Tuesday, February 1, 2022

[Review] - The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story

I've started, deleted, and restarted this review multiple times, and finally, I decided not to sugarcoat my thoughts, unlike many other bloggers who also received an ARC copy. Yes, I read a few other reviews before penning my own. It's pretty obvious that either they didn't read the book. Or they gave it a good rating only because they received an ARC. Seriously, where is your integrity? I expect this from mainstream critics but not from bloggers.

As the title, The Woman Beyond the Attic: The V.C. Andrews Story, suggests, this is the real-life story of gothic author V.C. Andrews (1923 - 1986), who wrote the mega-bestseller Flowers in the Attic. Andrew Neiderman wrote the biography, a.k.a. the ghostwriter who keeps churning out new stories under V.C. Andrews's name. Now here comes my first issue with the book - Andrew Neiderman! 

Andrew Neiderman used to be a decent horror writer, but his writing skills have gone downhill in the last ten to fifteen years. Let me rephrase that, Neiderman's writing sucks. Let me repeat myself - I'm not sugarcoating anything.  

The Woman Beyond the Attic begins with a 28-paged preface. Yes, you read that correctly - 28-pages. The biography is only 150 pages! Let me tell you - it's a pain to read. It's not a biography in any sense. Instead, Neiderman complies together public interviews, letters, and information that you can either 'google' or find on Wikipedia. The timeline and facts are disjointed, creating a chaotic mess to follow. I wonder if Andrew Neiderman has ever read a single biography in his life because he doesn't have the know-how to write one.

Repetition! I lost count at how many times Neiderman repeated quotes, stories, and events, word by word. Was Neiderman trying to fill up the word count? Why? Did Neiderman have enough facts to write a full biography, or is Neiderman just a bad writer? You be the judge.

The rest of the book features the supposedly only unfinished novel by V.C. Andrews, The Obsessed. It's roughly 88 pages, minus a few blank pages between chapters, and if the legend is correct, the first draft was around 800 pages. In a letter written in February 1981, V.C. Andrews told her brother that the novel's release date was September 1981. Now, this is where the facts get confusing. If The Obsessed's planned release date was in six months, wouldn't the first or second draft already be completed and in the hands of the editor?  

Long before Flowers in the Attic, V.C. Andrews published the short story, My Uncle on My Wedding Night, under an unknown pseudonym in a pulp-confession magazine. Nobody has ever found a copy, but there is finally evidence that it did exist. In the very back of The Woman Beyond the Attic, there's part of a submission letter to The Do-It-Yourself Romance for a new version of the story, retitled Love's Savage Desire. The first three chapters and the last two chapters are featured.  

Lastly, the poems "Golden Things" and "Regretting" are included at the very end of the book. 

Final Thoughts

I wanted to give Andrew Neiderman the benefit of the doubt and had hoped this biography would be decent. Sadly, that's not the case. It feels half-heartedly written. The overly long preface feels more like a biography than the actual biography. I wished the V.C. Andrews estate and Gallery Books had hired a professional biographer instead of rehiring Andrew Neiderman. Yeah, I get it. Neiderman is the ghostwriter, so he should be the perfect choice to pen V.C. Andrews's biography. Right? Wrong! The last dozen or so ghostwritten titles have been lazy and sloppy. And, Neiderman's streak of horrible writing continues.  

The Woman Beyond the Attic has zero new information about V.C. Andrews that I didn't already know via the internet. The only two things of any interest in this book are the several never-seen-before photos and The Obsessed, but they're not enough for me to recommend the book to other readers.

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