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Literature / If There Be Thorns

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Out of the ashes of evil Chris and Cathy made such a loving home for their splendid children...note 

If There Be Thorns is the third book in the Dollanganger Series by V. C. Andrews, published in 1981. It is told from the point-of-view of Cathy's sons Jory and Bart, notably the only book published by Andrews' to be told a male POV (and the only one under her name in general until the Christopher's Diary series). A TV movie was released by Lifetime in 2015. The book takes place ten years after Petals on the Wind.

In an effort to leave their past behind them, Chris and Cathy move to California and live as man and wife under the name of Sheffield, along with Cathy's sons from two other men: handsome, talented Jory and lonely, confused Bart. Cathy tries to create a normal life for her sons, but she lives in terror of the day that the family's secret is discovered. The boys suspect something strange is happening in their home, but Bart, already mentally troubled, begins to withdraw from the family. Instead, he finds comfort with the mysterious woman next door, who invites him over for cookies and cake and asks him to call her "Grandmother." But the Woman in Black is accompanied by her sinister butler John Amos, who feeds Bart's darkest fears by convincing him that his mother is the worst kind of sinner, and that the only redemption for sinners is death...


As his family begins to shatter all around him, as his younger brother slowly becomes possessed by a dark religious need for vengeance and power, Jory becomes determined to learn the strange secret of the woman next door...the same secret that seems to involve his parents.

If There Be Thorns contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Law: In the conclusion of the previous book, Corinne is found incapable of standing trial due to insanity and is confined to a mental institution, where the family (or, well, just Chris) has visited her for the past ten years. This is very, very different from being found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to a mental institution. If she was found incapable, she would have gone to a mental institution until she was deemed fit to stand trial, at which time she would have been tried for murder. But Cathy makes it clear that Corinne was never tried. The book implies that Corinne spent a decade in a mental ward, recovered her sanity, and was simply released without ever going to court.
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  • Back from the Dead: Or rather, back from the insane asylum. The Sheffield family does not know that Corinne has been released until she moves into the house next door.
  • Big, Friendly Dog: Apple. Also the nameless dog at the end of the book.
  • Blank Book: Malcolm's journal in the end.
  • Caling The Old Lady Out: Cathy and Chris both do this in two separate scenes.
  • Career-Ending Injury: A mysterious ballet injury lands Cathy in a wheelchair. While she does walk again, she is forbidden to dance for the rest of her life.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover illustrator made the black-haired Jory blond (but then again, so did the Lifetime films).
  • Creepy Child: Bart.
  • Creepy Housekeeper / Old Retainer: John Amos, a cousin of Olivia Winfield Foxworth who served as the butler at Foxworth Hall, is now butler to Corinne. He's not just her butler; he's also her third husband.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Upon learning that his dead biological father was a powerful, handsome, and courageous lawyer, Bart immediately identifies with him to the point that he throws aside his living parents.
  • The '80s: While it goes nearly unmentioned in the novel, The Film of the Book plays up the setting a little more with fashions and technology (Bart has a handheld Donkey Kong video game; Corrine takes a Polaroid of the Sheffield boys, etc.)
  • Evil Old Folks: John and Corinne.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Jory and Bart are floored to learn that their stepfather Chris is actually their uncle.
  • Groin Attack: Bart gets one in (by accident) to his brother, and Cathy dishes on out (on purpose) to John Amos.
  • Hypocrite: Even before Garden of Shadows spelled it out, Bart notices that despite Malcolm's journal making a big deal about the whole religious part, there's an awful lot of mush and talk of doing what he considered evil in the journal.
    • To another degree so is John Amos. While he tries to mold Bart into being "like Malcolm", he also tries to impart him to not be dragged down by Malcolm's weaknesses (aka women). This of course may sound like a strong twisted religious motivation but comes off less sincere when characters remember how John Amos himself loved to frolic on the couch with plenty of maids at Foxworth Hall.
    • In the TV-Adaptation, Cathy and Chris have a "No Secrets Policy" for their family....need we say more?
  • Invisible Parents: While physically present throughout the novel, Cathy and Chris are so frequently wrapped up in their own issues that Jory, age fourteen, takes it upon himself to deal with his younger brother's growing mental instability.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: Disneyland rather than Disney World, but this is Bart's promised birthday treat, and a running theme through the summer described in the book.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: While wheelchair-bound, Cathy begins to write her life story, strongly implied to be Flowers in the Attic (down to having the same chapter titles).
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jory's grandmother is made out to be a bitch for threatening to take Jory away from Cathy and Chris—but she's rightfully concerned about him being raised in an incestous household.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Bart felt this way even before Cathy adopts two-year-old Cindy and turned him into the actual middle child of the family.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Cathy takes the end of her dancing career to become a writer.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Corinne returns hoping to reunite and make her family happy again. The only things she accomplish is tearing the family apart even more, killing herself and turning Bart into a copy of her own crazy father, Malcolm.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Horribly, horribly subverted.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Inverted in that the kids—particularly Jory—seem almost too casual about their parents' sex lives.
  • Portmanteau: Julian + Cory = Jory
  • Redemption Equals Death: Corrine dies saving Cathy' s life. At the funeral, Cathy breaks down and finally forgives her mother for what she did.
  • Ripping Off the String of Pearls: To Cathy, Corrine's string of pearls with its diamond butterfly clasp represents all the material luxury she gained by sacrificing her children. As soon as she spots it, Cathy tears it off her mother's neck.
  • Road Apples: Amazingly, used as a plot point.
  • Sex Is Evil: The lesson John tries to impart to Bart.
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Part of John Amos' motivation, as while he is a religious fanatic it is also recounted how he did plenty of sleeping around with maids at Foxworth Hall.
    • Malcolm also has implications of being this. See the hypocrite entry above.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Cathy is aware that Social Services might want to investigate the family if they legally adopt Cindy, therefore she negotiates a contract with Cindy's dying mother to make Cathy the child's guardian. However, even this private arrangement would rightly warrant an investigation in Real Life.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: The title, if you think about it too hard.
  • There Are No Therapists: Subverted. It's not entirely successful, but Bart is taken to a child psychologist.
  • The Unfavorite: Bart. He's awkward and clumsy compared to ballet star Jory. It only gets worse when little Cindy is adopted into the family.
  • You Owe Me: For the most part this is the motivation of John Amos. Who felt he would have had the Foxworth fortune had Corrine not come home. As a result a lot of his actions in this book, including some of which would be implied as lies by Garden of Shadows, are to get himself back into the position he felt he has been owed.

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