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on 19 January 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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on 15 November 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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VINE VOICEon 16 February 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. If you have enjoyed other McEwan novels then do not hesitate to try this one but if you are new to this writer then The Cement Garden gives you a real sense of what to expect from him.

This is definitely a novel that will get you thinking and talking whether you like it or not- a sure marker of great fiction. There are descriptions that will stay with you long after you finish reading.
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on 2 June 2015
I first read this years ago, lent it by my son and remember being impressed but not the details of the story. Immensely believable evocation of the confusions and mixture of ignorance and egoism and the 'dreadful' things one is capable of as a teenager, at least when judged by adults, even when they seem logical or obvious, i.e. doing what comes naturally.
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on 16 September 2007
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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on 12 March 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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on 3 October 2001
Although I read this book some years ago now, I still remember the subtlety of McEwan's writing well. It struck me because the subject matter risked being "sick" or crude on the surface, but I found that on deeper analysis it was not and wider themes emerged.
One of the strongest memories of the book is the way in which McEwan created the feeling of heat and intensity. As the plot thickens, you can almost feel the weather heating up adding to the sense of impending doom. If this isn't too overblown, it was almost like watching a thermometer rise and wondering if it will get to bursting point.
The title also suggests that the subject of incest is not to be solely focused on. The 'cement garden' evokes images of nature, perhaps innocence, being crushed by this hard and threatening innanimate object. It leaves things stuck in a particular time and place, perhaps like the caracters find themselves.
I don't see the problem with the subject matter. If issues cannot be addressed in the public domain, then democracy has failed. This book requires a deeper reading to discover that there is a wealth more than there appears to be on the surface.
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on 16 April 2014
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 which seems to be a feature of McEwan's style. If you've read and enjoyed The Innocent by the same author I think you'll enjoy this.
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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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on 19 February 2009
This is the fourth book I have read by Ian McEwan and once again I had to close the book a few times to digest what I had just read. Although I found this story highly disturbing, I couldn't help but get caught up in McEwan's ebb and flow of writing. There wasn't a moment I wanted to put it down (and didn't need to as it is quite a short story of 127pages). I would recommend this to anyone that truly enjoys authors that write on the perverse and daring cuff of what society would deem as unacceptable. Read this.
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