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The Cement Garden

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  23,390 ratings  ·  1,599 reviews
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...
Kindle Edition, 144 pages
Published March 11th 2011 by Vintage Digital (first published 1978)
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Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  23,390 ratings  ·  1,599 reviews


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Fabian
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Will ever these tales of incest cease? Well, my true guess is no, for they sure do captivate (lookin' atchu V.C. Andrews [...R.I.P., girl]!). Another case in point: this early novel from major Nobel contender (I'm certain of this, right?) Ian McEwan. "The Cement Garden" is considered by critics to be "Lord of the Flies"-like in its plot structure and because it contains young protagonists. But I must venture to say that it mostly resembles an early version of Bertolucci's "Dreamers" (of course b ...more
Lisa
Recipe for a lightweight Cement Cake à la McEwan

Take Lord of the Flies, and mix it carefully with Flowers in the Attic. Once you see that the ingredients have formed a foamy, light and creamy texture, with the young characters wiped out in generic sweet-sour blandness, you put the cake in the oven, and wait for sixty minutes, just enough time to read through the novel.

Once the plot has been baked, you make sure to add incredibility and incest as additional spices, end it in an predic
...more
Wen
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was McEwan’s very first novel, which earned him the fame and the nickname Ian Macabre. It was narrated by a 15-year-old boy on his life with his three young siblings in a secluded big house shortly after the death of both parents. They grew up in an isolated and dysfunctional family. The lack of adult supervision and sexual experiences, and the yearning for kinship while desiring individual space, led them to explorations and experiments that beyond inexplicable.
It was haunting and disturb
...more
Tatiana
Dec 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
...more
Jared Duran
Aug 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Michelle
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Stela
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stela by: Fewlas

Concrete Civilisations


Ian McEwan’s Cement Garden left me with the same disquieting feelings I had after reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. In fact, I became 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, revealing how thin the shell of civilization is, how easy social conventions are forgotten when the link with society is broken. And the c
...more
Betsy Robinson
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Told in straight-forward sentences, this first novel reads like a very good writer’s memoir. I love the deep truth of some pretty extreme behavior by a family of orphaned siblings, which portends the even more sophisticated truths of oblique human behavior in later books. There is none of the lyricism or solid chapters of inner dialogue that characterize McEwan’s style today. I’m glad I didn’t start with this book, because now that I am an ardent fan, it was even more interesting to see where he ...more
Michael
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5*, rounded up. This is quite dark and odd, which I like, but it felt a little incomplete. It's a very short book, yet even so the narrative lacked some necessary urgency. Still, it's a compelling read, and McEwan is a wonderful stylist, though in this book he's more restrained and straightforward than in Atonement.
Cecily
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 is set in a hot summe
...more
Hugh
Another one from the Mookse Madness list, and I don't think I would have read it otherwise.

Unfortunately I was familiar with the plot from the film version, and this removed the key elements of shock and suspense that the plot relies on, which is not McEwan's fault. What remains seemed rather slight and rather obviously an early work.

An easy read (apart from the subject matter) so I can't really begrudge the small amount of time I spent on it, but nor do I want to write a longer review.
L A i N E Y
Well..! That was.. Hmm, weird?
Yes, weird.

And I'm not talking about that 'taboo' subject, that was actually not a focus in the book. Right? We just got glimpses but never full-on (view spoiler)

The only thing I will say about this is it destroyed my appetite! I actually felt bile in my mouth. Not the taboo part but the (view spoiler) ...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 definite
...more
David
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  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 the writ
...more
Cathy
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh, Ian's got me hooked on his expressive writing style. The kind that draws you into the book as if you were sitting next to the characters in their living room. Then, with your defenses down, he sucker punches you with the unspeakable!
Gumble's Yard
The author’s debut novel – in fact more of a novella, I read this book due it being included in the 2019 Mookse Madness tournament.

The plot of the book is discussed elsewhere and best summarised by Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cem...

My brief observations .....

I found it difficult to relate the book to McEwen’s later writing which can, in my view, range from the brilliant (Atonement) to the far too freque
...more
Tink Magoo is bad at reviews
When I read the description for this book I expected to get a twisted, disturbing tale of incest. What I actually got was a very well written (mildly uncomfortable) story about four siblings who are lost and without an adult to set boundaries.

And really, instead of shocking me I was fascinated. It's short, sharp and packs a punch. I am however, highly annoyed with the ending. THAT WAS NOT OKAY. I like things to be wrapped up, I like to KNOW what happens next and not be left to come t
...more
J K
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this in about two hours, total. It was a bit mixed but I've marked it high for reasons I'll try to explain. The main character is a self-centered brute, but they're all pretty screwed up and emotionally damaged. The big taboos it deals with stick out eagerly begging to be broken. Feels like this was written by someone trying very hard to shock, and it does this with varying effect. It's still a very odd story, don't get me wrong, but it's also desperately sad. Beautiful writing raises this ...more
Jonfaith
Sep 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
...more
Lawyer
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, McEw
...more
Will Ansbacher
This was his first novel; it arrived with rave reviews, though to me it seems rather restrained and a little too short. It certainly has an air of unease about it, but I wouldn’t say actual menace; it is more sad and claustrophobic, and (for McEwan) only a little macabre.

Jack, his two sisters and much younger brother are orphaned when his father has an accident while concreting over the garden and shortly after the funeral his mother falls ill and dies. The children don’t as much decide to ento
...more
Diva
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Cement Garden, Ian McEwan
The Cement Garden is a 1978 novel by Ian McEwan. In The Cement Garden, the father of four children dies. Soon after, the children's mother dies as well. In order to avoid being taken into foster care, the children hide their mother's death from the outside world by encasing her corpse in cement in the cellar. The children then attempt to live on their own. The narrator is Jack (14 at the start of the book, becoming 15 later), and his siblings are Julie (17), Su
...more
Patricia Kaiser
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great first book of 2018 with a gripping story told in Ian McEwan’s unique style. Spent an interesting evening on my couch with ‘The Cement Garden’ and love that I’ve read one more book by one of my most favourite authors. After being so disappointed by ‘Nutshell’, the latest McEwan I’ve read, ‘The Cement Garden’ was once again perfect for me. The creepy story mixed with weird characters is exactly what I’m looking for in a book. Considering the fact that this is the story of four children, al ...more
Jill
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  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: yuck, audible
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michelle Hoover
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this is a dark and troubling book, just my cup of tea. Some readers might get squeamish about the sexuality in the book, but I think innocence reigns in the end, in an unexpected and provocative way.
Bruce
Nov 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 essentia
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Cement Garden is a very dark coming of age tale - what adolescents have to do when they're left on their own? The novel is the sort of a disturbing answer to this not so simple question.
“Most houses were crammed with immovable objects in their proper places, and each object told you what to do – here you ate, here you slept, here you sat. I tried to imagine carpets, wardrobes, pictures, chairs, a sewing machine, in these gaping, smashed-up rooms. I was pleased by how irrelevant, how puny suc
...more
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10,745 followers
Ian McEwan studied at the University of Sussex, where he received a BA degree in English Literature in 1970 and later 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 Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987
...more
“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.” 269 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.” 24 likes
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