I know, I know... this book is tawdry, it's tabloidy. It's the one book I secretly coveted and acquired in my tedious pre-pubescent soul-searching. I'd lay under the covers, flashlight in hand, knees up to make a psuedo-tent and I'd search... for the dirty parts. I knew there was something naughty between these pages, something to be whispered and giggled about later on with my girlfriends, something I didn't rightly understand.
I went back and read the entire Dollanganger series as an adult, and yes, it is tacky. But it's also elegant, like a beautifully written yet laughable soap opera. It's pedantic yet fluid. Monotone and a little stale, but it works, damn well. And oh, the melodrama. And above all else these books are fascinating. The series is truly epic in scale, reaching back far before the children in Flowers were even born. And it stretches further into their future, when some of their lives have ended, or been drastically altered.
Andrews is relentless in her portrayal of parental indifference. The mother and grandmother characters treat their progeny with such disregard, and yes, they do lock them in the attic, for years. They never get to go outside, they're starved and slowly poisoned. They get sick and grow weak, they're bones don't grow right, it's interminable. And you begin to wonder, Jesus! Why am I reading this terrible book? And then it dawned on me.
The gist, the grist, the core of this saga is the lasting and far reaching effects of incest, abuse and neglect. The worst of which occurs in this first book. And these things happen, all the time. In our world, the real world, all around us. I think this book is important. I think it tells a universal story and I was often moved by it and by the series as a whole. But it made me wonder, it made me wonder about the author, about her story... if she was raised in similar circumstances. And I think that's the point... because you never know, you can never really know what someone else has been through, where their lives took them, and why they are the way they are.