The Cement Garden

The Cement Garden

3.8 18
by Ian McEwan
     
 

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Ian McEwan is known to skirt the edge with his writing; the fringes of society, to test the limits of what we can handle perhaps in our worlds as we bring his writing home with us and allow a whole new being to enter. So it is with The Cement Garden, the story of dying family who live in a dying part of the city. The father of four children decides, in an effort to

Overview

Ian McEwan is known to skirt the edge with his writing; the fringes of society, to test the limits of what we can handle perhaps in our worlds as we bring his writing home with us and allow a whole new being to enter. So it is with The Cement Garden, the story of dying family who live in a dying part of the city. The father of four children decides, in an effort to make his garden easier to control, to pave it over. In the process, he has a heart attack and dies, leaving the cement garden unfinished and the children to the care of their mother. Soon after, the mother too dies and the children, fearful of being separated by social services, decide to cover up their parents� deaths: they bury their mother in the cement garden.

All of the children are free thinking independent-minded teenagers. The story is told from the point of view of Jack, one of the sons, the narrator who is entering adolescence with all of its curiosity and appetites that he must contend with (along with the sure confusion of what the children have done). Julie, the eldest, is almost a grown woman. Sue is rather bookish and observes all that goes on around her. And Tom is the youngest and the baby of the lot.

The children seem to manage in this perverse setting rather well until Julie brings home a boyfriend who threatens their secret by asking too many questions (like what is buried beneath the cement pile, etc), surely threatening the status quo (however morbid) that the children have come to accept as "normal" and as "home". We understand through McEwan that home is not to be defined by anyone else but it is, instead, what you know and have known that makes you feel safe, even if it is rather dangerous and macabre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

First Love, Last Rites was McEwan's first published book and is a collection of short stories that in 1976 won the Somerset Maugham Award. A second volume of his work appeared in 1978. These stories--claustrophobic tales of childhood, deviant sexuality and disjointed family life--were remarkable for their formal experimentation and controlled narrative voice. McEwan's first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), is the story of four orphaned children living alone after the death of both parents. To avoid being taken into custody, they bury their mother in the cement of the basement and attempt to carry on life as normally as possible. Soon, an incestuous relationship develops between the two oldest children as they seek to emulate their parents roles. The Cement Garden was followed by The Comfort of Strangers (1981), set in Venice, a tale of fantasy, violence, and obsession. The Child in Time (1987) won the Whitbread Novel Award and marked a new confidence in McEwan's writing. The story revolves around the devastating effects of the loss of a child through child abduction. Readers may know McEwan's work through these and other books, or more recently through his novel, Atonement, which was made into a major motion picture.

ABOUT THE SERIES

Rosetta presents modern classics from groundbreaking author Ian McEwan, author of Atonement and First Love, Last Rites (among others) in a special collection that offer readers the full-range of McEwan's smart, savvy, and engaging prose.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940014079167
Publisher:
RosettaBooks
Publication date:
02/11/2011
Series:
Ian McEwan Series , #2
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
254,995
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

First Love, Last Rites was McEwan's first published book and is a collection of short stories that in 1976 won the Somerset Maugham Award. A second volume of his work appeared in 1978. These stories--claustrophobic tales of childhood, deviant sexuality and disjointed family life--were remarkable for their formal experimentation and controlled narrative voice. McEwan's first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), is the story of four orphaned children living alone after the death of both parents. To avoid being taken into custody, they bury their mother in the cement of the basement and attempt to carry on life as normally as possible. Soon, an incestuous relationship develops between the two oldest children as they seek to emulate their parents roles. The Cement Garden was followed by The Comfort of Strangers (1981), set in Venice, a tale of fantasy, violence, and obsession. The Child in Time (1987) won the Whitbread Novel Award and marked a new confidence in McEwan's writing. The story revolves around the devastating effects of the loss of a child through child abduction. Readers may know McEwan's work through these and other books, or more recently through his novel, Atonement, which was made into a major motion picture.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Oxford, England
Date of Birth:
June 21, 1948
Place of Birth:
Aldershot, England
Education:
B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971
Website:
http://www.ianmcewan.com

