Literature / My Sweet Audrina

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"So Audrina goes round and round the mulberry bush, wondering exactly how Arden could have known the First and Best Audrina, and space aliens from 20,000 light years away shout, and tiny one-celled organisms deep within prehistoric lakes shout, and you shout, and I shout, and Bastian from The Neverending Story shouts, "THERE IS ONLY ONE FUCKING AUDRINA, YOU BRAINLESS MORON, AND THAT AUDRINA IS YOU!"
Erin Callahan, Forever Young Adult's review.

My Sweet Audrina is a novel published by V. C. Andrews in 1982 significant for its liberal use of rape tropes. It is the only standalone novel of her career and was released in 2016 as a Made For Tv Movie with the Lifetime Network. A ghostwritten sequel, Whitefern, is due for release in summer of 2016. The original novel hinges on one big Spoiler, which many readers guess right from the beginning.

Seven-year-old Audrina Adele Adare lives in isolation in a Old Dark House with her mother Lucky, her Overprotective Dad Damian, her Aunt Ellsbeth and Ellsbeth's daughter Vera. Audrina suffers from a strange inability to sense time passing and is forbidden to go to school, make friends, or visit the woods behind their house where nine years before Audrina's birth, her elder sister (also named Audrina) was raped and murdered. Now Damien wants the second Audrina to sit in her dead sister's rocking chair until she absorbs all the First and Best Audrina's memories, so that she can become as loving and special as the First Audrina.

It goes about as well as you'd expect.

As Audrina grows up, she begins to break away from her father and her home, but her life is still overshadowed by memories that don't belong to her, memories that threaten to ruin her marriage and destroy her sanity. Finally she decides it is time to learn the truth that everyonenote  already knows.

