The Cement Garden

The Cement Garden

by Ian McEwan


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“I did not kill my father, but sometimes I felt I had helped him on his way. And but for the fact that it coincided with a landmark in my own physical growth, his death seemed insignificant compared with what followed. I am only including the little story of his death to explain how my sisters and I came to have such a large quantity of cement at our disposal.”

In the relentless summer heat, four children retreat into an isolated world left to them by their parents and attempt to create their own version of a family. Ian McEwan's first novel, The Cement Garden, written in 1978, explores coming-of-age, burgeoning sexuality and the distortions of a fourteen-year-old mind.

David Aula and Jimmy Osborne's stage adaptation approaches the horror of the story through the innocent eyes of children, and encourages an audience to remember the games, irreverence, and shadows of their youth: to remember and reinvent their sense of invincibility.

The Cement Garden received its world premiere as part of Vault Festival Waterloo, on 28 January 2014.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679750185
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/28/1994
Series: Vintage International Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 187,741
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Jimmy Osborne's play Meat was staged at Theatre503 in June 2012 in a joint production by FallOut Theatre and Theatre503. He is one of the writers selected for the 4Screenwriting 2013 Programme run by Channel 4, developing an original serial for television. His short play, This is Jack, Leave a Message, Alright? won a national BBC Writersroom competition and has been performed in London and Sydney. Jimmy's collected short plays have recently been published as Transmission. He is a graduate of the Royal Court Theatre's Young Writers Programme.

David Aula is a director and an actor. He was educated at Cambridge University. His directing credits include Mummies and Daddies (White Bear Theatre, FallOut); Something/Nothing (The Colour House Theatre, Black and White Rainbow); An Oak Tree (ADC Theatre, FallOut); Three Sisters (ADC Theatre, ADC); Hamlet (European Tour, ETG); the first-ever stage adaptation of Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden (Judith E. WIlson Drama studio, FallOut) and After the End (Corpus Playrooms, FallOut). He was the Assistant Director to Simon Evans on Madness in Valencia (The White Bear and Trafalgar 2, Black and White Rainbow) and The Misanthrope (The White Bear, Black and White Rainbow). His acting credits include Alceste in The Misanthrope (The White Bear, Black and White Rainbow); Nostalgia (Alma Tavern, Bristol, directed by Anna Harpin), Hypnotist in An Oak Tree (ADC Theatre, FallOut); Tupolski in The Pillowman (ADC Theatre, FallOut, directed by Abigail Rokison); Polonius in Hamlet (European Tour, ETG), and Cornelius in Cymbeline (Cambridge Arts Theatre, Marlowe Society, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn).


Oxford, England

Date of Birth:

June 21, 1948

Place of Birth:

Aldershot, England


B.A., University of Sussex, 1970; M.A., University of East Anglia, 1971

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The Cement Garden 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan is a shockingly dark, morbid yet brilliant novel depicting the lives of four siblings left to care for one another when their parents die. The children, oldest Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom, the youngest who seems to grow progressively younger and more attached throughout the book, are faced with the challenges and mystery that come with being suddenly relieved of parental oversight. McEwan's writing in The Cement Garden stays true to the style he is most famous for- imagery so exact it can make the stomach turn (especially when describing the stench coming from the basement), and the morbid topics such as incest and death he so enjoys writing about. And aside the trials and tribulations that come with a lack of parental guidance, the two oldest children, Julie and Jack, are amidst their own changes as adolencents. When Julie's boyfriend, Derek, starts hanging around the house asking too many questions, "how long have you been living alone?" "what exactly is buried in the basement that is making that smell?", the four children begin to band together to preserve their relationships. But the relationships turn in the climactic last scene which makes you ponder and be disgusted by the weirdness of McEwans writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At the start of Ian McEwan's novel, The Cement Garden, the family of six appears to be a normal family with very unique relationships with one another. These relationships, especially among the children, are emphasized as the novel progresses and both parents pass away. The four siblings, Julie, Jack, Tom and Sue, find themselves in a very awkward situation as they are forced to survive, both physically and emotionally, in the very critical surroundings they reside in. The first moment in which the reader realizes the damaged innocence of the children is when they bury their mother in the basement with the cement that once belonged to their father. From this point on, their conventional understanding of family is distorted and they proceed to fulfill this deficiency by playing the roles of mother and father. A sub-plot of the novel is the sexual tension between Julie and Jack, the oldest of the four siblings. Through this role-play, the climax of the novel is reached where Julie and Jack reveal, to each other, the tension that has been lingering for years. Even when the parents are alive, McEwan makes note of the fact that the children are not very in touch with others around them and rarely have any visitors. For this reason, he introduces Julie's boyfriend to their lives in order to establish a contrast between their life and the "normal" life of the public around them. Derek, Julie's boyfriend, asks many questions and at the end, comes to the conclusion that Julie and Jack are sick for pursuing their incestuous relationship. Because Derek represents society, his disapproval is McEwan's way to express how disconnected the children are from what is "normal." Ian McEwan does an exceptional job in bringing out the sympathy in the reader for these children. The unfair loss of the children's innocence due to the death of their parents almost serves as an excuse for their actions. Even as Derek enters their lives as a conventional male figure, he is presented as an outsider because the reader is accustomed to the lifestyle of the four children. The novel expresses the unfair loss of innocence due to the firm rules of society. McEwan's style leaves the reader vulnerable to feelings of compassion towards the unconventional actions the children take.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Idle hands are the devil's workshop indeed. This little story starts off disturbing enough and devolves from there. It's as if the Swiss Family Robinson landed on the island from Lord of the Flies and set up shop in Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Decay pervades the goings on. Buildings crumble, pavement cracks, vacant lots become overgrown with weeds...parents die, bodies rot, children's morals disappear. The ending may be too perverse for the squeamish, but the book could have no other ending. This was Mr. McEwan's first novel after several short stories and you can hear the tentative beginnings of his voice stepping out.
Dufva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of a family of four children--two boys, two girls--who suddenly find themselves orphaned and alone in their down-at-the-heels suburban house, forgotten by distant relatives and ignored by neighbors, The Cement Garden tells of sibling power struggles, incest, and despair at its very best.
eightambliss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Cement Garden is a tale of four siblings who must deal with life after their parents die. The oldest two start developing lives and personalities independent from the parents while they try to make sense of their dysfunctional lives, the younger daughter retreats into a world of reading and writing, and the youngest reverts back to baby behavior.If you have ever heard of this book, you know their is incest and sexual abuse, but don't let that turn you off from this brilliant masterpiece by Ian McEwan. It's an interesting look of several different characters and what happens to their lives after their parental figures are gone.
kishields on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ian McEwan seems to enjoy talking about disposing of dead bodies! The Innocent has a much worse treatment of a body, but this one was pretty revolting as well. The book describes through the eyes of a teenage boy narrator the events in a family of four children after the death of the father and then the mother. Children left to their own devices apparently go feral pretty quickly, and this book will remind you of other classics of this plot device, such as "Lord of the Flies" and (more similarly) the movie, "Our Mother's House." Spare and creepy, like much of McEwan's work, but not as funny as he can be in books like "Amsterdam."
FemmeNoiresque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked the adaptation of Julian Gloag's Our Mother's House, which The Cement Garden apes in both plot and theme, better than the self-serious, emotionally explicit bleak Tragedy with a Capital T that Ian McEwan thrives on. He is the literary equivalent of Hermione in Women In Love - performing the dance of the seven veils in dead seriousness to visitors in her home, when they are on the verge of cracking up laughing and breaking into the Charleston.
rmckeown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this short novel as my next read, because I thought it might be a respite from the last few long and intense works on my reading list. Well, my streak is now at four. McEwan is one of my favorite authors. His fluid and brilliant prose has consistently reinforced my belief in him as one of the masters of 20th--century fiction.The Cement Garden tells the story of a family nearly alone in a run-down area of abandoned and crumbling apartment blocks. One day, the father dies of a heart attack while working in the garden. Almost immediately, the mother takes to her bed and dies ¿ apparently of cancer. This leaves Julia, Jack, Sue, and Tom to fend for themselves. The family had no relatives to check on the four youngsters and no neighbors who showed any interest in what was going on in a house McEwan describes as gothic.Julia, the oldest, begins dating and her boyfriend becomes curious about the secrets the house contains. This story has the air ofThe Lord of the Flies in miniature. The children play games, fantasize, and more or less take care of the house and each other.This intense novel is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, but it does have a mysterious air throughout the 140 pages. McEwan runs the race to the last word of the last page. The climax at the end has as much shock as any suspense story I have read in a long time. If this book were a movie ¿ faithful to the text ¿ I cannot see it getting anything less than an NC-17 rating. Nevertheless, I have to give this brilliant psychological novel five stars.--Jim, 12/12/10
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So disturbing in content and storyline, that I'm still out on the story. You just can't seem to get away from all that's shocking, so that you can get to all that needs discussing. Not high on my list of recommendations, if can be recommended at all.
chickletta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very disturbing book. A set of children are orphaned when their parents die in quick succession of each other. Before she dies, their mother tells them not to let Social Services know that they're staying by themselves, because they will be separated and placed in foster homes. To keep the mother's death a secret, the two oldest children, a girl and a boy bury her in their garden, cementing over her grave with a bag of cement their father had bought. The dysfunctional family ends up in a tremendously sick incestuous relationship. I was unable to get the sick feeling left by this book out of my head for days.
lycomayflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Julie, Jack, Sue, and Tom live with their parents in an isolated house on the edge of the city. When they are orphaned by the death of both parents in quick succession, they decide to hide their mother's death and make a go on their own. They are fairly unsuccessful at it, allowing the house to become dangerously filthy and failing to feed themselves properly. But, most importantly, they are wholly unable to cope with the emotional and psychological ramifications of their circumstances, as they spiral into more and more peculiar relationships with one another. The book is a portrait of adolescence disrupted and disturbed. The writing is fine, and McEwan draws the atmosphere of depression, malaise, and role-confusion in the household brilliantly, but ultimately the novel falls flat. I came away from it slightly discomfited, but with no sense of having learned or rediscovered anything from the read. The first line suggests some sort of revelation to come, though it never does, and the last line indicates that this interlude in the children's lives was somehow refreshingly transformative, which it surely wasn't. Perhaps these lines are meant to underscore the children's confusion, but, if so, it didn't resonate with me. Still, a solid, if ultimately unsatisfying, early novel from McEwan.
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. McEwan's early stuff sure touches on difficult topics. Not for the morally squeamish, but still wonderful storytelling.
fig2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This excellent but morbid novel explores the lengths to which children may go to preserve their family when both parents die. Shocking, disturbing and haunting. McEwan is amazing, as always.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago

