When last we left the Dollanganger family, we would have been looking at Seeds of Yesterday, which was so scintillating I completely forgot to write about it! If you absolutely MUST know, there is a Wikipedia page to fulfill your desires! This book, however, is a “prequel,” if you will. It is written from the point of view of Olivia Foxworth, nee’ Winfield – aka, the evil grandmother. Honestly, it very nearly makes one pity her – even taking into account the inconsistencies between this volume and the others in the series. According to sources, the ghostwriter finished this one from Andrews’ notes, which may account for some errors.
We begin with a prologue, where Olivia states that she is forced to tell her own story, when she would have much rather kept it to her grave. She dares her readers to judge her after you discover what she’s been through. I know someone who might be up to that task . . .
What Olivia has been through is a doozy – or de rigeur for Andrews books, depending upon your perspective.
Olivia’s mother dies when she is young, leaving her father to bring her up. He treats her like a son, teaching her about his business accounts and training her as an accountant. She is far from truly feminine and in fact, is pretty gangly and awkward-seeming. She dreams about finding twoo luv some day, and imagines life as the pretty people in her fancy dollhouse. She is not having much luck finding a husband, despite her father’s best attempts.
Until the day Malcolm Foxworth comes to dinner, and seems quite taken with her. Especially her head for business and the fact that she is mature and not flighty. After a walk, a dinner out, going to church together, and some horseback riding, he proposes. Malcolm cites the fact that they have much in common and would make a great partnership.
Olivia is over the moon, as she has fallen for his dashing good looks. It is only later that she realizes – he never once mentioned the word “love.”
The wedding is put together very quickly. Olivia waits with bated breath for her first kiss at the altar, but it’s merely perfunctory. The wedding is attended by her father, her aunt, and her cousin, John Amos (the creepy butler from the other books). And indeed, he is creepy here, too; he has barely met Olivia, as he is from the “poor” side of the family, but he begins insinuating himself right away.
There is no honeymoon; indeed, the bride and groom board the train to Virginia that afternoon. Olivia begins to see already how megalomaniacal he can be – and stingy (he won’t let her order too much food on the train, to save money).
They pull into a deserted depot late at night. The butler/driver meets them and drives them to Foxworth Hall, which Malcolm tells her is her responsibility. She is given a quick tour of the rooms they pass; one of these has a white door. Malcolm says it was his mother’s room, and no one is allowed in.
Olivia is given her own bedroom. She hopes it is just for appearances and puts on her sexiest lingerie (with a V-neck! *gasp*) to await Malcolm’s return. But he never does, and she remains an “unlit candle.” By the way, the dollhouse never comes with her to Foxworth Hall, so it’s unclear how Corinne eventually gets hold of it in Flowers to give to the children.
In the morning, Olivia discovers that her husband never came to her at night, and, in fact, has already left for the day. She has a solitary breakfast before resuming her tour of the house, which is chilly and drab. Olivia thinks of ways she can brighten it up. And then, she is once again before that white door – the mother’s room. Curiosity gets the better of her, so she goes inside. It’s the most opulent room in the house: pink damask wallpaper, plush carpet, and, of course, the swan bed.
She wonders what it feels like, so she lays down, only to be caught by Malcolm. Olivia tries to explain that she was only trying to get to know him.
He spouts invective about his mother, Corinne. She was beautiful, so, of course, she had “the heart of a harlot.” Despite what he said earlier, she didn’t die, but ran off with another man when Malcolm was five. So, now he hates her. And to show how much, he rips and tears his wife’s clothes, and rapes her on the very bed in which he was probably conceived, muttering his mother’s name all the while. Olivia does not cry out for fear the servants will hear – and probably do nothing, as it’s not their place.
After he leaves, Olivia realizes why he married her. She’s unlike his mother as can be, and far from beautiful. Also, his mother took all Malcolm’s love when she left, so there is none left for her.
The next day, Malcolm informs her that they will be having a lavish party to celebrate their nuptials. Olivia hopes that this means they are beginning afresh and putting the previous day’s events behind them.
Having the day to herself, Olivia decides to continue exploring Foxworth Hall. She finds the abandoned room at the end of the north wing, with separate bath and stairs leading up to the attic. Olivia goes up to take a look around and finds old furniture and Civil War uniforms, old clothes and trunks. And a picture of Corinne Foxworth, who is beautiful as advertised by her disturbed son.
The picture is also not dusty, unlike everything else in the attic. Olivia wonders who keeps all of the first Mrs. Foxworth’s things sparkling. Then she finds the classroom and thinks about how much the attic is like prison. Hmmm.
