The Cement Garden
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The Cement Garden

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  11,678 ratings  ·  877 reviews
'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

In the relentless summer heat, four abruptly orphaned children retreat into a shadowy, isolated world, and find their own s

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Paperback, 144 pages
Published June 5th 1997 by Vintage (first published 1978)
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Tatiana
Sep 06, 2011 Tatiana rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: 1001 List
Shelves: 1001, contemporary, 2011
Will it reflect badly on me if I say this book isn't sordid enough to be entertaining or truly affecting? Considering how unsettling and uncomfortable it already is?

Four siblings, ranging from 6 to 17, who have too close for comfort of a relationship (if the word "incest" flashed in you mind, you are correct - it is not a spoiler, the "action" starts on page 2), witness both their parents die within the weeks of each other. When their mother dies, they make a decision to bury her in the cellar a...more
Michelle
This book is fucked-up, sick, and creepy...I loved it. I love McEwan's style. He doesn't clutter his writing with unnecessary words, yet he says so much. His writing is sharp and clean. He is so good at invoking a specific mood at the very beginning of a novel, and then continuing to give the reader that same feeling throughout. Then, just when you're sufficiently creeped out or unnerved or whatever it is you've been feeling, it gets even more intense.

The book is a first-person narrative told b...more
Jessica
I saw the movie version of The Cement Garden in the theater when I was fifteen, and completely freaked out. For years afterwards it stayed high on my list of all-time favorites. I haven't seen it again since then, though, so I have no idea what I'd think now, but at the time I just thought it was the greatest thing ever. Incest! Allegory. Incest! Foreigners! Incest! Cement. Incest! Adolescence. Tragedy! Incest! What more do you want from a film at age fifteen?

Reading this book was definitely col...more
Jared Duran
Aug 16, 2007 Jared Duran rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those not made uneasy by disturbing literature
Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden is, quite clearly not for everyone. There are several severely disturbing incidents throughout the book that might make some readers wonder why they bought it, and where is the nearest bookstore to return it? There are other groups both of a religious/fascist nature (the two are not always mutually exclusive) that might have it pencilled in on their "things to burn" list.

In the hands of a lesser writer, much of this book would seem vulgar. However, in McEwan's cap

...more
Cecily
McEwan's first novel, published when he was only 30. (It was preceded by an even more shocking collection of short stories, "First Love, Last Rights", https://www.goodreads.com/review/show....)

A profoundly disturbing, but very well written book. Had I realised the true nature of it, I doubt I would have read it, and somehow the fact it is told in such an unjudgemental way almost makes it worse.

"I did not kill my father, but I sometimes think I helped him on his way", is the opening sentence. It...more
K.D. Absolutely
Feb 20, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-non-core
I don’t read the works of a particular author in chronological order. If I want to sample an author, I go straight to his/her most famous work. If I like it, I read 2-3 more of his popular ones and if I still like them, that’s the only time I go to his or her earlier works then probably do the reading chronologically. Of course, I am talking here of authors that have more than 5 works to their name and did not get international fame in their very first or only book.

This is what’s been happening...more
David
Dec 10, 2013 David rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cross-dressing little brothers, unbathed teenage boys, flowers in the attic
I'm not surprised that Goodreads recommends J.M. Coetzee to readers who enjoyed this, because my experience of J.M. Coetzee was similar to my experience with this book, which was "Yes, a very good writer but ewwwwwwww!"

I have not read Ian McEwan before, and if all his books are like this, I'm unlikely to try him again. I don't mind a disturbing book with unlikable characters who do disgusting things, but you have to give some reason to want to keep reading besides just admiring how skillfully th...more
Fewlas
Eine unheimliche Dystopie

Si può dire del Tedesco che non sia una lingua propriamente dolcissima, ma quando si tratta di trovare i termini adatti per descrivere stati d’animo e situazioni impalpabili e incorporee, i Tedeschi battono tutti. E così hanno inventato questo bel termine: das Unheimlich. Tradotto in Italiano come “Il perturbante”, talvolta come “Il sinistro”, questo termine è, a mio avviso, intraducibile, e si riferisce alla sensazione che si prova quando qualcosa si avverte allo stesso...more
Stela
Jun 09, 2014 Stela rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Fewlas

Concrete Civilisation

Ian McEwan’s Cement Garden left me with the same feelings I had after reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. i was aware of their resemblance right from the beginning, not in the sense of an imitation, of course, far from it, but in the choice of the theme and the way to develop it.

