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Description - The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

In the relentless summer heat, four abruptly orphaned children retreat into a shadowy, isolated world, and find their own strange and unsettling ways of fending for themselves...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099755111
ISBN-10: 0099755114
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 12mm)
Pages: 160
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-Jun-1997
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

UK Kirkus Review » First published in 1978, this novel holds all the McEwan hallmarks: dark depravity, loss, childhood in an adult world and watertight characters with convincing emotions and motives. The story covers a few months in the life of Jack, one of four children in a dysfunctional family. The first signs of a this family's dark secrets are the sexual games the teenage siblings play with each other. The death of their father and not long afterwards their mother, bring them to darker deeds which echo the depravity of William Golding's Lord of the Flies. Jack lives through these months in an agony of loneliness and confusion, not knowing how to communicate with his sisters or ask for help as manhood approaches. McEwan's brilliance lies in describing the slide towards depravity and shocking situations in such a way as to make them seem not only convincing, but inevitable. An accomplished tale of how adolescents can fail to grasp reality and respond appropriately. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » There can be nothing but praise for how Ian McEwan writes: in his short stories (First Love, Last Rites, 1975) and in this new novella, he glories in the secret of how uninflected, almost unbearably lean, plain prose can grip, can scream without a single exclamation point. What McEwan writes is perhaps less cause for dancing in the streets. Here he returns to some of the adolescent preoccupations that peeked through the stories - masturbation, sibling sex - and, though all this is handled with impeccable taste and invested with authentic bitter-sweetness, one longs for adult material to match the fully matured style. Still, except for one aggressively Oedipal coincidence and an incestuous finale, The Cement Garden's adolescent sensibility works, on its own terms, quietly and stunningly. The Oedipal coincidence: acne-infested, broody narrator Jack, second oldest of four children, has his first ejaculation just as his frail father drops dead outside - father has been surrounding their English urban house with an even plane of concrete to cover the dirt and grass. With father gone and mother taking to her bed, the children - Jack, older Julie, younger Sue, little Tom - tussle for power, for each other's affection, and for attention from their mother, who has tired of doctors and one day quietly dies in bed. As in so many similar stories, the children fear being separated and so bury mother in the cellar, surrounding her with wet cement left over from father's weird concrete project. Now parentless, the house fills with debris and the children deteroriate: Julie attracts a pool-shark beau; Sue drifts off into reveries about mother; Tom wants to be a girl (his sisters approve and dress him up); Jack becomes obsessed with a science-fiction novel, a gutted nearby hi-rise, and masturbation. Only Jack and Julie's ultimate sexual coming-together - which, seen by the furious boyfriend, brings on the end of the children's closed-off world - seems staged for effect. And, most impressive of all, this grim little tale is somehow suffused with light and warmth. Having worked such wonders with such intrinsically stunted material, McEwan calls attention to his undeniable talent. If he and his characters can stretch to measure up to that prose, we may be watching a major novelist in the making. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is the author of two collections of stories and twelve previous novels, including Enduring Love, Amsterdam, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1998, Atonement and, most recently, Solar.

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