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am 3. Mai 2012
Ian McEwan made his debut in 1975 with "First Love, Last Rites", a collection of short stories. His opening story dealt with a taboo subject. In this 1978 stark, shocking debut novel the taboo is breached again. This well-paced book is rich on atmosphere, with plenty of isolation and estrangement, decline and decay and on bringing characters alive. Towards the end of a hot and dry summer holiday this intriguing stories end when cars with revolving blue lights screech to a halt.
The big house with garden and spacious cellar stands alone in an area bulldozed flat to make way for a road that was never built. It houses a family of six, of which first the father, then the mother passes away. The children (16, 14, 12 and 5)remain behind and decide to inter Mother in concrete in an army-issue sheet metal suitcase in the basement. The means: the remainder of 15 bags of cement and a load of sand their late Father bought to realize his weird dream garden. The motive: they have no relatives and although rather prickly, even hostile among themselves, they do not fancy being cared for in foster families or orphanages.
What follows is pure drama, because each child reacts in his/her own way to the new reality. For Jack, now 15, time seems to stand still. He is the storyteller when he does not sleep or masturbate, and his lack of personal hygiene matches the kitchen's smelly state. Tom, now 6, goes back in time, wants to be a girl, then a baby with sister Julie, now 17 as his mother. Sue, now 13, starts and keeps a diary.
One day, Julie finally orders a housecleaning and introduces her siblings to Derek (23), a smart, rich snooker player. At the end of the suffocating summer which the quartet survived without a plan for the future, the taboo is finally broken and consumed to the sound and rhythm of Derek's sledgehammer from the cellar...
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am 2. April 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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am 12. Juli 2006
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. I also highly recommend the bestselling novel 'The Quest' by Giorgio Kostantinos. I just loved it.
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am 22. März 1998
In "The Cement Garden" Ian McEwan's naked prose, stripped bare of all ornamentation, builds a chilling tale of suspense and survival. He wields the serrated edge of language, working it like a shard of cut glass under the skin of the reader.
By manipulating the taboo of incest, he awakens an uneasy awareness of the viscerality inherent in everyday living. Taking cement as his central metaphor, McEwan moulds together associations between denial, restriction and isolation. It is through cementing themselves off from all external interference that Jack, the adolescent narrator, his sisters, Julie and Sue, and their younger brother Tom daydream their way through a nightmarish existence.
As the conventional, familial hierarchy is eroded the children assume new roles in order to survive their pain. The intentionally flat prose heightens the redundant shell of domesticity that forms an increasingly artificial backdrop to the protagonists' gestures.
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Gebrauchtes altes Buch, riecht wie aus einem Bücher-Second-Hand! Für den Preis aber voll ok, da kann man aber gar nix sagen!
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am 18. April 2000
perhaps the only novel w/ cement as a plot device but it works well as the substance that alienates a father from his son and unites the children after the parents die. the father dies from a heart attack while constructing the cement garden and later the four children use the extra cement to bury their mother in the basement. they go on w/ their lives in the big old house, drawing closer and closer in their own dark world, which eventually becomes incestual. a fascinating read, and i wonder if the fact that mcewan has four children is significant?
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am 3. September 1999
Wonderfull..disturbing..altogether amazing! Having originally seen the Televised version, I read the book and was amazed, what a wonderfull tale of a family struggling to keep their heads as they play musical chairs...6 Chairs...father dies, 5 chairs...mother...four chairs, they try to keep afloat, and manage to...until that sledgehammer hits the cement...
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am 2. November 1999
cause it would probably blur my appreciation of a book that's at times apologetic of brother-sister incest. But the beauty of the book is that what some perceived as 'sick' is shorn of any feeling of guilt. This cement garden is a rather scruffy garden of Eden, but it's one alright: a place where sin hasn't been heard of yet.
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am 28. November 1999
The "Cement Garden"descibes the process that steadily isolates four children, so that there can be no way them of returning to normal life. The author's points are very direct and easy to understand. I would want to read this book more than once! and eah time i read it..it gets more interesting!
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am 20. März 1998
The main focus of this book is really quite eerie and yet there is a definite calm and direction to the books central characters, a young brother and sister. By the end of 'The Cement Garden' nothing seemed odd to me; it was as it should be with a light breeze blowing through it.
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