Reviews

The Cement Garden by: Ian McEwan

I’m still trying to wrap my thoughts around this one. I love Ian McEwan’s work on Atonement, (it’s one of my favorite books) so I’ve been wanting to check out some of his other writing. He’s got quite a few works, and now I’m not so sure I should have started this one. I’ve enjoyed some espionage thrillers and even true crime, but this book was a whole different animal.

The story follows four children who live in a rundown neighborhood. The setting is pretty nondescript, as it’s not very important to the story. Their father dies early on in the story, and then after a long illness, their mother dies. Before passing, she tells the oldest boy to keep the family together. All of the children, but in particular him, have their own issues. But once their mom passes away, they form new alliances among themselves. Eventually they decide to get rid of their mother’s body, and they do so in a very – untraditional – way. These kids feel it’s their only option, so as they move forward they are all struggling with hiding the secret of what happened to her.

The main character was deplorable to say the least. He comes across as a very disturbed young man, as he is very much preoccupied with sexuality. To the point where he doesn’t take care of himself or the rest of the family.

This story is similar to The Lord of the Flies in the sense that as time goes on, the kids become more wild. In contrast, they still try to hold the family unit together, but they are psychologically coming apart. Some of the decisions they make and actions will leave the reader reeling.

It’s been a few days and I certainly still have mixed feelings about it. I love McEwan’s writing, which is part of why I love Atonement so much. He has mastered the art of atmosphere and I love that you can really get a sense of what’s going out without him making it so plain. He knows how to use words to sketch the picture, but the reader really fills in the color.

But aside from the writing, this was disturbing. And not in a blood and guts or typical horror film way. It was some of the more secretive parts of being a human, and the things we do our best not to think about. This story brought them to the forefront. I’m not sure if it was necessary, but for some reason I couldn’t pull myself away. It was under 200 pages, so that helped with my ability to get through it quickly, but I also just wanted to know what kind of crazy shit was going to happen next.

I am not sure if I will be keeping this one. I have 3-4 other McEwan works, so I might keep it to say I have the whole collection. I am intrigued to see what the rest of his work will be like, hopefully more along the lines of something I will enjoy, and not feeling quite so scarred after experiencing it.

 

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