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The Cement Garden Paperback – January 13, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
“A superb achievement: his prose has instant, lucid beauty and his narrative voice has a perfect poise and certainty. His account of deprivation and survival is marvellously sure, and the imaginative alignment of his story is exactly right.” -- Tom Paulin
“Marvellously creates the atmosphere of youngsters given that instant adulthood they all crave, where the ordinary takes on a mysterious glow and the extraordinary seems rather commonplace. It is difficult to fault the writing or the construction of this eerie fable.” -- Sunday Times
"A shocking book, morbid, full of repellant imagery - and irresistibly readable...The effect achieved by McEwan's quiet, precise and sensuous touch is that of magic realism -- a transfiguration of the ordinary that has far stronger retinal and visceral impact than the flabby surrealism of so many experimental novels." -- New York Review of Books
"His writing is exact, tender, funny, voluptuous, disturbing." -- The Times
"The Maestro." -- New Statesman
"McEwan has--a style and a vision of life of his own...No one interested in the state and mood of contemporary Britain can afford not to read him." -- John Fowles
"A sparkling and adventurous writer." -- Dennis Potter
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Top Customer Reviews
The Cement Garden has been likened to Golding's Lord of the Flies for its careful evocation of a society of young people, suddenly relieved of adult oversight, that evolves rapidly, opportunistically, organically in response to specific challenges posed by an unusual environment. In McEwan's working of these materials, related in the flat, dispassionate voice of Jack, the 14-year-old narrator, the challenging environment is the solitary house in which Jack, his brother, and two sisters live, set in the midst of a desolate urban landscape cleared for a freeway that never gets built.
The book takes its name from the paved-over garden Jack's fussy, acerbic father, a heart patient, envisions as tidier as easier to maintain. The exertions of the project kill the father, to no one's apparent regret, in the first chapter, leaving a sizable inventory of cement behind. With the demise of their long ailing mother shortly thereafter, the orphaned children are forced to recreate the family unit. Fearful of the split-up of the family, foster care for little Tom, and other worrisome ministrations of an impersonal state, the children decide to tell no one of their mother's death and to entomb her in concrete in the basement.
Jack recounts these and other details, and the changes each child undergoes, in his matter-of-fact voice.Read more ›
There's Julie, the eldest, a ripe & willful beauty who's almost a woman; there's Jack, the narrator, a boy bewildered by his growing body & appetites; there's Sue, bookish & ever-observant; and then there's Tom, the baby of the family, who actually seems to get younger, regressing as the days go by. These four form an uneasy family, slowly learning to be self-sufficient in this strangely apocalyptic setting.
But an intruder in the form of Julie's new boyfriend threatens their fragile stasis by asking too many questions. How long have the four of them been alone? And just what is buried under the crumbling pile of cement in the basement?
This book has been mistakenly marketed as a horror novel; it's horrific, sure, but not as horrible as the pulp that defines the genre. What makes it particularly good is its characters, the children who are both recognizably sympathetic and exotically extraordinary.
Ian McEwan has created a taut & provocative thriller written in pitch-perfect and stripped-down prose. Beyond being a macabre morality tale, The Cement Garden is a psychological-suspense yarn, a perceptive portrayal of adolescence that will keep you riveted up to the final, climactic scene in an upstairs bedroom.
Four children, who previously lost their father, now tend their ailing mother, whom they will soon lose as well. Two boys and two girls (two young and two teenaged), they attend school as normal, but the family has always been isolated. The mother hardly let them leave the house when she was alive, so they do not know how to handle her body now that she's died, and take it to the basement. As a subplot, the older boy and girl explore sexuality with each other, in a candid scene.
Suprisingly, we are not bothered by these activities as such. McEwan's psychological portraits are convincing, and his characters seem entirely normal. His writing skill is evident when one realizes the sympathy with which these four characters are drawn.
The novel's tension comes unexpectedly from a banal source: The older girl has a boyfriend, a conventional person, but McEwan has convinced us the family is normal, so to us, the boyfriend is an outsider. How will the boyfriend act? Will he discover the secret? If so, will he reveal it? Will he become an insider, will he clean up the mess and help the four become legitimate, will he blackmail them, or will he tell society and let them be punished as normal? If the latter, will society punish them harshly?
At the end, one wonders how horrible the youth really were, even if they lived outside social norms. What is the line between innocently mistaken and socially unacceptable?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In this, Ian McEwan’s first novel, he displays most of the elements of his style that we have come to expect. They are not, however, quite fully formed. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Dash Manchette
A disturbing book about how kids can behave when traumatised and abandoned. Impossible to read McEwan's own jugements of right and wrong so the reader is left to their own devices. Read morePublished 2 months ago by LindaMoctez
After both parents die, the four children decide that they can and must manage their lives independent of authority. Typical of teens, they think they are mature enough to succeed. Read morePublished 5 months ago by J Wags
Unexpected ending...really wanted some good to come of it...sad, sad story.Published 7 months ago by Susan R. Lockwood
From the description I expected this book to be much more interesting but, I found it rather boring. If it were longer I probably wouldn't have finished it.Published 7 months ago by Brian Anderson
I would never recommend this book to anyone. It is sick. I found it to be repulsive.
If it were possible, I would rate it with no stars.