Literature: My Sweet Audrina
My Sweet Audrina
"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 20000 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
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. The book hinges on one big Spoiler
, which some readers guess right from the beginning and others don't realize until The Reveal
Seven-year-old Audrina Adele Adare
lives in isolation in a Old Dark House
with her Absurdly Youthful 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 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
Everyone except . . . My Sweet Audrina
The book provides examples of:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Convenient Miscarriage : Actually, a very inconvenient one, because it was supposed to be Vera's ticket. 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, she doesn't know her sister died after being raped and only "remembers" it after a session in the rocking chair.
- Vera is Damien's daughter by Ellsbeth. It's played as a dark secret, but it's pretty obvious to everyone, including the audience. Only Audrina is unaware.
- 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 first Audrina's rape happened while she was walking home, in broad daylight. And the second Audrina is terrified...of reflective crystals.
- 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 and wanted Audrina to cope properly with the trauma, rather than gaslighting her the way they were.
- 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 Damien several times for never acknowledging her as his daughter.
- Ellsbeth even gets a turn when she calls Damien 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.
- Gaslighting: In addition to The Big Spoiler, the entire family (plus Audrina's future husband, his mother, her teachers, 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, and there are no calendars. No one will tell Audrina how old they are, and Damien stuffs the mailbox with back-dated newspapers.
- Audrina is given tranquillizers 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.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: Vera catches Audrina changing from bathing suit to normal clothes and manages to snag both sets.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Replacement Goldfish: Damian encourages Audrina to become her dead sister, and later, her dead mother (though thankfully not sexually).
- 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.
- 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...until Damian gets his hooks into both. Decaying mansion/old money? Check. And probably several other examples of the genre.
- 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 breasts and that she needs help "pulling the stinger out").
- Public masturbation (again, in front of the cousin)
- The Unfavorite: Audrina to the First Audrina, and Vera to both.
- 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.
- 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 efforts to "protect" Audrina are a combination of drugs, brainwashing, electroshock 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.