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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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VINE-PRODUKTTESTERam 4. November 2007
McEwan, Ian, The Cement Garden, 1978

A fascinating book, some similarities to "Lord of the Flies" in that the author examines the behaviour of a group of children, here from one family, when their educators, the parents, are not there.
The parents die early and leave their children behind. The father is the first to go: He has a weak heart and is also a weak character who, nevertheless, assumes the role of somebody who has the say in the family and acts out his ideas, like laying out a garden according to his wishes, a small miniature world, well-ordered, well-planned, an artificial rockery with little paths (which the children tend to ignore and use as steps only - symbolism!), and as a kind of platform, a little lawn in the middle like a platform (on which later Julie, the oldest girl, uses to sunbathe - symbolism!). Well, this father plans to cement the space in front and behind the house and he drops dead over this work (symbolism!), while the narrator, 14-year-old Jack, who is supposed to help him, is masturbating in the bathroom (symbolism!). Where the father was weak and unimportant, the mother is weak and passive. Soon after her husband's death she fades away into the background, is mysteriously ill, doesn't leave the bed anymore, obviously too indifferent and disillusioned. The kids assemble in her room, little Tom just wants to be with her in the bed. The kids celebrate one last birthday in her dying-room, the oldest girl, Julie, stands on her hands, so her skirt drops down, the others do other tricks - grotesque symbolism! - and then the mother dies.
It's the time before the summer holidays, very hot (symbolic!), so they don't know what to do with their mother. They use the cement that had been delivered for their father's plans to put her in a case in the cellar and put the cement over her.
They live pretty anarchically from the beginning - the book starts with the three bigger children examing each other's genitals - as they always tended to ignore what their parents wanted them to do - once the parents had to go out and they didn't leave their children without giving them a lot of instructions and admonitions, but as soon as they had closed doors behind them, anarchy and chaos broke out. This anarchy is also set free after the death of the mother. Jack is heavily masturbating and neglecting hygiene. What comes to light is a rather primitive pattern of behaviour: They drift into a trance-like world of their own. The two girls Sue (about 12) and Julie (about 16) unite against Jack who at first rather fades into the background. Tom falls back into the state of babyhood and puts on a girl's dresses, which is encouraged by Julie, who more and more assumes the role of leader and mother. She takes up a relationship with Derek, a snooker player, who tries to find out about their secret.. Moreover, it begins to smell in the house, there is a crack in the cement tomb. From the beginning Julie did not have sex with Derek, and when she now finds out that he wants to lay open their secret, she turns away from him, but too late, he is already smashing the cement tomb with a sledge hammer while she is seducing Jack, the two are joined by Sue and little Tom is watching, in other words, the inherent anarchy in the children has welded them together. Ending: The children are in bed together as outside the police cars pull into the yard.
The book is full of a heavy symbolism: They live in a run-down area that is obviously supposed to be cleaned up. Their house is one of the last ones that are still standing before a background of some high rises and in an otherwise dilapitated environment. Like Graham Greene in his short story "The Destructors" McEwan is obviously interested in the anarchism and vitality of young people in a world of collapse and destruction.
Maybe the symbolism is a bit too heavy, but nevertheless thought-provoking. So is his style and point of view. As I said it is from Jack's point of view, and since Jack doesn't understand too much of what is going on around him, he gives us mostly descriptions and details, which are often quite grotesque, at least very strange, and invite the reader to form his own explanations and interpretatioins if he doesn not only want to be puzzled by what is going on.

