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The Cement Garden [Hardcover]

Ian McEwan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)

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Book Description

28 Sep 1978
A novel in which four abruptly orphaned children retreat into a shadowy, isolated world, and find their own strange and unsettling ways of fending for themselves. From the author of BLACK DOGS and THE INNOCENT.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 138 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape Ltd; First Edition edition (28 Sep 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224016288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224016285
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,118,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Darkly impressive' -- The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

'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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic 19 Jan 2002
A perverse but enchanting book; beautifully written and perfectly constructed. This is a story about a family of children who find themselves orphaned while living in a house surrounded by a wasteland, an image that perfectly reflects the emptiness of their days. Finding themselves without adult guidance, it shows how they slide into sloth and then perversity. Being a writer of consumate skill and a gifted story-teller, McEwan describes this without purple prose but with a sharp eye on human nature. Despite the shocking nature of the story, it has a realistic feel to it - One feels that these events could happen given the circumstances. The characters are delinated so convincingly that the reader, despite the perverse nature of the protaganists actions, is drawn into their dark world and is made to see it from their point of view. A modern classic.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, sinister, brilliant... 15 Nov 2004
The Cement Garden is McEwan at his best. Crueler than Enduring Love and Amsterdam, The Cement Garden tells the story of four children who fall apart gradually after the death of their mother. Their incestuous behaviour and malicious ways are a delight to read, and the narrator, Jack, is a brilliantly depicted character. Overall, I would highly recommend this. McEwan is truly the master of the chilling short novel, and The Cement Garden is executed with style and definite readibility. The end is too disturbing for words- an excellent read.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply disturbing... dark fiction 16 Feb 2007
Although The Cement Garden was McEwan's first novel, i have only just got around to reading it and was definitely not disappointed. I have found with some other writers, who i have come to 'late' that going back to their earlier work has been a bit of a let down and that later works, where their style has been more perfected have been much more enjoyable and successful. However, i would not say this is the case with McEwan as i found The Cement Garden to be just as successful as some of his later novels.

This novel very much represents McEwan's style and choice of subject matter which he has addressed throughout his writing. The Cement Garden follows the lives of four children after their father, and shortly after, their mother pass away, leaving the siblings to fend for themselves. As their lives begin to disintegrate and the children become further removed from society, their are passages reminiscent of 'Lord of the Flies' which are both shocking and saddening. I do not, however, wish to give the impression that this is a sentimental novel. McEwan writes, as he does in all his fiction, with ease and an unflinching eye when describing death and more disturbingly abnormal sexual relationships.

While The Cement Garden is a very dark novel, it is also a story about adolescence and the awkwarness of growing up especially in an unconventional household as this one. I found his descriptions of the interaction between the siblings to be both honest and raw but fundamentally troubling.

I found this novel extremely disturbing, but McEwan is such an intelligent and unique writer that he seems to create narratives which we are compelled to read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing but brilliant 16 Sep 2007
By Suzie
I thought I was going to hate this - as a keen gardener and lover of wildlife, how could I empathise with a father who intended concreting his entire garden? But the father dies and the children are eventually left to fend for themselves.

Despite being a darkly disturbing novel it somehow manages to grip the imagination and hold the reader's interest. The central story, in many ways so improbable, becomes plausible in the hands of such skilled writing. Ian McEwan portrays the indolence of youth and the hot summer days so vividly that you can hear the buzz of flies and feel the heat rising off the concrete.

In the end, it is easy to imagine how children in such a disturbingly distressing situation managed to slip through the safety net of the authorities.

Whether or not it is an 'enjoyable' read is a moot point but I would urge anyone who has not done so to read it for the sheer thought-provoking brilliance of the writing.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An even darker "Lord of the Flies" 12 Mar 2007
This is a dark, disturbing but exhilarating book. It is kind of a turbo-charged Lord of the Flies, except it replaces the youthful adventures of that book with a disturbing twist on the everday and the prosaic. You can tell from the start that there will be no happy ending; as the back garden is covered by a layer of concrete and cement it symbolises an end to a "normal" childhood, and the characters descend into an incestuous "fake-family" with children playing the roles of Mum, Dad and Baby. A well written and compelling read and the shortness of the book means that there is no let up. Brilliant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars first rate nightmare 22 Jun 2011
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This book will hanunt you: it is horrible and utterly believable, every word dripping with the meaninglessness of life and depression and confusion.
THe plot is quite basic: siblings trying to keep a family together, but its descent into chaos is a chilling addition to fine literature. It is so vivid that you can smell it. TO reveal more would spoil the readers' discovery of the plot.

While I prefer to stick to older classics, this one is truly worth the read. The atmostphere is so realistic and painful, so bleak, which reflects a writing style that is absolutely masterful.

Recommended, but not for the squeamish.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Queasily compelling
Re-reading The Cement Garden after several years, one is struck by two things. Firstly, what a darkly compelling little novel it is, with its portrayal of a nightmare situation as... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jl Adcock
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark and disturbing tale
This is a story which some readers might find deeply disturbing - but it is fiction. The characters are well crafted and the plot develops gradually with the sense of inevitability... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Morven
5.0 out of 5 stars Great choice for a book club
We read this book as part of our book club and it was fantastic. It gave us so much to talk about. It was dark, claustrophobic and strangely fascinating. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Emily Pate
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark in places but a brilliant read
Have always been a fan and actually read this for a second time having first read it years ago. A great creative writer and never scared to mess with your head a little, which I... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Mark S McCall
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Mesmerizing read. I ran through it & thoroughly enjoyed.
Highly recommend to anyone who already likes Ian McEwan & anyone who hasn't meet him yet....
Published 5 months ago by K. Mardel-Ferreira
4.0 out of 5 stars The cement Garden
The Cement garden ,another gripping story from McEwan. Bit far fetched but couldn't wait to see how it would end.
Published 5 months ago by thetwirl
5.0 out of 5 stars working class kids
The only book of his that portrays the working class as opposed to the rest of his books that deal with the middle classes.
Published 7 months ago by escorial
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterly
this novel tackles the same scenario as Lord of the Flies in the sense of children finding themselves without adult guidance or caring. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Rosalind Minett
3.0 out of 5 stars Different from his more recent work
Having just read Sweet Tooth I was keen to read McEwan's early work. I found the Cement Garden hard-going. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dani
2.0 out of 5 stars A dissapointment for me
Well, I'm afraid that I have to disagree with the critics. I found this book boring, the ultimate sin for a writer, and I was glad to finish it. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Philip Mayo
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