Kiernan Shipka, Heather Graham and Ellen Burstyn star in Lifetime's take on the infamous V.C. Andrews novel

By Melissa Locker
Updated January 17, 2014 09:00 AM
Credit: James Dittiger/Lifetime

Disinvite your brother, ditch the powdered doughnuts and get ready because on Saturday night, Flowers in the Attic returns to television.

The blockbuster Gothic young adult novel began the infamous Dollanganger family saga, which includes Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. (All of the books in the series hit number one on the New York Times Bestseller List, by the way.)

Since the late 1970s, Andrews’s Flowers novel has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, has been translated into 22 languages and was banned by schools across the country – all while being passed from bunk to bunk at sleepaway camp.

For those who didn’t read the book while hidden under the covers as a pre-teen, the story revolves around the perfect blond-haired, blue-eyed Dollanganger family: father Christopher Sr., mother Corrine, and their four perfect “Dresden Doll” children – Chris Jr., Cathy and younger twins Carrie and Cory. When Chris Sr. dies in a car accident, Corrine decides to move back into her parents’ sprawling Virginia mansion despite the fact that her children must be locked in the attic. According to her cruel, ultra-religious mother, Corrine’s dying father cannot find out that she sired devil spawn with her dead half-uncle husband. Yikes!

As they waste away in the attic, the children are ignored by their weak-willed mom, who is determined not to be written out of the hefty Foxworth will. Meanwhile, they are abused by their wicked grandmother for years on end, with only each other for company. And by company, we do mean intimate company.

If you aren’t sufficiently creeped out by the description above and the Flowers in the Attic trailer below, be sure to flip the channel to Lifetime at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 18.

The book was previously adapted (for the big screen) back 1987, when it was turned into a campy horror flick starring Kristy Swanson and Louise Fletcher. However, that version glossed over one key element of the original story: the intimate relationship between siblings Chris and Cathy. The reboot stars Heather Graham as Corrine, Ellen Burstyn as the evil grandmother, and Kiernan Shipka as Cathy – and it does not skip the details.

We asked Shipka – best known for her role as Sally Draper on Mad Men – about the awkwardness of kissing her character’s brother. She laughed, explaining it was all in a day’s work.

“I just looked at their relationship as a dependence on each other, because they have no one else,” Shipka said. “It was more than that storyline-wise. It is how it’s written and how it was done … it felt like how the characters would be.”

If the story of the Dollangangers leaves you wanting more dark, twisted Gothic family dramas, here are a few more V.C. Andrews novels that are just waiting to be made into movies:

My Sweet Audrina

Audrina Whitefern Adare is a lonely child living in the shadow of her older sister. She and her sister have the same name, but the first Audrina was a perfect and beautiful girl who died in apparently horrendous, but unknown circumstances before the replacement Audrina was born. Audrina can’t remember anything from her own childhood and can’t keep track of time. She lives in a dream world, isolated from civilization in a huge house with a treacherous staircase and only her father, mother, dour aunt and toxic cousin Vera to keep her company. After her mother dies in child birth and the Adare family secrets eventually unravel around her, Audrina finally uncovers the truth about her past and the first Audrina. Chills.


The Casteels are “pure hill trash,” but 14 year old Heaven Leigh – with her violet eyes, quick wits and teeny waist – is determined to leave Appalachia behind. Heaven’s mother died during childbirth, leaving the children with a useless and abusive father. When Heaven’s stepmother splits, her father decides to sell her and her half-siblings for money. As the kids are divided up, Heaven is placed with an evil adoptive mother who is horribly abusive and an adoptive father who puts the moves on her. Heaven eventually runs away to find her real mother’s family, the wealthy Tattertons of Boston, and is determined to make a new start.


When Dawn Longchamp and her brother Jimmy are enrolled in a prestigious school, they meet the Cutler family, which sets off a dramatic series of events. Dawn’s mother dies from complications during child birth (Are you sensing a theme here?), and the cops soon swoop in to arrest Dawn’s father for kidnapping her when she was a newborn. After the crime is discovered, Dawn is sent to live in Cutler’s Cove with her real family – which, of course, include a grandmother and sister who hate her, weak-willed parents and a brother who is determined to have her all for himself. (Ick.) Dawn eventually finds a way to escape her predicament and heads to New York to become a singer. “Dawn” is the first novel in the Cutler family series, which was penned by a ghost writer, but attributed to V.C. Andrews.

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