Have any of you ever read Flowers in the Attic by V C Andrews? It focuses on the story of the Dollanganger children and how they survive when their mother leaves them locked in an attic for years. It’s a brilliant series, but it is oh-so difficult to read. Because one of the main themes is consensual incest.
I’ll just let you guys digest that.
Why bring up that book? Because Forbidden follows along in the same vein. It follows the story of Lochan and Maya Whitely as they try to raise their younger brothers and sister by themselves because their mother has abandoned them. And, in the process, they fall in love with each other.
I do not know how to describe this book. It is a difficult read, but it is beautifully written. Forbidden is a snapshot into the lives of the Whitely children. The plot is their everyday life. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t say there is a plot because this is a snapshot. BUT, when I say that, I mean that Suzuma has created a story with such natural flow that nothing feels like a plot. It is flawless.
What makes Forbidden so hard to read is the love story itself. It is beautiful. But can you really say that about an incestuous relationship? The love portrayed by Suzuma is more compelling, with more depth, than most everything that is seen in mainstream media. But it is fundamentally wrong. Suzuma had me rooting for Lochan and Maya, even though they are brother and sister. How, how did she do that?
I was so in love with this love story that I flicked ahead to the end, hoping against hope that something would happen so that Lochan and Maya could stay together. I was hoping one of them was adopted. Begging Suzuma to let that be the finale to this story …
But, alas, this was not meant to be. The ending is traumatic, devastating, and had me welling up. But it was real. No story like this ends in happiness. Lochan and Maya were doing something fundamentally against nature, no matter how beautifully the story was written.
I don’t want to say exactly what happens at the end because, if you choose to read this book (and you should), you will miss out on the emotional importance of the ending.
Because I’m studying psychology, I’m interested in the phenomenon behind the story. In both Flowers in the Attic and Forbidden the eldest children never felt like brother and sister because they were acting as mother and father. Their relationship is different and so they, in the stories, develop different reactions to each other. The budding psychologist in me wants to know if this is something that occurs in reality. That if brother and sister aren’t raised to think of themselves as brother and sister, does this actually happen? Because both Andrews and Suzuma make it plausible.
I cannot fault this book for anything. The characters are all marvellous, even the ones we’re supposed to hate. As I’ve already said, the pacing and the plot are so well constructed as to be almost non-existent. And the mood is just … perfect. I think it’s the mood that draws you in. Your mood lifts and falls with the characters. When the kids are bickering, you feel Lochan and Maya’s frustration. When everyone is having a good day, you feel happy. And in those brief moments of peace that the elder siblings get, you feel peaceful too. Mood is so often overlooked, but it is oh-so important.
As I said before, Forbidden is not an easy read. You find yourself wishing for a relationship to work even though it is wrong on almost every level. But I highly recommend it anyway.
I’ve been keeping my eye out for Forbidden since it first came out. I think there’s something to be said about how much influence external factors have in shaping what we think as fundamentally wrong or not. In this case, the whole brother-sister dynamic changing into a mother-father dynamic is so intriguing.
It is. The whole book was intriguing for that exact reason. Society shapes so much of what we believe to be right and wrong that we aren’t even aware of it most of the time.
I had a bit of trouble buying it though! When I went to buy the book from my local bookshop, though, they said the book had a limited run in my country so I had to buy online.
No, really? You’re from Australia right? Perhaps it didn’t do so well in its sales or is published from a small indie publisher. Hmm.
I had a really hard time with Flowers in the Attic, but more so for the horrendous way those children were treated, rather than the incestuous relationship. I don’t know that this book is up my alley, but probably just because it makes me uncomfortable. Maybe that’s why I should read it?
Oh, those poor children were treated horribly. Did you ever read the rest of the series?
The incestual relationships in both Flowers in the Attic and Forbidden are more like a symptom of neglect BUT, having said that, it is very uncomfortable to read because of how the relationships are portrayed.
Maybe see if you can borrow it from a library or get it second hand so if you do struggle with it too much, you wouldn’t have lost anything? I do love this book but definitely a challenging one!