Both books argue about the famous nature versus nurture, showing how thin the shell of civilization is, how easy social conventions are forgotten when the link with society is broken. And t...more
Jonfaith
Flying through The Cement Garden, I would first advise against reading it just before bed, especially if some Gruyere had been nibbled that evening. Finishing the novella in the cold light of day, I find it remarkably creepy. McEwan achieves perfect pitch. I dare say he strikes closer to The Destructors by Greene than anything else. Many people cited Lord of the Flies as a cousin (no pun intended) but that harrowing tale is reductively feral whereas the trauma of Cement Garden and Graham's lads...more
Jill
May 06, 2008 Jill rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: incest-lovers and people who bury their mum in concrete
Recommended to Jill by: Sarah--DAMN YOU!
Shelves: audible, yuck
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jesse
Nov 20, 2007 Jesse rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hungry, hungry hippos.
this is the first novel by Ian McEwan that I have read. it is concise and tightly written and you really get the impression that McEwan understands his narrator, a 14-year-old boy who's parents have recently died, leaving four siblings on their own.

the two older siblings in effect become the head of the household, and make a decision to keep the family together that has troubling consequences.

that one can relate to the narrator is equally disturbing and heart breaking...
Diva
simple and very quick to read, finished this within a day and a half.I found it very difficult to know what to feel for the majority of the book - shock and disgust seem somewhat unwelcome considering the circumstances laid out early on. The implied incestuous activity between the siblings makes one both uncomfortable yet oddly sympathetic. it is not out of sexual attraction that these actions occur, but with the pure necessity of being wanted; being held - simple actions which cannot be fulfill...more
Mike
I was led to Ian McEwan's "The Cement Garden" by Carmen Callil's and Colm Toibin's excellent book, "The Modern Library." Having formed the opinion that I was woefully "unread" after picking up that volume, I decided to take these two authors' advice and dive into those books selected as the most influential books written in English since 1950.

"The Cement Garden," written by McEwan in 1978, is a chilling little book about children living on their own without parents. Essentially, McEwan has const...more
Greg
Not nearly as creepy as the movie, which was pretty damn creepy.
Evan
I came to this book via the excellent 1993 movie version that starred Charlotte Gainsbourg, the gamine, androgynous French actress whose odd beauty -- inherited from her eccentric composer father, Serge, and her svelte model mother Jane Birkin -- I admit an attraction to. As usual she dropped trou in the movie, so I was not disappointed.

Gainsbourg was about 21 when she made the film, but was portraying a 16 or 17-year-old adolescent or thereabouts, and looked the part; her character, Julie, seem...more
Bruce
I have read and enjoyed many of McEwan’s novels, but most of those have been written in the past decade. I was interested in reading this, his first published novel, and comparing it with his later work. The one was published when McEwan was thirty years old in 1978 and had been preceded by a collection of short stories.

The story is simply told although clearly very odd. Four children ranging in age from 6 to 16 are orphaned rather suddenly. There seem to be no relatives and essentially no socia...more
Martine
Jul 09, 2008 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are not easily put off
Is there a 'natural' state to which children revert when there are no parents around to keep an eye on them, and if so, are we allowed to judge and intervene if that 'natural state' goes against society's ideas of what is natural and acceptable? That is the question raised (but not answered) in The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan's 1978 debut as a novelist. The 138-page novella is about four children who, following the deaths of their parents, decide to go on living together as if nothing had ever hap...more
Adrian
I picked up this book at the library because "Atonement" wasn't available. Having seen the movie version of "Atonement" I figured that reading one of Ian McEwan's earlier works would be an ideal way of getting a good idea of what McEwan's writing style is like.
Having now read "The Cement Garden" I must say that whoever continued reading his books were brave people. If I had no idea that his storytelling abilities had improved I would never again read one of his books. In fact, I would probably l...more
Renee
"The Cement Garden" is the strangest book I've ever read, and probably the grossest too. The narrator is a disgusting, 15-year-old boy named Jack who lazes around the house, doesn't much care for bathing, and harbors sexual feelings for his older sister. When his mom dies (dad's already dead), it's Jack's idea to bury her in a trunk in the basement with cement. The descriptions of the smell the trunk emitted still make me cringe and overall, as another reviewer said, the book leaves you feeling...more
Evan Gottlieb
This is Ian McEwan's first book, and it shows in some ways -- it's far more explicitly (and sexually) creepy than his more recent novels. But the essential McEwan style -- polished, smooth, but with unexpected word usages -- is already here, as is the essential McEwan plot structure: something terrible happens, decisions are made, and then the ramifications play out for the rest of the novel. I would probably recommend this book mostly to people who are already fans of McEwan's later novels (e.g...more
Barbara
I had found throughout my professional life, that little remained to surprise me. I had observed much suffering, violence, severe maiming injuries, rape, incest and certainly death, etc. So, when I state that this novel was disturbing, it is because of the unsettling events that occur and the manner in which McEwan has written it. Certainly, his books contain harsh, difficult topics. The aura surrounding this tale is dark, indeed.

