned them often but we never really got to know them through their own words and thoughts as we did with Corinne. As I read further into the book, it made me see why Olivia acted the way she did in Flowers in the Attic. I still didn't in anyway agree with the way she treated her grandchildren because who they were wasn't their fault. They were innocent children caught up in a web of deceit and lies and they had to grow up long before they should have had to. THEY didn't even know who they REALLY were. As I said, it did make me understand why she was the way she was; why she always wore gray; why she was so stern; why she was so cold and uncaring. In Garden of Shadows, Foxworth Hall was in a state of total turmoil, much more than in Flowers in the Attic (if you can believe that). If you've seen or read Flowers in the Attic, then Garden of Shadows is a must read. It will clear up any questions you may have about that story.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 8, 2003
I had seen the movie version of "Flowers in the Attic" many times on TV and I wondered why in the world Olivia Foxworth was such an evil, hateful woman. I also wondered how Corrine Foxworth (Dollanganger) could leave her children and be so selfish. Well, all of those questions are answered in the book "Garden of Shadows", the prequel to "Flowers in the Attic".
Even though this book was written last, I chose to read it first because it gives so much background and explanations for the things that occured in "Flowers in the Attic". The book centers around Olivia Winfield Foxworth, a plain-jane who dreams of being whisked away by her knight in shining armor. One day the dashing and handsome Malcolm Foxworth steps into her life. She is immediately smitten with him and he seems to feel the same towards her. They get married rather quickly and Olivia cannot wait to begin her wonderful new life on the arm of her handsome husband. What Olivia dreamed of and what she received were two very different things. Olivia soon learns that her marriage is one of convenience and not love, no matter how much she prayed and wished for it. Malcolm mainly wanted Olivia because he thought she would be a good breeder. Malcolm is a very stern and scary man who could intimidate people with one look.
Soon Olivia adapts to her life and we begin to see the transformation from the carefree, whimsical girl she used to be into the cold, hardened woman that we all know from "Flowers in the Attic". Although Olivia is a woman you love to hate, you understand why she became what she became due to loss, pain, hate, and an immense longing for love from her husband.
I would highly recommend this book to people who are fans of "Flowers in the Attic", and I would suggest reading this book before reading the rest of the series. I know you will love this book! It truly is incredible!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 1998
"Garden of Shadows", the prequel to "Flowers in the Attic", stands head and shoulders above "Flowers" as far as storytelling and plot. For one thing, our tragic heroine is NOT a beautiful young maiden in distress, which has gotten downright tiresome, especially since a new series of a new "tortured beauty" are relentlessly cranked out by Andrew Neiderman on a twice-yearly basis (for heaven's sake, PLEASE give V. C. Andrews a rest. We KNOW the difference between HER work and NEIDERMAN's. Give us some CREDIT.).
Getting back to the story, Olivia Foxworth (who will soon grow up to be the steely-eyed Evil Grandmother) is a tall, gawky adolescent with no social skills (the ability to flirt is a very important thing in the early 1900's). Clearly, Olivia is ahead of her time, being a smart, shrewd businesswoman who's a whiz with numbers, but her father despairs of her being the perpetual "old maid" and wants her married off immediately. Therefore, this poor "Hedda Gabler" woman, who is too strong and masculine for most men, meets her match in the young, dapper Malcolm Foxworth. It's fascinating to read about Olivia's "blushing" and "shyness" in the presence of the handsome Malcolm, and being reminded that this is the same Evil Grandmother who whipped her daughter and starved her grandchildren. In any case, poor Olivia is delirious with joy when Malcolm proposes, and dreams of being the Queen of the Castle to Malcolm's King, living in a heavenly state of matrimony forever. As the wedding approaches, and Olivia gradually learns that their union is far from a "love" partnership, her pain is so devastating that one can easily see how Olivia became so bitter. To make matters worse, her father-in-law and his beautiful new bride are the exact picture of the happy couple in love, and the sight of their affection torments Olivia at an even deeper level.
The real problem for Olivia is that, also like Hedda Gabler, she is far too conventional to do the unthinkable (a divorce, for instance), and therefore resigns herself to a lifetime of loneliness and humiliation at the hands of her philandering husband, who shows no sexual desire whatsoever for his wife. The usual V. C. Andrews plot elements surface here: death, betrayal, and scandal, and these tragedies afford Olivia the chance to show her masculine power and give Malcolm a run for his money (literally). If she cannot be the woman he desires, Olivia thinks, she will be a business partner with intelligence and the ability to command respect from her husband.
One drawback of this story (and this is true of most of the series) is that we don't get to see enough of the children's point of view. Little Mal is obviously a stubborn "live wire", but he is never seen arguing with his father, nor do we learn much about him as a person. That also applies to Joel, the "sensitive artist and musician" who is constantly berated by his father for being a sissy. Most of all, Corinne, the "daddy's golden girl", is shown to be silly, shallow, and overly concerned with her effects on men, but it would be interesting to see more of her personality, especially in light of the later revelations, particularly John Amos Jackson's stalking of her. There are numerous inconsistencies here, too, although that might be because of the "narrator", but not once in this story do we see the "religious fanaticism" that Momma complained about in "Flowers". Nor do we see Olivia as a "selfish cruel woman" who never gave Corinne "an ounce of love", and this is rather puzzling. Even a small incident, such as Corinne's first period, is told in a dramatically different way by Olivia, than the story Corinne relates to her children in "Flowers". The result, needless to say, is confusing. Are we to believe that Olivia is a liar, or Corinne, or both? Then again, maybe that's the whole point: the eye of the beholder, and so forth. Another drawback: Christopher Garland, who will become Papa Dollanganger, is merely another version of his son: perpetually cheerful, optimistic and bordering on god-like (excepting his predilection for his dazzling blonde half-niece). It would be nice if he (and his son) could be more developed as characters; instead, he's a mere symbol of Prince Charming and eternal love. The drawbacks notwithstanding, Olivia is still a fascinating character, and so is Malcolm (it's too bad we don't get to learn a little more about his twisted past than his "little black book" in "Thorns").
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 1999
The one liner above this sentence is what immediately caught my attention at the bookstore a few months ago.
Okay, so let me get this straight:
Within "FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC", you meet the most perfect heroine you'd ever expect. Her name is Cathy. Her mother is a selfish, elusively beautiful woman with many terrible secrets that should have forever been locked away, or else let go of, if that was possible. And because of Corrine's (her mother) conceited, selfish ways she led her children up to a malicious attic where they had nothing to embrace but the dusty darkness....and each other....(THAT'S RIGHT!)
In "Petals on the Wind", they barely managed to escape the certain fate that one of their siblings had never recovered from, and because of their shameful past and shattered innocence, the children were swept into the loving arms of a parent that dared to love them a thousand more breaths then Corrine ever did! Yet that still didn't stop the past from continuing its dark legacy in the Dollangangers' lives....
In "If There Be Thorns", the evil past grew despite Cathy and Chris's attempts to stop it, and in the final haunting novel of the Dollanganger Series, "Seeds of Yesterday", the past is monstrous in its enraged fury, leading to an unescapable path for the Dollangangers, unless their family finally banishes the evil forever...if that's possible....
And now, when I have regretfully finished the last book of the series, I was fortunate to come across a copy at a bookstore (whenever I go to a bookstore, they're either sold out or they don't have it) of the prelude to this shocking series.
And as I picked this book up, I turned the pages, one after another, bought it, and read it at home.
I loved it. Is just as devastating, emotional, and as remorseful as hell. This was disturbing, stunning, and beautifully put together. Yet, I am confused by many thoughts that won't go away in my mind.
Olivia ("THE Grandmother") was given such a harsh life, one that was greatly portraited in this novel, but how can her stories contradict Corrine's and Corrine's contradict her mother's?
It's very confusing, and though the questions will never be answered, I loved this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2006
Dollenganger fans, I beseech you not to read this book first; it will distort your perception and interpretation of the events in the other stories, and alter your experience of the saga. A prequel is designed to encourage you to look back and reassess your feelings about the stories you have already read. After reading this book, I started over, and finished my second helping of "Flowers" last night. Wow! What a different and fascinating experience!