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The Cement Garden 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan is a shockingly dark, morbid yet brilliant novel depicting the lives of four siblings left to care for one another when their parents die. The children, oldest Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom, the youngest who seems to grow progressively younger and more attached throughout the book, are faced with the challenges and mystery that come with being suddenly relieved of parental oversight. McEwan's writing in The Cement Garden stays true to the style he is most famous for- imagery so exact it can make the stomach turn (especially when describing the stench coming from the basement), and the morbid topics such as incest and death he so enjoys writing about. And aside the trials and tribulations that come with a lack of parental guidance, the two oldest children, Julie and Jack, are amidst their own changes as adolencents. When Julie's boyfriend, Derek, starts hanging around the house asking too many questions, "how long have you been living alone?" "what exactly is buried in the basement that is making that smell?", the four children begin to band together to preserve their relationships. But the relationships turn in the climactic last scene which makes you ponder and be disgusted by the weirdness of McEwans writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the start of Ian McEwan's novel, The Cement Garden, the family of six appears to be a normal family with very unique relationships with one another. These relationships, especially among the children, are emphasized as the novel progresses and both parents pass away. The four siblings, Julie, Jack, Tom and Sue, find themselves in a very awkward situation as they are forced to survive, both physically and emotionally, in the very critical surroundings they reside in. The first moment in which the reader realizes the damaged innocence of the children is when they bury their mother in the basement with the cement that once belonged to their father. From this point on, their conventional understanding of family is distorted and they proceed to fulfill this deficiency by playing the roles of mother and father. A sub-plot of the novel is the sexual tension between Julie and Jack, the oldest of the four siblings. Through this role-play, the climax of the novel is reached where Julie and Jack reveal, to each other, the tension that has been lingering for years. Even when the parents are alive, McEwan makes note of the fact that the children are not very in touch with others around them and rarely have any visitors. For this reason, he introduces Julie's boyfriend to their lives in order to establish a contrast between their life and the "normal" life of the public around them. Derek, Julie's boyfriend, asks many questions and at the end, comes to the conclusion that Julie and Jack are sick for pursuing their incestuous relationship. Because Derek represents society, his disapproval is McEwan's way to express how disconnected the children are from what is "normal." Ian McEwan does an exceptional job in bringing out the sympathy in the reader for these children. The unfair loss of the children's innocence due to the death of their parents almost serves as an excuse for their actions. Even as Derek enters their lives as a conventional male figure, he is presented as an outsider because the reader is accustomed to the lifestyle of the four children. The novel expresses the unfair loss of innocence due to the firm rules of society. McEwan's style leaves the reader vulnerable to feelings of compassion towards the unconventional actions the children take.
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mpsarch More than 1 year ago
Growing up, I was always told to be quiet if I have not anything nice to say. I've always disagreed with that notion, but still abided by it whilst under parental supervision. "Cement Garden" is just as much about being young and the accompanying growing pains, but with a thick dose of the macabre that the author, Ian, seems to have a firm hold on the balance. However, the incessant emphasis on incestuous themes is not just disturbing but in many ways unnecessary. I am only giving this one 2 stars because their are literally two stars in the book: Jack and Julie.
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IAMINAPLITERATURERIGHTNOW More than 1 year ago
I think that Ian McEwen is an extremely talented author in many aspects. I think that his key to writing is the extensive use of detail that allows great imagery and simile as well as any other things. I believe that he is amazing when it comes to using his personal life and feelings in the book while allowing other ideas as well. When I first began to read his book, "The Cement Garden", I was pretty grossed out but even then I continued to read on. I felt as if I was obligated to keep reading but as I got further and further into the novel and learned more about the characters I enjoyed reading about their feelings and experiences. I think that when you read a book, especially one by Ian McEwen , you should never let your personal beliefs and opinions cloud your judgment and disable you from reading. I also think that just because something isn't to your liking doesn't mean that its wrong. I feel as if opposing something just because YOU don't think it's right is absolutely preposterous and something like this can be compared to racism and prejudice. Opposing to people who engage in incest is pretty much the same thing as opposing interracial marriage between lacks and whites. Think before you speak and actually keep in mind what the other party may feel and how their environment and beliefs differ from yours because everything comes into play at all times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
**Don't worry! I don't spoil the ending!!** There is nothing better, in my opinion, than a book that transcends the mundane, and society's cliches and molds. This book took me to a blurry, dusty window-- one I had read about in many instances but never fully comprehended-- and wiped away the grit and grime. It revealed to me a matter and emotions that I now see occur relatively often in families, but perhaps not many have gotten to the extent that the book suggested. I am not easily "wow'd" by endings in a lot of books because, as readers, we are almost perfunctiorily obliged to recognize what will happen, how it will concluded, etc, etc. "The Cement Garden" is a "wow" book multiplied by ten. There are tidbits and clues hidden inside the words so as to tie the whole book together (quite well, I might add) but I just became so absorbed that I didn't connect the full meaning of it all till near the last pages. All in all, most recommended for mature and abstract-thinking people of any age (please,please,please do not buy -- or write a review on B&N-- if you are not ready to divulge into a 'taboo' subject). Also, unless requested, I would not buy this as a gift for any-ol'-person. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful book!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Excellently crafted and executed. It is the kind of book that travels with you; the plot starts heavy in the beginning but then tapers off into a more freestyle exploration of what the characters are like after their parents dissolving. This viewpoint though, is utterly skewed by the main character (who is the narrator). His subjective observance of events cause things that happen in the book to become obscured. This caused myself, the reader, to percieve the story differently while reading it. After the book was closed came the startling realization of the levity of the characters actions, (their actions, that the book obscurely hinted at). The subtle words spoken at the ends of the paragraphs hint that there is something much graver going on that the book is going to tell you; and there is. This novel is a modern classic I would recommend to anyone with a mind for literature. A quick read that sustains itself as more than just a story. After you finish, ask yourself 'What was Jack really doing?'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel was very compelling and thought provoking not to mention bizarre. A number of disturbing themes are explored, including incest. While I did enjoy the book, it was hard for me to be wildly enthusiastic. It did address mature themes head-on but for what purpose, I am not completely sure. I am certainly willing to read other McEwan books (this was my first) and would even consider re-reading this book to gain better insight into its purpose and deeper themes. Having said that, I am nonetheless more restrained in my praise than other reviewers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book left me breathtaken and with a new look on the world and the meaning of life. It gave me an impression of family importance i thought i'd never have, it's hard to explain why, but this book is by far the best book i have ever read. Find out for yourself, I'd say: read it and be ready for inspiration on life and life's treasures.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel touches on everything that haunts society yet does it in a poetic and honest manner. I'd say read it, it will leave you with something to ponder!