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Anchor The Cement Garden [Paperback]

Ian McEwan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Jan. 13 1994 --  
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Product Description

In this tour de force of psychological unease--now a major motion picture starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sinead Cusack--McEwan excavates the ruins of childhood and uncovers things that most adults have spent a lifetime forgetting--or denying. "Possesses the suspense and chilling impact of Lord of the Flies."--Washington Post Book World.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Plot-driven novella March 9 2002
By A Customer
"The Cement Garden" is one of the early novellas by Ian McEwan, a winner of the 1998 Booker Prize for his novel "Amsterdam". Perhaps there is a reason why this book is not as popular as it might be, given the later-day success of this writer, as indicated by the awards. "The Cement Garden" is a plot-driven story with a great potential which nevertheless has never been exploited.
The family of a marriage with four children falls apart when both parents suddenly die. Even here, in the very beginning of the book the storyline is unconvincing. After the father dies from stroke, the mother follows him in short order, apparently from incurable illness. In the very first chapter, the very first page even, when this information is passed to the reader - I wish the author had given some more thought to the actual events. The coincidence of their passing away is too artificial for my liking. Even the dysfunctionality of the family does not ring true. Of four children, only one appears to be sane, and what exactly is the probability that out of three teenagers and one toddler - one will turn out to be an early transvestite, and two others incestuous? The plot itself was bland, everything might be intuited right away. If only there was more to this book that the aforementioned storyline, that wouldn't hurt. Sadly, it isn't the case, as McEwan hints at the upcoming events in a bold fashion.
The potential of the tale was not explored, and McEwan seemed to hesitate as to the actual course of the story. Circling around the seemingly unexpected solution to the situation the four children found themselves in, McEwan never dared deliver what he undoubtedly wanted to.
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4.0 out of 5 stars STRANGELY DARK AND DISTURBING NOVEL Oct. 23 2000
"The Cement Garden" took me exactly two hours to read, and in that time I never been subject to a more disturbing novel so deeply intent in it's power to shock and astonish the reader. What strikes me about this novel is the deadpan tone the author adopts to convey an array of taboo subject matter, ranging from death to, more importantly, incest. Everything is detailed in a simple, matter-of-fact tone that one would perceive as being from an adolescent. The families 'secret' made known to the world through Derek yet we arent given full detail of his horror at the discovery and the children never seem to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. The fact we never find out what happens to the children once they have been discovered heightens the fact that this novel is unlike any other, which would almost allude to the idea that the novel is largely lacking a sufficient closure. The allusion to a dream in the closing words of the final chapter, coupled with the various dreams of the protagonist scattered throughout the novel makes the reader think that maybe the entire events of the novel is just one mere daydream. The novel, like a dream itself never seems to end, and the reader is left at their discrtion to almost imagine typical scenarios that give answers to their unanswered questions. I think the novel serves as an accurate characterisation of the modern working-class family (although events for the average modern working-class family WOULD differ considerably) and embodies everything that is quintesssentially english about being English, ranging from the various attitudes to setting. In conclusion I would emphasise that the book has many strengths, and should be pursued by many to pass excite and intrigue an otherwise dull afternoon.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mommy in the Basement June 8 2000
This novel is filled with rotting things: snacks discarded under beds like dirty socks; ancient leftovers which ferment into a truly mean cuisine; undumped rubbish which converts an otherwise pleasant backyard into an horrifically pungent landfill.The undisposed of body of Mommy, however, is at the heart of this shocking novel, and the stench of decay which eventually reeks from her cement coffin is suffocatingly descriptive of the ripe state of mind which gradually envelops these wild youngsters. In language both simple and explosive, Ian McEwan has created a story of hallucinatory proportions. What kinds of relationships would children develop among themselves if left entirely on their own? There are moments of rather eerie adolescent tenderness in these pages which provide fresh (ah!) food for thought. These kids seem bizarre. But are they? You may or may not care to live with (or like) them, but a few hours spent in their creative company might just make for a mighty sound investment. Read them!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Short novel by a gifted writer April 1 2000
I read this little novel after seeing the movie of the same name. The movie was excellent (see my review at IMDb), and this first novel is also very good. The main difference is in the book the brother-sister incest is only part of a larger close family bonding. The youngest son's dressing up as a girl was down played somewhat in the movie; the house was cleaner in the movie, and the sensuality between brother and older sister was (of course) highlighted in the movie. The movie left out the fact that the sister's sometime boyfriend was a professional snooker player. Otherwise the movie was true fairly to the novel. Oh, in the book it's clear at the end that the cops are outside the door, and the boyfriend has dug up the dead mother. In the movie, I'm not sure that was revealed. John Irving wrote a glowing blurb for the cover. McEwan's first person narrative by the fifteen-year-old boy is full of sharp observations and self-revelation, some of it inadvertent, as is the case in the best first person narratives. A good novel, but a little slight, like a long drawn out short story, which isn't surprising since McEwan made his reputation as a short story writer before this novel came out.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts...
In Ian McEwan's debut novel, "Lord of the Flies" meets "Catcher in the Rye" meets "Flowers in the Attic. Read more
Published on July 6 2012 by Reader Writer Runner
1.0 out of 5 stars Thankfully this story is short.
This is a sickening story told from the prospective of a teenage boy who doesn't like his father much. His father dies. Than his mother dies. Read more
Published on July 9 2008 by Robert Edwards
4.0 out of 5 stars Family Life
A friend recommended this book to me via email while I was on holidays in London. I read it while riding on the Northern Line, and I cannot think of a more suitable setting for... Read more
Published on Jan. 23 2003 by sainte-carmen
5.0 out of 5 stars first-rate nightmare
This book will hanunt you: it is horrible and utterly believable, every word dripping with the meaninglessness of life and depression and confusion. Read more
Published on May 7 2002 by Robert J. Crawford
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20th Century classic
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2002 by Penguin Egg
4.0 out of 5 stars Predictable
Although I'm a big fan of Ian's, I found this book to be predictable. I enjoyed the character development of the main character. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2001 by John C. Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it but too predictable
The attention to detail was great. Ian really knows how to get inside a teenage boy's head. Somewhat un-realistic, however, and totally predictable. Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2001 by John C. Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy Families...
Early McEwan, showing the mixture of familial and slightly gothic themes that have resonated through all of his subsequent novels. Read more
Published on Aug. 19 2001 by T. BRANNEY
4.0 out of 5 stars I saw the movie first
And the movie is one of my all time favorites. The cinematography is wonderful, and the story is deeply disturbing. Read more
Published on April 6 2001 by R. Gahan
5.0 out of 5 stars Things that crack
A haunting, strange, black and funny story about, among other things, the things kids can get into when they don't have video games to keep them busy. Read more
Published on June 18 2000 by Mink
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