The first time I read "Flowers" I viewed Olivia as a single-dimensional quasi/evil character. Such characters are perfectly acceptable to me in fiction. But reading "Garden" lent Olivia amazing depth from a character analysis point of view. It put so much of what she did into context. NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT, are there any excuses for what she did to the children, and the fact that there are no excuses is what (to me) defines Olivia's character. I now see her as someone whose underlying motivation is to hide from who she is. I don't believe that she inherently enjoyed controlling and abusing others (the way Malcolm and John Amos did) she did those things as a means to an end. She was unbearably jealous of everything about Alicia, and couldn't resist the opportunity to lash out at her in evil ways. Yet, she doesn't want to see herself as such a reprehensible person, so she convinces herself that she has different reasons for doing it, and that she can absolve herself of what she did by being a loving mother to Corrine and by being religious. Of course, her quest for absolution never drives her to tell Christopher and Corrine the truth about themselves, and no doubt she pondered how differently things might have turned out if she had. Thus, she is completely undone by how things did turn out, and she is completely unable to deal with it. She clings to God somewhat as a comfort, but mostly as a shield from her responsibility for all that happened. Distance gave her some semblance of peace, but the return of Corrine and the children brought all of the issues in front of her face, and she couldn't handle it. "Garden" ends with her locking the door. And rereading "Flowers" shows how desperately she runs from herself. The more she is able to convince herself that the children are devil's spawn, and that she is a woman of God, the less guilt and blame she feels for herself. In this way, she can continue to see herself as she wishes she were, not for who she really is. It is heartbreaking, really. Had she been in search of true absolution and forgivness, she would have genuinely repented to God, made amends, and enjoyed a great deal of love in her life during her old age. But she had too much pride and too much fear of self-acceptance, so much so that she became an evil person that she never set out to be. It makes the confrontation with Cathy in "Petals" so incredibly poignant. She was powerless and helpless in that scene. But now, I don't think her true terror was of what Cathy might do to her. It was that there was nothing to do and nowhere to run from the truth about what she had done and who she was. The tears in her eyes while she gazed at Carrie's hair said it all; if only for that moment, she was feeling the weight of how much she was to blame for almost everything.