Slightly surreal, dark tale about a family of orphaned children. I loved it. Enchanting is a good word to describe it. I didn't realise it was McEwan's first book - I like it better than some of the later stuff and it's very well polished.

whirled on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pop quiz: you're a kid with three siblings whose Dad is already dead and now Mum has kicked the bucket as well - what do you do? Ian McEwan's answer to this morbid question reads like a more literate version of Flowers In The Attic, complete with incest and cross-dressing. The book is dark, grotty and mercifully brief. I'm not sure I'd want to meet the person who would call McEwan's debut his best work.
e.krepska on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'The Cement Garden' is a story about four young children whose father is dead and mother has just passed away. In fear of being taken away by social services and their house ruined as a result of that, the children keep the death of their mother secret and build a cement tomb for her in their cellar. The book gives a psychological portrait of this disrupted family. The relationships between the children vary between pure malice and pure love (finished with incest sex, ugh..). The relationship between the children and their parents revolves around general indifference with bias towards hate (to the father) or love (to the mother). Although the book is a very easy read and the reader is kept in fascination, I just failed to get the point of the story. It is extreme and morbid in all aspects, the best thing about this book - it's very short.
Virtual_Jo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very strange but compelling and haunting novel about a family with an unusual secret hidden in the cellar. Hard to forget...
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One you either like or loathe. I was expecting more sex, frankly, or at least more kinkiness. However, I can't really complain; McEwan paints a depressing picture of suburban British life - a proverbial cement garden in the midst or a real cement forest and so forth - and the depression is true to life, so I enjoyed it all.
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mpsarch More than 1 year ago
Growing up, I was always told to be quiet if I have not anything nice to say. I've always disagreed with that notion, but still abided by it whilst under parental supervision. "Cement Garden" is just as much about being young and the accompanying growing pains, but with a thick dose of the macabre that the author, Ian, seems to have a firm hold on the balance. However, the incessant emphasis on incestuous themes is not just disturbing but in many ways unnecessary. I am only giving this one 2 stars because their are literally two stars in the book: Jack and Julie.
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