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Review of 'Secrets in the Attic', a novel by Virginia Andrews.
I am reviewing the paperback edition of this novel, published by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 374 pages, ISBN 9781847392251, cover price £6.99.
I chose this book on a recent visit to my local public library. The synopsis read very well and the novel sounded intriguing, a very good reason to select a book in my opinion!
In 1962, Zipporah Stein's family move into a house in sleepy Sandburg, a small town in New York state. Sandburg is so small that locals joke the 'Leaving Sandburg, Come visit us Again' notice is printed on the back of the 'Entering Sandburg, Welcome' sign.
The family have bought a property known as the Doral house, a house made infamous by its original owners back in the nineteenth century. This was because the wife, Lucy Doral, was said to have murdered her husband, Brendan and buried his body somewhere on the property. Brendan Doral's body was never found and no charges were ever brought against Lucy, as she claimed that her husband had run off and of course in those days forensic science and police tracking were not as sophisticated as in modern times. The house had retained a stigma attached to it and ensuing owners had modernised the property yet never settled fully. Consequently the house had remained abandoned until the Stein family fall in love with the sprawling Queen Anne style home. The eerie history of the property does not worry Zipporah's sensible lawyer father and mother who works as a nurse. Zipporah has an older brother named Jesse, who no longer lives at home full time as he attends college.
Zipporah makes friends with a local girl, Karen Stoker. Karen's mother Darlene is married to Sandburg's pharmacist, Harry Pearson. The two girls quickly become firm friends and share secrets, emotions, worries, clothes, school work, in fact, everything. The fifteen year old girls become closer than sisters and while away their free time in the attic of the Steins home, a place full of junk and treasures left behind by previous owners of the house. The attic becomes their den and they weave fantastic stories, discuss future plans and plot adventures to amuse themselves when secreted in the vast attic.
At school the girls tend to keep themselves to themselves, although they do things to irritate their peers and teachers such as speaking French, switching clothes and finishing each others sentences. They are generally found together and like to appear as inseparable as Siamese twins. They are both attractive and intelligent girls who are expected to do well in life.
Karen starts to behave even more oddly than normal and eventually confides in Zipporah that her step-father has been interfering with her, she claims that her mother is aware of the assaults but will not do anything about the situation for fear of ruining her life of luxury and wealth. Zipporah is horrified and begs her friend to allow her to discuss the problem with her father. Karen refuses to let her tell anyone and insists that Zipporah honour their 'Bird Oath', a phrase they have coined from the French, 'les oiseaux d'une plume' or Birds of a Feather. The girls secret oath 'We'll be friends forever and ever, and we swear to protect and help each other as much as we would ourselves' started as a bit of fun, but Karen is resolved to hold Zipporah to the oath.
Events in Sandburg are rocked when Karen's step-father is found stabbed to death and the finger of suspicion is pointed at Karen. The girl has vanished along with a substantial amount of money from the pharmacy. Everyone suspects Zipporah of knowing more about Karen's disappearance and although she is questioned by the Police, the girls steadfastly denies all knowledge of Karen's whereabouts.
The shock waves that reverberate through the small community of Sandburg following the murder are naturally immense and Zipporah finds herself centre of attention at school as the youngsters of the district vie to be a friend of the 'murder's friend'.
Zipporah's brother returns from college and becomes embroiled in the drama as he tries to help his sister unravel fact from fiction, fantasy from reality. The final outcome is in keeping with the rest of this haunting and dramatic novel where no one is what they at first seem to be and no event is too horrible to be fantasized over.
**About the Author**
Cleo Virginia Andrews was born on the 6th of June, 1923, in Portsmouth, Virginia. She was the youngest of three children and the only girl in the family. Her father, William Henry Andrews, was a tool-and-die maker, and her mother, Lillian Lilnora Parker Andrews, a telephone operator. Virginia spent most of her childhood years in Portsmouth, Virginia, but also lived briefly in Rochester, New York. The Andrews family returned to Portsmouth while Virginia was at high school.
In her teens Virginia suffered a suffered a tragic accident; she fell down the stairs at her school and incurred severe back injuries. Virginia was in constant pain; finally arthritis and a failed spinal surgical procedure forced her to spend most of her life on crutches or in a wheelchair.
She studied art at college and during the 1960s worked as a fashion illustrator, commercial artist, and later a portrait painter.
Virginia Andrews was a prolific author, she wrote under her own name and as V.C. Andrews. On her death in 1986, she left a considerable amount of unpublished material. The Andrews family decided after Virginia's death to continue writing and keeping Virginia's talent alive and used a ghost writer, Andrew Neiderman.
A full bibliography can be found at the following web address:-
**Availability and Price**
The copy I read is as previously mentioned, a library book. It carries a jacket price of £6.99. The novel can be found on the following sites:-
www.amazon.co.uk £4.19 (or £3.03 used).
www.ebay.co.uk £6.00 (or 0.54p plus P&P at auction).
As ever, the prices listed above cannot be guaranteed they are only relevant for the search I conducted for research purposes.
**My Thoughts and Conclusion**
Secrets in the Attic is a thought provoking and intriguing crime novel. I consider the plot to be fairly unsual, in as much as the characters are a little 'off beam' and the circumstances that lead up to the finale, are again not quite what the reader expects. I liked the fact that the main characters are exposed almost anti-heroes as the plot unravels.
The central characters, Zipporah and Karen are extremely well drawn, the author has cleverly addressed the problems of growing up without allowing this aspect to overshadow the main plot. The storyline is very fast moving and the descriptions of Sandburg and it's residents are realistic and believable.
I felt that the dark nature of one of the girls, I won't say which one for fear of spoiling the novel for others, was well woven into the plot. The reader is led through the story as Zipporah herself, I am not always very keen on novels written in the first person for some reason, but I make an exception with Secrets in the Attic, it is a masterpiece of intrigue and mystery.
I enjoyed this novel very much and will definitely look out for more of this author's work. I understand that there is a sequel to 'Secrets in the Attic' which I have ordered from my local library.......so watch out for a another Virginia Andrews novel review!
Well deserving of a 5* rating, I would recommend this novel to others.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 March 2010
N.B. My reviews may be found on other review sites under the same user name.