So many layers to such a fascinating saga! I encourage everyone to read all five books, in the order that they were published, and not to force too many expectations. Each book has a different mood, a different feel, and some parts are notoriously disliked by Dollanganger fans. But you must read the entire story; it is an experience that no book lover should be without.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2006
When "Flowers in the Attic" was first published, I was in high school - it was *THE* book that ALL the girls in class were reading and talking about. "Petals on the Wind" was a pretty decent continuation - the next two books were definitely lacking something - I've only read each of them once, just to find out what happened (pretty anticlimatic). However, "Garden of Shadows" more than makes up for the inadequacies of "If There Be Thorns" and "Seeds of Yesterday". I'm pretty certain from the writing style that this was largely written by Ms. Andrews herself - I stopped reading the Andrews books after the Casteel series, because they were becoming WAY too predictable. Anyway - back to Garden of Shadows. Ms. Andrews took the grandmother (Olivia) - who was evil incarnate in "Flowers" and let us see things from HER point of view. In reading the book, it becomes clear that the motivation for the hiding, abuse and attempted murder of the Dollanganger children was not Olivia's idea, but rather done under the influence of her cousin and apparently only close friend, John Amos, whom she seems to see as the direct mouthpiece of God himself. (in one passage near the end of the book, she tells him "...I haven't been honest with the Lord. I haven't told you everything.") Certainly, Malcolm used Olivia for his own purposes and he was sick and twisted, but the real genuine evil is almost entirely from John Amos. Anyway - my recommendation is to read this book LAST - not BEFORE all the other books. It was definitely meant to be read as a final statement to the series, tying up all the loose ends that remained un-tied following "Seeds". In fact, I would recommend just reading "Flowers", "Petals", and this book. Forget about the other two...
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2006
I don't really accept this book as a true part of the "Flowers in the Attic" story -- any more than I accept "The Phantom Menace" as a real part of the Star Wars epic -- but I have to admit, it's a fun read, and I found it much more interesting than I thought I would. And, yes, it's certainly a lot better than "The Phantom Menace" (not that that's saying much).