Malcolm tells her later that that wing was where some embarrassing relatives were hidden for a time. The birdcages had belonged to his mother, and he wants more “dignified” things for the redecoration of the house. This is also the first attempt (but not the last) to make a bid for Olivia’s money. She makes an excuse and he makes sure that she won’t wait up for him.
At the wedding party, Olivia is scandalized by the women’s outfits, yet also secretly jealous of their self-confidence. They are all vapid and make her feel like an outsider. These are the women that he supposedly hates, but he’s all over them, including taking one to see his library (because he doesn’t have etchings). When Olivia brings this up later, he has no response.
He sneaks into her bedroom and tells her he wants a son, so he’s coming to make one. He tells her, more like threatens her, with her fertility. He claims that was another reason he married her – a good childbearing body. Of course, all this makes Olivia feel even more like a servant.
Olivia gives birth to a son, Malcolm. Her husband doesn’t seem to care about the baby. Two years later, he wants a daughter – but gets another son, who is a bit weak, after Olivia has a very rough pregnancy. The doctor tells Malcolm that Olivia should not have more children, and he throws a temper tantrum. Apparently, it’s not manly enough to only have two children.
Than Olivia’s father dies, and Malcolm doesn’t want her to go to the funeral, for who will take care of the boys? Um, you have servants? By the time he finally acquiesces, it is too late to attend the funeral. But creepy John Amos is there.
Olivia’s father left her the entire side of affairs – with the caveat that she is in charge of it herself. She realizes her father must have known more about Macolm than she did, and feels sorry for herself. She confides in creepy John Amos because he’s her only family now. He is a comfort to her and she writes to him whilst he’s at the seminary.
The minute Olivia steps off the train, Malcolm begins to hound her about her newfound wealth. She says she’s still in mourning and doesn’t want to talk about it. And then, the event that changed their lives . . . forever. Malcolm’s father, Garland, is coming back. And moving into the suite of rooms next to Olivia’s, as he is bringing his new wife with him. Olivia doesn’t seem to understand what the big deal is, picturing an older woman to be an ally and someone to go to for advice.
Alicia, Malcolm’s new stepmother, is young enough to be his sister. And, she’s pregnant. And beautiful and feminine and radiant – everything Olivia is not. Malcolm gives her a soft look, which throws Olivia for a loop, especially after all of his raving prior to their arrival.
Malcolm never told his father that he had married. Garland points out to Alicia that she’s a grandmother before she’s a mother. Great. Despite this, Olivia is quite taken with the both of them. Garland has the warmth his son lacks, while Alicia has a sweet, winning way about her. She is nineteen, by the way.
Malcom, when asked, doesn’t think it’s necessary that they told his father about the marriage or children. We also find out that he doesn’t let the children eat with them because they’re gross. Garland says that Malcolm was obnoxious as a child, always asking why.
And Malcolm now? Enraptured by Alicia, the very picture of the women he professes to hate. Women like his mother. Especially when she pays him any special attention. Olivia is jealous, of many things, but all having to do with Alicia. The walls are so thin, she can eavesdrop on the newlyweds. Garland says he feels sorry for Olivia, because his son doesn’t understand women.
Alicia is really very childlike. And her relationship with Garland gets creepier. They met when she was five or six. They look walks together when she was fourteen. And also kissed her. She knew then it was LUV. She waxes poetic about their conversations, and sleigh rides, and picnics, all of which is foreign to Olivia. She is only fixated on the age difference, but Alicia’s rose-colored glasses are soldered to her face.
Alicia is good with the children and gets on the floor with then. Olivia tells her to be careful in her advanced condition, then thinks about her miscarrying – it makes her happy! Not for monetary reasons, like Malcolm, but because that child will be more beautiful than hers.
It’s one thing to think it, but another to encourage it by opportunity. She does this by telling Alicia she should really check out the attic for herself. She also unscrewed the light bulb so the stairway is dark. She tells Alicia not to go, but the impulsivity is strong with this one, so she goes anyway.
Olivia can’t even read her book, she’s fantasizing so hard about Olivia hurting herself, or her baby. Perhaps it will make her ugly, and then Malcolm will have nothing to entrance him. Of course, nothing happens but Malcolm has an angry face mixed almost with love.
Alicia has her baby, a beautiful boy named Christopher. Malcolm is a hypocrite, coming to see the baby and kiss his stepmother. Olivia has more of which to be jealous.
Alicia and Garland are like two youngsters first discovering sex. They closet themselves in their room during the day for hours. Olivia begins to listen through the wall, because that’s not disturbing. She even goes expressly to spy on them at the lake while they’re in the throes of passion.
Garland remakes his will to include Alicia and her son, but Malcolm wants Olivia to spy on them to see if anything changes. Alicia decides she wants to move into the Swan Room. This angers Malcolm, because they’re desecrating Mommy’s shrine, or something.
