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The Cement Garden by Ian Mcewan

The Cement Garden (original 1978; edition 1994)

by Ian Mcewan

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2,774742,113 (3.61)179
Title:The Cement Garden
Authors:Ian Mcewan
Info:Anchor (1994), Edition: 1st Vintage International ed, Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (1978)

  1. 50
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    Our Mothers House by Julian Gloag (FemmeNoiresque, SomeGuyInVirginia)
    FemmeNoiresque: The Cement Garden follows the same basic plot as Our Mother's House, with situations (children communing w/ hidden mother, a charming rogue male enters their lives & entrances one of the sisters, the neglected younger children suffer subverted into Ian McEwan's style. Our Mother's House is of a more heightened and gothic style. Like The Cement Garden, Our Mother's House was adapted into an underrated and unusual film with Dirk Bogarde, Pamela Franklin, Yootha Joyce and babies Phoebe Nicholls and Mark Lester.… (more)
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» See also 179 mentions

English (64)  Dutch (4)  Finnish (3)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  English (74)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)

What did I just read? ( )
  s.pando | Nov 4, 2016 |

What did I just read? ( )
  s.pando | Nov 4, 2016 |
Leaving aside any controversy about whether McEwan borrowed the plot for this novel from another source, for an author’s first effort, this isn’t half bad at all. Macabre, disturbing and laden with symbolism, this is as gripping a read as you’re likely to get out of something 127 pages long.

The plot centres around the two oldest children of a family bereft of parents and what happens when adults aren’t around to maintain the social status quo. If you’ve read Lord of the Flies, imagine that with a female.

McEwan has a reputation for starting his novels magnificently and then running out of inspiration about halfway through. There’s certainly no indication that this was to come from his debut. The prose fizzes along right until the end which, although somewhat predictable, is nevertheless surprising in its clarity. McEwan was definitely out to make an impression.

If you’re new to McEwan, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start here, where McEwan himself started. ( )
1 vote arukiyomi | Aug 20, 2016 |
The list of 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die has several problems-- and high among them is the fact there are too many books by Ian McEwan on the list. His debut novel "The Cement Garden" is definitely one of the books that could easily be removed.

It's the story of four children who have problematic relationships with each other. Those relationships get even worse after their parents die and they encase their mother in cement in the basement to keep social services from finding out. Their dysfunctional relationship deteriorates even further.

The story wasn't particularly believable and seems to be designed to be as shocking as possible. I would have gone through life just fine without reading this one. ( )
  amerynth | Jul 6, 2016 |
This is a dark short story about survival, compulsion, and an inevitably developing obsession. As the reader goes forward, an expectation develops of WHAT is going to happen. The artistry of the author is in the description of HOW the expectation is realized.

Seven characters move this story forward. Dad and Mom appear and disappear early in the story. Dad has a bit of obsession. He, Mom, and the kids live in a stark, fortress like stone building. This image complements the idea of “cement.” Dad is going to extend the solid image of the house by extending the amount of land covered by cement to create a “rock garden.” Despite a heart condition, Dad works hard. The main narrator, a son late in the story identified as Jack, helps Dad move and mix the cement for the garden construction. Jack is careful to not help too much. He wants Dad to overstress. Dad complies out of a sense of stubbornness, pride, and immortality. Wrong choice. Dad dies.

And Mom is happy that Dad is dead. She and the kids always cowered before the overbearing physical abusiveness of Dad. But Mom is physically, and possibly mentally, ill. From the time of Dad’s death, Mom’s existence is a story of steady decline and retreat into a drug filled existence in bed until she dies. Now the kids have to survive and overcome several problems on their own. How will they support themselves? Where will the money come from? How can the kids conceal the deaths of Mom, the remaining parent, and avoid a government engineered family split? And, just as an aside, what will the kids do with Mom’s body? It sure is lucky that Dad purchased all that cement.

Jack, Julie, and Susie create a cement sarcophagus for Mom in the cellar. It is imperfect and will eventually disintegrate to the point that a horrible smell will permeate the house leading to its discovery and disintegration by Derek, boyfriend of Julie. In a fit of jealous rage, he will share his discovery with police.

Why is Derek jealous? Jack, Susie, Julie, and Tom have always had a close relationship, protecting each other from Dad’s rages and supporting each other in necessary domestic roles when Mom could not get out of bed. From an early age there was sexual experimentation. It advanced predictably in a way that would feed Derek’s jealousy. There is even a sexual aside as Julie and Susie help Tom experiment with cross dressing.

This is a story of steady decline of a family. Their individual flaws play out in a setting of physical decline that can be distasteful to read. Moral decline occurs in tandem with physical filth. If a story that leads inevitably to incest disgusts you, avoid this one. However, the way the story is told is art. This is a fascinating, dark, tragic story. ( )
  ajarn7086 | Jun 3, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
The Cement Garden is in many ways a shocking book, morbid, full of repellent imagery—and irresistibly readable. It is also the work of a writer in full control of his materials.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Robert Towers (pay site) (Mar 8, 1979)

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian McEwanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Enzensberger, ChristianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hockney, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holt, Heleen tenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wagner, AstridEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I did not kill my father, but I sometimes felt I had helped him on his way.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679750185, Paperback)

In this tour de force of psychological unease--now a major motion picture starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sinead Cusack--McEwan excavates the ruins of childhood and uncovers things that most adults have spent a lifetime forgetting--or denying. "Possesses the suspense and chilling impact of Lord of the Flies."--Washington Post Book World.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In this tour de force of psychological unease - now a major motion picture starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sinead Cusack - McEwan excavates the ruins of childhood and uncovers things that most adults have spent a lifetime forgetting - or denying."--From publisher's description… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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