Dawn (Andrews novel)
First edition cover of Dawn
Author(s) V. C. Andrews Country United States Language English Series Cutler series Genre(s) Gothic horror
Publisher Simon & Schuster Publication date November 1990 Media type Pages 407 ISBN 0-671-67068-9 Followed by Secrets of the Morning (1991)
Dawn Longchamp leads a humble, rootless existence with her parents, Ormond and Sally Jean Longchamp, and her moody older brother Jimmy. Moving around a lot, Dawn's family does not provide much stability for her, but what her lifestyle lacks in stability, her home life makes up for in love.
This erratic lifestyle seems to change when Dawn and her brother Jimmy are able to enroll in an exclusive private school when Ormand gets a job there. It is here that Dawn's talent for singing is discovered. Her brother does not enjoy the school, feeling the weight of class differences bear down upon him. Dawn, although optimistic, does not fare much better, and is sternly ordered by the headmistress to be on her best behavior as she is of lesser social status than her classroom peers.
On her first day, she also incurs the wrath of the most popular and affluent girl in the school, Clara Sue Cutler, after accidentally ratting her out on her smoking. Clara Sue then proceeds to pull mean-spirited pranks on Dawn. Clara Sue openly refers to Dawn as white trash, an appellation that stings Dawn to her very core. Dawn's loathing for Clara Sue grows, but surprisingly (even to Dawn), this loathing does not spill over to Clara Sue's older brother, the handsome and charming Philip Cutler.
Philip is kind to Dawn, and immediately shows an interest in her. He compares her beauty to that of his mother, Laura Sue Cutler, and is easily entranced. Jimmy is wary of Philip, but does not overtly oppose Dawn's involvement with him. Dawn, a young, shy girl, is taken somewhat aback by Philip's immediate romantic overtures even though she does find him attractive.
Philip urges her to date him, and with some parental persuasion, Dawn is able to do so. Meanwhile, Dawn's mother, Sally Jean, has discovered that she is pregnant. This puts a cramp in the Longchamps' already tight financial budget, but nonetheless, Dawn is overjoyed at the prospect of a little sibling. Sally Jean gives birth to a little girl named Fern, but does not recover her health after the labor. She attempts several holistic ways of recovering her health but to no avail. She remains bedridden for the duration of Dawn's school year.
At school, what sparks her excitement are the musical opportunities allotted to her. Her enjoyment of music culminates in her solo song, Somewhere over the Rainbow, at a school concert. Although nervous because of a prank pulled earlier by Clara Sue and her clique, Dawn draws emotional strength from the pearls which Sally Jean gave her earlier in the evening, a Longchamp heirloom, she claims.
Dawn's world comes crashing down after her solo performance at the school concert. Her beloved mother, Sally Jean, passes away that night. With the shock of the event barely registered, what comes on the heels of Sally Jean's death truly changes Dawn's life forever.
A security guard at the hospital Sally Jean died at recognizes the family, and also notices something peculiar in Dawn's appearance. He goes to the authorities who perform an early morning raid of the Longchamp residence. Here, through these officers, it is revealed to Dawn that she is not the daughter of Ormond and Sally Jean, but that she was in fact kidnapped by them as a newborn, and that she is actually the daughter of Randolph and Laura Sue Cutler.
Dawn is transported via the authorities to Cutler's Cove, Virginia, an offshoot of Virginia Beach. Ormand is arrested for his part as a child kidnapper, and Jimmy and Fern, with no nearby immediate family member to come to their aid, are placed in foster care. Dawn is stunned and does not believe this could be happening, but the authorities distinguish her by physical characteristics described as on her person at birth. In the periphery, Dawn is also appalled at the realization the terrible Clara Sue is her sister, and even more heartbreaking, that her boyfriend, Philip, is actually her brother.
These concerns fade into the background after her first meeting with Grandmother Cutler at the family's hotel, Cutler's Cove. Grandmother Cutler does not seem overjoyed about the return of her long-lost grandchild. She informs Dawn that she will be known by her "true" name, Eugenia, and that she will work in the hotel as a maid in order to make sure that she is trustworthy. Dawn is shocked and upset by this cold treatment. She tries appealing to her real parents, Randolph and Laura Sue, but they are just as powerless as her. Randolph, though charming and handsome, has little willpower and prefers life to be as smooth as possible. Laura Sue is enchanted by Dawn's prettiness and resemblance to her, but refuses to make any effort, as she is completely cowed by her mother-in-law. Dawn is also put at risk by Clara Sue's malicious tricks. Clara Sue is infuriated that Dawn has returned and is doing her best to make sure Dawn is fired from her job by stealing jewellery and other items from the hotel guests. Dawn finds some comfort in the housekeeper, Mrs. Boston, who knew Sally Jean and Ormand Longchamp when they worked at the hotel. She cannot believe that her parents stole her, as they were always honest, hard-working people. Mrs. Boston gives her a hint that all may not be what it seems. Dawn's life is further brightened by a secret visit from Jimmy, helped by Philip. Jimmy confesses that he developed romantic feelings for Dawn a while ago, but never dared show them because he felt he was sick for thinking of her that way. Dawn admits the attraction is mutual, but they find it hard to overcome their upbringing as brother and sister.