The focus is on four children and how they coped following their...more
Silletta
Non saprei come definire il mio rapporto con McEwan se non come ambivalente, il che si riflette sul giudizio che ho sui suoi romanzi.
McEwan sicuramente scrive bene, decisamente bene. Ed è anche molto bravo, partendo da elementi interessanti, a creare storie e vite di personaggi intrecciati da dinamiche, anche psicologiche, ben studiate, non lasciate al caso, con un'ottima scrittura in cui lo stile non esclude la scorrevolezza e il piacere della lettura.
Ma, per quanto mi riguarda, si ferma qua, a...more
Michele Manara
Si parte con una famiglia, due genitori, e quattro figli: Tom, sei anni, Sue, dodici, Jack, quattordici, e Julie, diciotto.
Una casa con giardino, una vita che dall’esterno potremmo definire, se non felice, quantomeno normale.
Poi il lutto: il padre muore stroncato da un infarto mentre lavora in giardino.
Un duro colpo, da cui la madre non si riprende: la discesa nella depressione che la costringe a letto, e una morte per cause non definite.
I quattro figli restano così soli, e temono che i servizi...more
Gor93ous
This is the story of Julie (17), Jack (14/15), Sue (13), and Tom (6), playing houses after the death of their parents.

The first solid thought flashed in my head after finally finishing this book was: WHAT’S BLOODY WRONG WITH THESE KIDS?

Okay, I lied, the thought didn’t just occur after the book ended. It was actually established at the beginning of the book and stretched out till the very last page. Oh, and by beginning I mean when they’re playing doctor (Was it on page four?). What kind of healt...more
Tyler
This reminds me of Cocteau's 'Les Enfants Terribles.' It has a similar storyline, although the children of 'Cement Garden' have less of the restlessness of the ones in Cocteau's book. I'd say 'ennui' is an appropriate word for much of the narrator's tone. Still, if you like books with adolescent siblings creating their own little world, with a strong incestuous undercurrent, this is one for you. It's short enough to read in an afternoon, especially if it's one of the long, lazily hot days descri...more
Cassy
When someone asked me what the book was about, I blurted out “Incest!” I must have shown more enthusiasm than is appropriate, because they gave me a really odd look.

I appreciated this book’s insight into how children might behave when the parents are absent. I felt uncomfortable for the entire length, which is far better than the apathy most recent reads have engendered. And I was impressed by McEwan’s subtle writing and look forward to reading more of his work.
Bookaholic
Scriu câteva rânduri despre romanul de debut al lui Ian McEwan, Grădina de ciment (Editura Polirom, ediția a doua, 2009, traducere de Dan Croitoru), mânată de dorința de a vă împărtăși bucuria descoperirii unei cărți excelente, șocante și stranii în același timp. Cu regretul că nu am ajuns mai devreme la volumul acesta al scriitorului britanic (deși, dacă stau bine să mă gândesc, poate că e mai bine așa).

Ian McEwan chiar nu mai are nevoie de nicio prezentare, și-a câștigat pe bune renumele, est...more
Chris Blocker
Without a doubt, the best thing about The Cement Garden is the author photo. That's not to say the book is so bad that the photo stands out as being exemplary; instead, it is meant to be an indication of how awesome the photo is. Now I know, some may have read more recent editions of this novel, and for those individuals I am truly sorry, because they've missed out. You see, that Ian McEwan we all know, the one with the feathery gray hair, suit jacket, and professorly stare, once aspired to be t...more
Jadranka
Morbidno, šokantno, uznemirujuće...McEwan odlično piše, a izvetropirena ljudska priroda nikad nije bila mračnije i mučnije prikazana. "Betonski vrt" definitivno nije za svakoga...
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Ian McEwan was born on 21 June 1948 in Aldershot, England. He studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970. He received his MA degree in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

McEwan's works have earned him worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last...more
More about Ian McEwan...
Atonement Saturday On Chesil Beach Sweet Tooth Amsterdam

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“Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short and wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy; for girls it's like promotion. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, according to you, because secretly you believe that being a girl is degrading.” 120 likes
“At the back of my mind I had a sense of us sitting about waiting for some terrible event, and then I would remember that it had already happened.” 9 likes
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