Lunchtime read: The Cement Garden

In its attempt to try and summarise the noughties so far the Guardian put together a series of articles in one of its issues last week to encapsulate the last seven years. When it came to looking back over literature one of the main conclusions was that these last few years have been dominated by Ian McEwan.

Having read Saturday last year and before that a few years ago Enduring Love and enjoyed the former much more than the latter it seemed like a good idea to expand the knowledge of this writer.

The Cement Garden has an almost Norman Mailer feel to it with its content including equal doses of death and masturbation. It also echoes the family theme that ran through Caste in the Forest. But there is more of an Englishness to it so the characters are awkwardly self-aware with the four children and the family unit being very natural.

The father orders 15 bags of cement to cover the front, side and back of the house in concrete. He has been warned off heavy labour because of a heart attack but he cannot resist working with his eldest son to start laying a path. He drops dead and leaves two daughters and two brothers left with a mother who is also dying. There are clearly tensions in the family, not just because of the death but because of the problems caused by adolescence.

The future looks bleak for the children. More tomorrow…

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