So, why the disclaimers? Well, for starters, there's quite a bit that doesn't jibe with "Flowers in the Attic." Additionally, a lot of key issues aren't dealt with. For example, in a story dealing with the young Corinne, you would expect to see some sort of a hint of a deficiency in her character, some darkness that would jibe with what we see later, in "Flowers in the Attic." Similarly, the character of Olivia is not what it should be. You expect to see a real transformation in her, and you see a bit of one -- but not enough. There's not enough to foreshadow the monstrosity that follows. In addition to that, within this novel itself, the character's behavior is inconsistent. I get the feeling that the author thinks that these fluctuations are nuances, but they just seem unreal.

On the upside, though: the author definitely understands Southern gothic, and he (or she) weaves in some funky surprises that not only fit into the basic FITA story, but complement it nicely, and make you think about it in new ways. The character of Alicia, who we hear so much about in the other books, comes to life vividly. Best of all, there's a painfully ironic twist at the very end of the book that, I have to admit, I don't totally buy, but it's a gutsy choice, and it's fun to mull over the fact that things could have happened that way.

In sum: it's a fun read, best enjoyed if you think of it as the brainstorm of a good friend imagining how the Dollanaganger kids came to be locked in the attic. Then you can come up with your own version. Too bad we'll never know for sure what V.C. Andrews thought.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2005
Why was Olivia Foxworth so evil? Do we really care? We do care, and although there's no acceptable excuse for Olivia's behavior in "Flowers in the Attic", so we don't really expect one, at least we get some insight into her character. Interestingly enough, this is the only female narrator Andrews created while she was living who isn't so devastatingly, supernaturally beautiful that her brothers/foster fathers/uncles feel compelled to break the laws of God and man (and credulity, and good taste!)to molest her. But, like all the other Andrews'women-(before the ghostwriter), her first encounter with love and or sexuality will be traumatic and abusive.

Olivia is homely, extremely tall, and awkward. She lives with her widower father and has never really had a social life. She occupies her time being grim, serious, and developing practical talents. She also wishes she was beautiful and could find love, but at the tender age of 24 (this was a long time ago) figures she's an old maid and it's all over.

Then her kindly father invites a handsome young man to dinner. He's done this before, but the men are always uninterested in plain Olivia. This time, the man shows interest. Whoa! Warning bells should be going off for anyone who's ever read a VC Andrews book before! Men only fall in love with women who possess beauty so stunning it "doesn't look real" in V.C. Andrews' world! (This is true with the ghostwriter, too.)

Olivia's father is stunned and a little weirded out too. He knows his giantess daughter's boring personality matches her looks. Malcolm, her suitor, seems to like her precisely because she is NOT sexually attractive. Then we find out that Malcolm is a misogynist who takes out his Freudian love/hate relationship with the mother who abandoned him on all women. He picked Olivia because she reminded him least of his beautiful, flighty mother, but nonetheless, can't make love to her unless he can call out "Corinne's" name.

Olivia is supposed to be a breeder and an efficient helpmate with accounting and so on. Shunned for her gloomy demeanor and homely appearance, she soon realizes her husband has no romantic feelings for her and that she has bombed socially in Virginia. (She's a Yankee). She throws herself into the two children she was able to conceive through Malcolm's brief rapings of her. However, they are a failure too-sickly, effeminate, and pathetic, Malcolm calls them.