Everyone except . . . My Sweet Audrina


The book provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Damian and Lucky. Even before Audrina was raped, Damian was a father who was satisfied only with being treated with unquestioned obedience and worship. After the rape, Lucky scrubs Audrina's skin so hard during a scalding hot bath that she bleeds and was the more hysterical parent. She also seems to see Audrina as defiled and impure from then on until the Gaslighting Ellsbeth averts this trope more or less due to Vera being an Enfant Terrible.
  • Adapted Out: Billie and Sylvia in the movie adaptation. A brief scene explains that Sylvia was stillborn, but Billie is never mentioned at all.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Audrina, who is repeatedly described as blonde in the book, is a brunette in the Lifetime movie.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Vera has one. On the living room sofa. In the middle of the day. In front of Audrina. Who is nine or ten at this point.
  • The Alcoholic: Lucky.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Many readers recall this book only for the huge amount of sex and The Reveal.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Sylvia is clearly developmentally challenged, but we are not told exactly what is wrong with her, and the book strongly implies she may be exaggerating (even though it would be difficult for a profoundly mentally disabled child to do this).
  • The Beautiful Elite: The family is wealthy, lives in a huge house, and are all (with the exception of the plainer Ellsbeth) repeatedly described as very beautiful. Even Sylvia, who has severe and very apparent disabilities, is so striking that it's easy to miss her condition at first glance.
    • Even Ellsbeth doesn't escape this trope. When Audrina spies on her and Damian, Ellsbeth is wearing such a sheer nightgown that she's as good as naked and Audrina says she's much more attractive without clothes to the point where she could compete with her prettier sister.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lucky, who indirectly taunts Ellsbeth about how she stole Damian away from her and still keeps drinking while she's pregnant all while she's portrayed as the sweet, pretty Whitefern daughter compared to her plainer, serious sister. Vera would be this but she puts her bitchiness on display far more openly and her sweetness is almost always fake.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: After being hit with a blood-clot flung by her hemorrhaging, hysterical daughter in the throes of a miscarriage, Ellsbeth calmly returns to the kitchen, changes her bloodstained apron, and goes back to rolling pie crusts.
  • Broken Bird: Ellsbeth. After Damian impregnates her with Vera and then leaves to marry her sister, she swears off men forever, only to end up a domestic servant for her sister and brother-in-law to provide a home for her daughter and herself. Vera becomes a terrifyingly oversexed and evil child and even pushes Ellsbeth down the stairs, killing her. The only time she's ever happy is when she finally has Damian to herself at long last after Lucky dies giving birth to Sylvia but it doesn't last long. She's also the Only Sane Man in the story due to her treating Audrina like a real person rather than antagonizing her or lying to her.
  • Cain and Abel: Vera and Audrina. The comparison becomes even more apt when we find out that the two are not cousins, but half-sisters, and that Vera set Audrina up to be gang-raped in order to spoil her in their father's eyes so that Vera would look like the better daughter.
    • Lucky and Ellsbeth also count though they're not at all what people think they are. Lucky is treated as Abel but is more Cain-like in personality due to being more deceptive and secretly cruel. The stern Ellsbeth is seen as the Cain but is more Abel-like since she is actually a nicer person than her sister.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The climax of the novel is Audrina finally doing this. She goes on to call everyone out, including Arden and Vera.
    • Vera calls out Damian several times for never acknowledging her as his daughter.
    • Ellsbeth even gets a turn when she calls Damian out on his daughters' behalf, both for his scornful treatment of Vera and his attempts to turn Audrina into a Replacement Goldfish.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Audrina and Arden Lowe. He was about thirteen. She was seven.
  • Clairvoyance: Audrina displays a mild (and mostly unremarked upon) gift for seeing the past and future, which her father tries to channel through the rocking chair. For example, she is able to play the stock market, she predicts Lucky's death around the moment it's happening, and at the end of the book, she believes she receives a warning against leaving Sylvia alone with Damian.
    • Some of Audrina's apparent clairvoyance may be conflated with the gaslighting that has caused her to forget her past; she believes her own memories are actually those of her dead sister. Other times, the clairvoyance is Played Straight.
  • Convenient Miscarriage : Actually, a very inconvenient one, because it was supposed to be Vera's way to escape Whitefern by forcing Lamar to marry her. Another memorable scene happens when Vera crawls around on the floor in blood and throws one of the clumps.]]
  • Creepy Child: Sylvia is originally presented as profoundly mentally challenged, but there's evidence she may be able to imitate Audrina to an uncomfortable degree.
  • Daddy's Girl: The First and Best Audrina was one before her rape. After the rape, she feared all males, including her father, hence Damien desperate need to reprogram the "second" Audrina.
  • Dark Secret: The fate of the First and Best Audrina, amongst others.
    • When we first meet Audrina, her family behaves as if some terrible, mysterious thing killed the First Audrina. Only after a few sessions in the rocking chair does Audrina "remember" that the terrible thing was rape. It's played as a dark secret by the family, but it's pretty obvious to everyone, including the audience.
    • Vera is Damien's daughter by Ellsbeth. Again, only Audrina is unaware of this, and the family keep it as a dark secret from her.