Clara Sue finds Jimmy in the basement at Cutler's Cove where Dawn was hiding him. She tells Grandmother Cutler, who goes to the police and has Jimmy taken back to his foster parents. Dawn is heart-broken that Jimmy has to leave and is furious with Clara Sue. Jealous of her obvious affection for Jimmy, Phillip corners Dawn in her bathroom and rapes her. Desperate to get out, Dawn visits her old nurse Mrs. Dalton and learns that her 'kidnapping' was staged because Randolph was not her biological father and that Grandmother Cutler paid the Longchamps with family jewels, including Dawn's pearls. Dawn confronts Grandmother Cutler about this, who confesses and makes Dawn a deal: if Dawn will go to a singing school in New York, she will get Ormand out of prison. Dawn also insists that she be referred to by Dawn, not Euginia. The book ends with Dawn going to New York.
- Dawn Longchamp (AKA Eugenia Grace Cutler): The main character of the series. She is descibed as a bright girl with a gift in singing. She believed Ormand and Sally Jean to be her parents, but is really a member of the prestigious Culter family. She wants to be a singer, but instead becomes the owner of the Culter Cove Hotel. She marries her adoptive brother, Jimmy, and has two children: Christie and Jefferson. She dies in the fourth book in a fire at the hotel.
- James "Jimmy" Longchamp: Dawn's adoptive older brother and the son of Ormand and Sally Jean, and older brother of Fern. He is described a hot-tempered and stubborn, but nice, especially to Dawn. He has loved Dawn ever since childhood, but never admitted due to their upbringing as siblings. He eventually marries her and has a son, Jefferson, with her. He also adopts Christie. He dies in the fourth book with Dawn in a fire at the hotel.
- Ormand Longchamp: Husband of Sally Jean and father of Jimmy and Fern. Later the husband of Edwina and father of Gavin. He is also the adoptive father of Dawn. He is sent to jail for "kidnapping" Dawn for s short time, but is soon vendicated with Dawn's help.
- Sally Jean Longchamp: Wife of Ormand and mother of Jimmy and Fern. She is Dawn's confidant and loves all her children dearly. She dies of tuberculosis soon after Fern's birth.
- Philip Cutler: The older brother of Dawn and Clara Sue, and son of Randolph and Laura Sue. He falls in love with Dawn and becomes obsessed with her after learning they are brother and sister, even rapes her.
- Clara Sue Culter: The younger sister of Philip and Dawn. She hates Dawn because she was born as a replacement daughter after Dawn's kidnapping. She is very rebellious and spoiled. She dies in a truck accident in the third book.
- Lillian Culter: The antagonist of the series. She is the grandmother of Dawn, Philip, and Clara Sue, and mother of Randolph. She hates Dawn because she was fathered by Lillian's husband and arranged for her kidnapping. Dawn says that Lillian would have preferred her to be dead than brought back to the hotel. She dies of a stroke in the second book.
- Randolph Cutler: Father of Dawn, Philip, and Clara Sue; husband of Laura Sue; son of Lillian and William. It turns out that he is not Dawn and Clara Sue's father, but is Dawn's half-brother. He is doted on by his mother and is completely reliable on her. He dies of heart failure on her grave.
- Laura Sue Cutler: Mother of Dawn, Philip, and Clara Sue; wife of Randolph; wife of Bronsan. She is very beautiful, but refuses to take on any responsibility. She claimed that William had raped her, that led to Dawn's birth, and has loved Bronsan all along. She dies of a stroke in the fourth book.
- William Cutler: Husband of Lillian and father of Randolph. The original owner of Cutler Cove Hotel. He is also the father of Dawn due to him raping her mother. He died prior to the story's beginning.
- Ms. Mary Boston: Maid of the hotel. She becomes a close friend of Dawn's throughout the story.
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