18. ‘The Cement Garden’ by Ian McEwan

I chose this as my next reading based on my previous experiences with this author. I have read Atonement and Enduring Love and found both to be solid novels. This would be an interesting experience as this is Ian McEwan’s first novel.

The Cement Garden tells the story of the four children of a family who loses both of their parents. First, their father dies. Shortly after, their mother becomes ill and also passes away. In order to avoid being taken into foster care, the children hide their mother’s body inside an old trunk and then encase it in cement down in the cellar. The children then attempt to live on their own with no parent supervision.

Good luck in trying to find anything heart-warming in this story as it is quite dark. McEwan developed a reputation for being known as “Ian Macabre” and after reading this novel, I can clearly see why. I was intrigued by an endorsement on the cover that compared this to Lord of the Flies. I can definitely see the similarities, as this has similar themes but with a female character. However, Flies is way and above a stronger story than this one. For a first novel, this one is decent. It also is a short read at around 130 pages.

My main criticism of this book is that I struggled with feeling anything for this family. Jack, who serves as the narrator, is really unlikable. From a Freudian standpoint, it is interesting to see how the children develop. I was particularly interested in the younger brother who decides he would rather be a girl then regresses back to acting like a baby. However, I found no emotional ties to Jack or any of the siblings by the conclusion of the novel.

Basically, the main theme of this novel is that nothing ever stays buried. As Jack and his siblings fight to stay together in their home, elements of the real world begin seeping through as represented by Julie’s boyfriend who Jack despises. McEwan does well with his descriptions of the house and illustrating its separation from the rest of the neighborhood. There is a gradual disintegration occurring which is represented by the growing cracks in their mother’s cement tomb. Despite the children forming their own isolated fantasy life, sooner or later you have to face reality.

“There!” she said, “wasn’t that a lovely sleep?”

What are your thoughts on the review or this book?

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2 thoughts on “18. ‘The Cement Garden’ by Ian McEwan

  1. Pingback: 28. ‘Black Dogs’ by Ian McEwan – I would rather be reading

  2. Pingback: Book Awards 2016 – I would rather be reading

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