    • From the beginning, Arden behaves as if he knows something that Audrina does not. It turns out that Arden witnessed the First Audrina's rape and ran without helping her. As an adult, Audrina finally recalls this detail and infers that Arden only married her out of guilt.
  • Daylight Horror : The second Audrina is terrified of flashing colors, keeping herself to the shadows to avoid the patterns of the stained glass windows on the floor of her home. We later learn that the First Audrina attempted suicide from one of those windows during a violent lightning storm.
  • Death by Childbirth: Lucky dies giving birth to Sylvia.
  • Defiled Forever: The First Audrina's opinion of herself after being raped, upheld by her father.
    • Lucky is implied to have upheld it to, though to a lesser extent. The scalding-hot bath and the rather vicious cleaning strongly imply that she viewed Audrina as defiled, though Damian later says that she occasionally agreed with Ellsbeth that gaslighing Audrina was damaging and that they should just help her cope with her trauma normally.
  • Enfant Terrible: Vera, without question. She becomes an even worse adult. Sylvia's a rather disturbing child due to her Ambiguous Disorder and being raised in her macabre environment.
  • Gaslighting: In addition to The Big Spoiler, the entire family (plus her future husband, his mother, Audrina's schoolteachers, and more than a few townsfolk) conspire for years to convince Audrina that she has a mental illness.
    • Lucky and Ellsbeth host "Tuesday Teatimes" twice a week to convince Audrina that time is passing faster.
    • All the clocks in the house are set to different times. There are no calendars, and no one will tell Audrina their real age. Damien stuffs the mailbox with back-dated newspapers. And while there is a television in the house, Audrina is forbidden to watch it.
    • Audrina is given tranquilizers instead of aspirin for her frequent headaches, so that she often sleeps for days without realizing and wakes thinking it's been only a few hours. Conversely, Audrina takes short unmedicated naps and is told upon waking that it's the next day.
  • Ghost Memory: Subverted. Damian wants Audrina to gain the memories and talents of the First and Best Audrina, but the two Audrinas turn out to be the same person.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Billie was one until she became ill, and is still described as being very beautiful even now that she's older and disabled.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Vera catches Audrina changing from bathing suit to normal clothes and manages to snag both sets.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Audrina and Lucky described as wearing purple dresses which highlight their femininity and match their eye color.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender: Billie was a former ice-skater who lost both legs to diabetes just as she was about to hit the big time.
    • Lucky was a gifted pianist who gave up her stage career to marry Audrina's father. She's never let him forget it.
  • Idiot Savant: Sylvia, who despite her severe intellectual disability is presented as preternaturally wise and comes up with a very clever solution for rescuing Audrina from Vera, who was about to switch off Audrina's life support machine.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Lucky and Ellsbeth's friend Mercy Marie disappeared whilst working as a missionary in Africa, and is believed to have been eaten by local people. During their weekly tea parties, they put out her photo and talk to her as if she were there, which unnerves Audrina, given how Mercy Marie is supposed to have died.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Arden's excuse for pretty much everything, including why he didn't remain a virgin until marriage even though he was engaged to Audrina, why he slept with Vera, why he raped Audrina on their honeymoon, and, of course, why he slept with Vera again.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Audrina's playroom song, the lyrics of which, sadly, prove that Audrina always knew her father's ultimate plans for her.
  • Inspirationally Disabled: Arden's mother Billie was a ice-skating champion who might have competed in the Olympics until she lost both legs to diabetes.
  • In the Blood: The Whitefern sisters' hatred for each other.
  • Intimate Psychotherapy: After several years of marriage, Arden finally gives Audrina an orgasm. This not only erases all their previous sexual dysfunction, but also seems to cure Audrina of her childhood fear of sex.
  • Jerkass Fašade: Ellsbeth acts cold and mean to Audrina, but she is also the only person who shoots straight with her most of the time and encourages her to become independent of her father, who Ellsbeth foresees will try to control Audrina for the rest of her life. After Lucky's death and Vera's departure, Ellsbeth and Audrina develop a much closer, warmer relationship, to the point that Audrina is allowed to call her "Ellie," a name she had previously only permitted Damian to call her.
  • Kaleidoscope Hair: Lucky, Audrina, and the First Audrina all have hair of "flaxen blonde, with gold, auburn, bright red, chestnut brown, copper and even some white."
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Vera and Arden on the floor in front of Arden's comatose wife's hospital bed.
    • Audrina and Arden on top of/in Audrina's "dead" sister's empty grave in the middle of an electrical storm.
  • Marital Rape License: Arden
  • My Beloved Smother: Damian in a rare male example of the trope. He refuses to let Audrina leave the house, much less the property. He dictates her clothing and behavior to his own specifications for female modesty, to the point that she mostly wears the style of dresses and petticoats that were appropriate when he was growing up. When finally forced to send her to school, he gives her strict orders to always sit with her knees together and to never meet eyes with a boy. [[Spoiler: Finally, and probably most importantly, he manipulates his daughter into being pathologically afraid of everything outside the house, so that she only trusts in him.]]
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Damien does his damndest to keep Audrina this way by essentially confining her to the house and keeping her emotionally and financially dependent upon him. When she manages to elope behind his back, he simply takes up where he left off when she returns—and starts to work on putting her new husband in the same position.
