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Literature / Garden of Shadows

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Olivia dreamed of a sun-filled love, a happy life. Then she entered Foxworth Hall...note 

Like any woman stupidly believing in love, I never realized that the blue sky I saw was not the warm, soft, nurturing sky of spring, but the cold, chilling, lonely sky of winter.

Garden of Shadows is the final book in the Dollanganger Saga by V. C. Andrews (until Secrets of Foxworth happened). Published in 1987, the novel was ghostwritten by Andrew Niederman through a collaboration of Andrews' estate and her publishers. It acts as a Prequel to the events of Flowers in the Attic and tells the story of Olivia, the wicked grandmother in the first novel.

Olivia enters Foxworth Hall as a young and hopeful bride newly wed to handsome millionaire Malcolm Foxworth. But soon she realizes that her husband is a cold, ruthless, and cruel man unable to love anyone, even his own wife and children. After witnessing Malcolm's lust, violence, and incestuous passion destroy their family, Olivia grows to believe that the entire Foxworth bloodline is tainted, and that God has brought her into Foxworth Hall to purify the sin.


Garden of Shadows contains the following tropes:

  • Awful Wedded Life: Poor Olivia never gets her Happily Ever After.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The swan bed, which requires custom sheets.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Malcolm distrusts beautiful women, hence he deliberately seeks out the homely Olivia.
  • Break the Cutie: What happens to Alicia in the attic.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Hey, it's an Andrews novel!
  • Canon Discontinuity: Plenty, to varying degrees. See the Trivia tab for many examples of this.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover illustration has Corrine as the central focus when main character Olivia is relegated to the background.
  • Daddy's Girl: Corrine.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: To be fair, Malcolm would hate whatever Corinne chose to bring home. But seeing how it's his (and her!) half-brother...
  • Dead Guy Junior: Corrine is named after Malcolm's mother. Olivia, knowing how much Malcolm professes to hate his mother, is horrified.
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  • Door-Closes Ending: The final line of the book, as Olivia leaves the children in the attic:
    "I locked the door behind me."
  • Driven to Villainy: What ultimately happens to Olivia.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Even though in Malcolm's case it is in a weird, weird way.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Malcolm proposes to Olivia after two days and they're married within two weeks of meeting.
  • Freudian Excuse: Malcolm' s dislike of beautiful women yet simultaneous lust for them stems from anger towards the mother who abandoned him.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Garland and Alicia's loving sexual relationship stand in direct contrast to Malcolm and Olivia's cold, loveless marriage. Olivia, learning this, feels cheated.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: The inevitable commentary about Malcolm and Olivia.
  • Insatiable Newlyweds: The maids complain that they can't even get into Garland and Alicia's bedroom to clean.
  • Jail Bait Wait: Garland apparently waited several years before marrying Alicia at the ripe age of sixteen.
  • Marital Rape License: On his mother's swan bed.
  • May–December Romance: Malcolm's father Garland, in his sixties, and his teenage bride Alicia.
  • Missing Mom: Malcolm's mother abandoned him and his father when Malcolm was five.
    • Alicia is also forced to briefly abandon her son Christopher when Olivia sequesters her in the attic room.
  • Momma's Boy: Both Malcolm, Jr., and Joel are accused of being this. In reality, their father is so critical and rejecting that Olivia is forced to do all the parenting.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Olivia is not only physically larger than many potential suitors, but her father complains that she scares them off with her "masculine" competence and intellectualism.
  • No Periods, Period: Subverted. Corinne has her first one and is congratulated by Olivia, contrasting with the story she later tells in Flowers in the Attic.
  • Oedipus Complex: Malcolm to his mother Corinne.
  • Old Maid: Olivia, at 25, is considered an "old maid" and despairs of finding a husband until she meets Malcolm. This leads her to rush into marriage and convince herself that she is in love with him.
  • Parental Abandonment: Malcolm's mother abandoned him, which is why he distrusts beautiful women.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Malcolm is horrified when his father marries Alicia, who is ten years younger than Malcolm himself.
  • The Peeping Tom: A tiny hole in the wall of Malcolm's office looks directly into his father's marital bed. Olivia suspects that the hole may have been made when Malcolm was a child.
  • Perspective Flip: The scene where the children are sequestered in the attic is now seen from Olivia' s point of view.
  • Pillow Pregnancy: Olivia literally does this. In one scene she compares sofa cushions to determine which one is closer to six months.
  • Plain Jane: Olivia is very tall and has a square jaw and mannish appearance.
  • Resentful Guardian: Although Olivia does feel affection for young Corinne, she can't help but resent the circumstances of the girl's birth.
  • Rape as Drama: And how. Garland dies of a heart attack after discovering his son raping Alicia.
  • Retcon: Garden of Shadows retcons many of the events of Flowers in the Attic, although some things are possibly explained by Corrine exaggerating events in her mind or lying to the children. Also, for some reason Corrine's name changes spelling to Corinne.
  • Skinny Dipping: Alicia invites Olivia to join her. Olivia declines.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: While angry and humiliated when she discovers Malcolm' s attraction to Alicia, Olivia blames Alicia for being attractive in the first place.
    • Not entirely wrong - Malcolm only wanted her because she was, indeed, pretty. If she hadn't been...
  • Start of Darkness: While a bit more of a sympathetic take, this book still shows us the life of the woman who grew to become the cruel old religious-obsessed grandmother of the first book.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Although Alicia is legally married at the time, she's still a teen when she gives birth to Christopher.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Olivia cuts Alicia's hair, and it contributes to the woman's nervous breakdown.
  • The Unfavorite: Malcolm ignores both his sons after Corinne is born.

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