Then Malcolm's father, who unlike his evil and contemptible son is light-hearted and charming, suddenly returns to Foxworth Hall after a long absence with a child bride (Alicia) young enough to be his grandaughter. She is predictably everything Olivia is not-beautiful, gregarious, fun-loving and kind. Her fairy-tale relationship with Malcolm's father Garland is like a knife twisting in Olivia's back. Malcolm, who has no real capacity to love anyone, becomes obsessed with Alicia because he's enthralled with-and hates-beauty in women. It brings up all his mommy issues. He starts stalking Alicia, and you can probably write the rest of the story if you've read Andrews before.

Corinne is the fruit of Malcolm's and Alicia's ill-fated (and, I might add, not mutually consenting) union, and things go downhill from there. Alicia is a sympathetic character who we pity, having done nothing to deserve her fate, and Olivia grows more and more judgemental and fanatic as time goes on. It's a good story and a great portrait of two wretchedly cruel people, Olivia and Malcolm Foxworth. Perhaps Olivia would have been different if Malcolm had showed her affection, and Malcolm if his mother had, but by the end we're still angry about the way "The Grandmother" and the "Grandfather" treated the Dresden Dolls.

Worth picking up if you loved "Attic" and want more info on the Foxworths, but as a stand-alone book it doesn't really work I'd imagine. It also makes the Foxworth gene pool even more toxic than we'd originally thought, as we discover Chris Sr. and Corinne were brother and sister!!!
NOTE: There is no reason to assume that the ghostwriter wrote this book. In fact, many believe he started with the end of "Fallen Hearts". Anyone who knows V.C. Andrews' style knows this is so close to it, and some of Niederman's books so far from it, that it's hard to believe she didn't write this. There are some inconsistencies (for instance, in this book Olivia's mother is presented as kind, Corrine tells the children in "Flowers" that she was abusive), and other minor things. But that doesn't mean Andrews' didn't write it. Lots of authors do that.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2003
"Garden of Shadows" is my favorite book in the Dollanganger saga--even before the centrepiece, "Flowers in the Attic". I have my reasons for this; mainly, that the people in this novel are real people, whereas in "Flowers", the characters come off as one-dimensional cardboard travesties. This isn't to say that I don't like "Flowers"--I just think that this prequel and some of the sequels to that book are more realistic.
I feel genuinely sorry for Olivia Foxworth, the narrator of this book who will eventually develop into the forbidding grandmother of "Flowers in the Attic". It may be that I can empathize with her lack of beauty, popularity, and social grace. Deep down inside, she is a very sensitive and even loving woman who is in terrible pain.
I won't bother to illustrate any details of the plot--other reviews have done that enough. Suffice it to say that this author--the ghostwriter chosen after V.C. Andrews's death--has done a good job.
On the other hand, I do have some problems with this story, even though I have awarded it five stars. First of all, even with all that transpires, Olivia still does not seem to be the truly evil woman who terrorizes the four children in "Flowers in the Attic." This is plain to see in the final scene, when Olivia braces herself against loving them, because they remind her so much of Corrine and Christopher, Sr., when they were that age. From what V.C. Andrews created in the grandmother, we should see a much harder and unsympathetic character here. Remember how the grandmother picks Carrie up by her hair on the following night, and slaps Cory--not to mention whipping Corrine? I just can't see this version of Olivia Foxworth doing these things.
And yes, there are many inconsistencies between this book and later books in the series. No abuse or real oppression of Corrine as she grew...and the religious fanaticism that she spoke of so bitterly in "Flowers" does not enter the picture here until almost the end, when she is a young adult. I think that if Olivia had included some incidents to back this information up, along with her convictions that she was doing the right thing, a much more balanced portrait would have evolved.
In conclusion, I can say again that I felt sorry for Olivia. In a way, I wish she would have left Malcolm, her husband, and taken the children with her--she does seem too independent and strong, not to mention rich--to put up with all she does, although in those days, divorce was certainly a bigger taboo than it is now. I suppose that was her logic. I also wish that Olivia would have come up with an alternative to bringing Corrine and the children back to Foxworth Hall when Christopher was killed...although we wouldn't have the story we do, then, would we?
May I also say that I feel sorry for Malcolm, the future grandfather of the Dollanganger children? It makes you think back over that theory that there really are no heroes or villains in this world of ours.
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