    • Arden may be guilty of this too. It's implied that he picks out her clothes for her, choosing white dresses so that she will look more childlike.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Lucky is in the habit of taking a large amount of bourbon in her tea. Subsequently, when Lucky dies in childbirth and Sylvia is born severely disabled, Audrina is convinced that this is partly because of Lucky's drinking.
  • Only Sane Man: Ellsbeth Whitefern. She's the only person who objected to the Gaslighting Audrina goes through and only went along when Damian threatened to turn her and her daughter onto the streets without a penny.
  • Police Are Useless: In a rare example of the police actually being called to investigate a crime in a V.C. Andrews novel, they somehow determine that a double-amputee with no legs tripped on the stairway carpet and fell to her death.
  • Psychic Link: Audrina shares one with Sylvia.
  • Rape as Drama: The rape of the First Audrina is described in detail three times. The first time we are treated to listening to the rape of a nine-year-old girl described by another nine-year-old girl.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: A theme of the entire book.
    • Vera is set up to be a horrible person throughout the entire story, but her rage is portrayed as justified and even sympathetic due to her long-running status as The Unfavorite. The moment we learn that she set up Audrina to be gang-raped, all that goes out the window.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Damian encourages Audrina to become her dead sister, and later, her dead mother (though thankfully not sexually).
    • Sylvia is a Replacement Goldfish as well for not only Audrina (who says that Sylvia has "the gift") but for the shrewish Ellsbeth as well.
  • Settle for Sibling: Both Arden and Lamar Rensdale sleep with Vera because they can't have Audrina. Damian refused to marry Ellsbeth after she got pregnant with Vera, and married Lucky, whom he'd wanted all along; but after Lucky dies in childbirth he resumes his affair with Ellsbeth now that her sister's gone.
  • Shower of Angst: Bath, in this case. After the rape, The First Audrina's mother takes a scrub brush to the girl's skin and scrapes it raw.
  • Shrine to the Fallen, Western Edition: The First Audrina's playroom is kept exactly as it was the day she died.
  • Sibling Ying Yang: Lucky and Ellsbeth, Audrina and Vera, Audrina and Sylvia.
  • Spoiled Brat: Lucky.
  • Southern Gothic : Dysfunctional Family? Check. Creepy Child? Check. The South? Check. A mix of horror and romance? Got it. Unreliable Narrator? Yep. Old Maid? Aunt Ellsbeth and, to a lesser extent, Billie. Decaying mansion/old money? Check. And probably several other examples of the genre.
  • There Are No Therapists: Zig-Zagged. The First Audrina is taken to a psychologist after her rape and suicide attempts, but her father finds the electroconvulsive treatment so traumatic that he takes her home and resolves to brainwash her.
    • Sylvia likewise spends the first two years of her life in a care facility for the mentally disabled, only to be taken home by Damian. Part of his reasoning is that she would be better cared for at home. After all, it worked so well the first time...
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Audrina learns that she is the First and Best Audrina and that the rape happened to her. The entire family conspired to keep this from her until adulthood, and even then her father only revealed it when directly confronted.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Arden. He was the polite neighbor boy who mowed the lawn and was a friend of Audrina's but ran away when Audrina was gang-raped and treats her very poorly when they're married and cheats on her with Vera.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ellsbeth to Audrina after Lucky dies.
  • The Unfavorite: Audrina to the First Audrina, and Vera to both. Ellsbeth was the unfavorite to Lucky as well.
  • The Vamp:Vera, to the point that it becomes somewhat hilarious. To adequately sum up Vera would require employing most of the Sex Tropes list. What follows are some of her highlights:
    • Seducing her seven-year-old cousin's twelve-year-old boyfriend (when she herself is only about fifteen).
    • Seducing her twentysomething-year-old piano teacher while imitating said seven-year-old cousin.
    • Straddling said cousin's torso while describing said seduction, in detail, to said cousin, while naked from the waist up.
    • Flashing her vag at said cousin in a completely separate encounter.
    • Going out of her way to find reasons to flash her boobs (including claiming that a bee stung the underside of her breast and that she needs help "pulling the stinger out").
    • Public masturbation (again, in front of the cousin)
  • Violet Eyes: Audrina (and the First Audrina, natch). It's brought up constantly, to the point that Arden gifts Audrina with violet dresses and hand-painted violet diaries to match. Since Billie is said to have eyes "like Elizabeth Taylor", who famously had violet eyes, she can also be included in the count.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Pretty much everyone but particularly Damien and Arden and even Audrina in the final paragraph of the book.
    • The entire family's efforts to "protect" Audrina are a combination of drugs, brainwashing, electroconvulsive therapy, and decades of convincing her that she is mentally ill.
    • Damien's motivation is revealed to be his attempt to keep Audrina forever as his caretaker.
    • Arden not only cheats on Audrina while she's in a coma, he is later revealed to have run away while the First Audrina was being gangraped as well as perpetuating the lie that there was a First Audrina.
    • Audrina is on the verge of leaving Damien and Arden forever and starting her own life when she is overcome with guilt and goes back to them in the very last paragraph.
  • Woman in White: Audrina often wears white to highlight her childlike innocence. Invoked by Arden who chooses her clothes for her after they're married and buys her white dresses.
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