Nevertheless, they move in, and Malcolm is disgusted by what happens in there. Because he spies on them, too! There is a hole in the wall behind a picture of Garland on safari. Olivia discovers it has a perfect view of the bed. Okay, it’s bad enough for Olivia to be watching, but now his own son is wanting a piece of the action.
One day, Alicia tries to entice Olivia to go for a dip in the lake. Naked? How unladylike, sayeth Olivia, so Alicia goes alone. Malcolm sees her heading off, so he follows her. He threatens to get in the water with her, then to take her clothes. Olivia overhears her say that he “keeps trying” to seduce her. He says his father isn’t a real man, and, after she runs off, that she’ll “pay dearly” for these insults. Olivia never confronts him. She just lets the fire in Malcolm continue to smolder. And Garland begins to age rapidly. Alicia tries to turn to Olivia for help, but she watches in satisfaction as the bubbliness and spirit seem to go out of Alicia. She even lets Alicia teach her boys the piano, because it makes Malcolm angry. Being passive, however, has its consequences.
Garland has a heart attack and dies. No one really questions it, as he is old. Alicia tells Olivia that Malcolm came to her and tried to force himself on her, saying it’s his right as Garland’s son. She screams, which brings Garland running to see Malcolm trying to smother Alicia. The men tussle, which led to enough exertion, presumably, to wear out Garland’s heart.
Alicia becomes more like a child, and Olivia takes care of her. Malcolm avoids her. Olivia finally gives her a stern talking-to, and tells her to get back to reality. So, like the dutiful girl she is, she starts dressing up again and making up her face. Malcolm makes excuses about the settling of the will. Olivia tries to get her to leave.
Then Alicia finally admits to Olivia that Malcolm has been coming to her room at night and assaulting her. He has a key, so locking the door is useless. He threatens her son’s life, so she lets him in. And every time he is in her room, he calls her Corinne. One time, he forced her to put on one of his mother’s old nightgowns. Even though Olivia knows how her husband is, she still, on some level, blames Alicia. Because she was too innocent. Or maybe she actually likes it and is trying to assuage her guilt.
The real reason why Alicia is unburdening herself?
She’s pregnant. With her stepson’s baby.
This causes Olivia to hate her. Forever and ever. She will steel herself against any affection. For affection is weak.
Malcolm wants her to have the child in secret and then leave. For he wants the baby. If she doesn’t go along with this plan, he will drag her through litigation.
Olivia finally has what she wants – control. This is now her show, ya dig? Alicia will be seen as leaving, then will come back in the dead of night, to be sequestered in the north wing. All of the servants will be fired, but with a hefty severance so they can’t complain. New servants will be hired. Christopher will think Mommy’s on a journey and will return for him soon. Olivia will have to fake pregnancy.
All of this is done. Alicia goes a bit insane whilst cooped up and only able to see Olivia every day. Olivia cuts off Alicia’s hair, too, so that she won’t look as attractive to Malcolm, should he defy her and try to see Alicia.
The baby is a girl, who Malcolm names Corinne. She is the apple of his eye and can do no wrong. Everything he did not do for his sons, he does for her.
Malcolm, Jr., dies in a motorcycle crash. Joel, on a trip to Europe, goes missing and is presumed dead. Alicia sends a letter to Olivia, telling her that she is dying and has no money left to send Christopher to medical school. She begs Olivia to take him in. So, they do, and Corinne is quite taken with her “half-uncle.” Olivia is concerned, must especially because she’s all religious now, thanks to John Amos – he’s now the butler.
Corinne and Christopher are discovered having sex, so they are banned from the house. The stress leads Malcolm to have a stroke. Through the years, Olivia has them followed, to see if they have children – she is flabbergasted that they don’t have demonic attributes or are cretins. It’s just surprising to me that Olivia never saw fit to tell her daughter that she was messing with her half-brother. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? Anyway, then the fateful day arrives when Corinne must reach out to her mother, after her beloved Christopher dies.
Now, in Flowers, she wrote multiple Ietters. In Garden, only one is sent. In Flowers, Malcolm writes a note at the bottom that he’s happy there wasn’t any “Devil’s issue” from their union. In this book, however, Olivia says that she won’t let him see the letter, for she knows that the children would probably melt his icy heart and she can’t let that happen.
So, this also does not make any sense that Malcolm knew they were there the whole time, unless Olivia tells him later?
Olivia does admit that they are beautiful, but must harden her heart against them. Especially after she sees the looks that pass between Chris and Cathy, which is BS, because they don’t do anything of that sort until they’d been in the attic for a while. But John Amos made her see the light, so she straightens her back, pushes out that bosom of twin hills of concrete, and locks the door behind her.
(It’s over, Your Honor. You may rest now).