Controversial Gothic Novel 'Flowers in the Attic' Keeps Its Origins Shrouded in Mystery

A new 'Flowers in the Attic' adaptation is coming to Lifetime, which makes viewers wonder: is the premise based on a true story? Here's the scoop.


Jul. 9 2022, Published 10:52 a.m. ET

'Flowers in the Attic'
Source: Lifetime

The 1979 Gothic novel Flowers in the Attic by Virginia "V.C." Andrews has long sparked controversy and debate for its macabre subject matter. The story, which follows siblings Chris, Cathy, Carrie, and Cory after their mother locks them in an attic bedroom for three years, was at one point advertised as "based on a true story."

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Flowers in the Attic is the first in a book series by Andrews but the only book that has been adapted into a feature film twice. Now, Lifetime's Flowers in the Attic: The Origin will premiere on TV, and viewers are wondering if the book is actually based on a true story. Here's what you need to know about the book, the TV limited series, and the author herself.

'Flowers in the Attic.'
Source: Lifetime
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Is 'Flowers in the Attic' based on a true story?

According to The Guardian in 2019, Andrews' original pitch letter for Flowers in the Attic claimed that the story was a "fictionalised version of a true story," which sparked long-lasting rumors about the story's origins. V.C. Andrews' website also claims the story is based in truth, where an unidentified relative suggests that the story was inspired by a young doctor at the University of Virginia hospital where V.C. had been a patient.

Recently, biographers have drawn parallels between the Dollanganger children of the story, who are imprisoned by their beautiful but conniving and murderous mother, and Andrews' own life. A biography published in January 2022 about Andrews called The Woman Beyond the Attic talks about her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. As a teen, she underwent a surgical procedure that left her wheelchair-bound and at the mercy of her mother.

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'Flowers in the Attic: The Origin.'
Source: Lifetime

As a result, the biography claims that when Andrews was disobedient or rebellious, her mother would lock her in her bedroom without food. Anderson's ghostwriter and biographer Andrew Neiderman told The Guardian, "Her mother would lock her in her room and not give her dinner if she got angry at her. She controlled who Virginia could see, what she could do, and punished her for not doing what she wanted."

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Neiderman became Andrews' ghost writer when she passed away from breast cancer in 1989. He completed her unfinished manuscripts and wrote 96 novels in her name with the approval of her estate.

'Flowers in the Attic: The Origin' follows Olivia Winfield (later, Foxworth.)
Source: Lifetime
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Neiderman maintains the belief that Flowers in the Attic is somewhat inspired by truth, both reinforcing the story about the University of Virginia hospital doctor and explaining that Andrews "felt so trapped by her illness – and was so incarcerated by her mother sometimes – that she could understand how children would feel locked up in an attic."

The new lifetime miniseries Flowers in the Attic: The Origin seeks to serve as a prequel to the original story, focusing on the grandmother of the children, Olivia Winfield Foxworth. The miniseries is based on the book Garden of Shadows, which focuses on Olivia and how she came into her wealth before the events of Flowers in the Attic. The show and the book are set in the early 1900s.

Flowers in the Attic: The Origin premieres on Lifetime on July 9, 2022, at 8 p.m. ET.

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