17th March, 2007
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am 16. März 1998
Incest is the latest trendy topic- be it in book, movie, fiction, memoir- and it would be easy to brush it off as mere titillation. At first, "The Cement Garden" seems to be the epitome of this sort of gratuitously shocking genre, as it painstakingly gets inside the head of a young man and his secret desires. Upon closer examination, "The Cement Garden" reveals itself to be a far more ominous book. His desire for his sister becomes indicative of his need to grab an anchor in a world that has left him behind. As these four children struggle to make a family, the sexual energy that emerges becomes a better form of family love than that which they've known before. Though the children are English, they are the British equivalent of the kind of people we so quickly and easily make fun of- the natural target of a certain type of elitist humor. Rather than mocking these children for their transgression, the book's success comes when we ultimately understand the ways and the whys of why they do what they do. Therein lies the power, and the horror of the bleak landscape of the novel- it's the only love they'll maybe ever know. Having said that the book is an artistic achievement, I also want to add that when I finished it I couldn't be sure that I was glad I took that particular journey. I was utterly enthralled with the story and its raw honesty, but so depressed when it was over, as the world of the book was so hermetic and insular that there was no way out- necessary to the book but brutal on the reader. As an aside, the film adaptation is highly worth checking out as a most faithful visual translation, mostly as a result of the bizarrely appropriate casting. The film stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, daughter of French pop star Serge Gainsbourg and Chelsea girl Jane Birkin. (Serge and Charlotte appeared in bed together in a print ad in the early 80s.) Furthermore, the film is directed by Jane's brother and hence Charlotte's uncle Andrew Birkin, and the younger children are played by the director's own children- Charlotte's cousins.
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am 17. Dezember 1998
I am amased by the contemporary British fiction, but Ian McEwan has won my heart completely with his novels. I like the novels I have been able to get hold on to but I love the Cement garden. It is a magnificent novel about four children trying to adjust to the situation so unusual, unfamiliar and terrifying to them. They have no idea how to act, because their parents (especially father) have been extremely protective and have not communicated normally with the outer world. In this extreme situation they act as they think is right, and frankly, I would have done the same in the same situation. I also love Ian McEwan's style--it is so tense that it is impossible to put the book away, and the descriptions are amasing. The description of the summer was so convincing that while reading I started to feel so hot it was impossible to breathe. I like the novel not only because of the style but because of the way it made me feel. I felt extreme closeness with the children, and it almost made me a part of the family.
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am 17. September 1999
i have read this book and let me tell you that i was drawn in to the intence and captivity of the book it is a must read. once you pick it up you can not put it down you will never put it down, i've read it twice and am about to read it again. i'm 14 yrs old and let me tell you i have read a lot of books and this is the only on that as made me fell in touch with each of the charecters as an idvesual person , i most i denefy with jack, who is the older boy and also the narrorater of hte story. you see the story though his eyes , and he as a captivating point of view that will just suck you into his world and the werid thing is that you will not want to leave. Ian McEwen is the best author that i have read ever in my short 14 years of life.
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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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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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Ich bin durch großen Zufall auf dieses Buch gestoßen. Zu meinem Geburtstag bekam ich von meiner Tutorin/Englischlehrerin dieses Buch, da sie meinte, es könnte mich interessieren. Ich war skeptisch. Der Einband klang interessant, doch an sich sprach es mich nicht wirklich an. Zu Beginn. Denn nachdem ich mich eingelesen hatte, fesselte mich dieses Buch mit jeder Seite mehr und mehr, und mittlerweile frage ich mich, warum man Bücher wie "Sister's Keeper" im Unterricht behandelt, mit einem Thema, dass im Ethikunterricht schon Verwendung findet, während dieses Buch eine viel größere Daseinsberechtigung fände. So viele Themen in einer so kurzen Story, das muss man erst einmal nachmachen. In meinen Augen ist dieses Buch für meinen heißgeliebten "Steppenwolf" von Hermann Hesse tatsächlich ein Konkurrent in Sachen Lieblingslektüre. Doch nach und nach.
Vorweg aber eines: Wer sich nicht spoilern lassen will, sollte meine Rezension nicht lesen!
Aber: Selbst wenn man diesen Spoiler liest, das Buch ist so faszinierend und hat noch so viele versteckte Hinweise, dass man es trotzdem lesen MUSS!

Die Geschichte besteht darin, dass vier Jugendliche in relativ kurzer Zeit beide Eltern verlieren. Erst stirbt der Vater an einem Herzinfarkt, und einige Zeit später stirbt die Mutter, schon seit längerer Zeit ans Bett gefesselt und kurz davor, endlich ins Krankenhaus zu gehen. Aus Angst, dass man durch die Behörden voneinander getrennt würde, entschied man sich, die Mutter im Keller zu begraben, sich auf eigene Beine zu stellen und ohne die Eltern zu leben. Die Geschichte erfährt man hierbei nicht von einem Erzähler, der außerhalb der Geschichte ist, sondern aus der Ich-Perspektive. Diese Person spielt Jack, der neben seinen zwei Schwestern und seinem jüngeren Bruder Tom in diesem Sinne die Rolle der männlichen Führungskraft einnimmt, dabei aber mit allerhand eigener Probleme zu kämpfen hat. Im Laufe der Geschichte bekommt Julie, die älteste Schwester, einen Freund namens Derek, der als einzige außenstehende Person überhaupt Zugang zum Hause bekommt. Anfangs mag dies noch gutgehen, doch durch die warmen Temperaturen beginnt der Verwesungsgeruch ihn misstrauisch zu machen...und dies führt zu einem traurigen und doch faszinierenden Ende.
Besonders fesselnd ist dabei nicht allein die Geschichte, sondern auch der Umstand, dass der Autor die Figuren so lebendig erschienen ließ, dass man sich sämtliche Situationen im Kopf vorstellen konnte, egal ob man es wollte oder nicht. Es bildeten sich mit jeder Seite, jeder Zeile, ja jedem Wort, charaktere im inneren Auge, die mitsamt der Geschichte ein Kino veranstalten, dass man nur von wenigen Büchern geboten bekommt.
Wohl aber das größte Wunder sind aber die vielen Themen, die in diesem Buch einen Platz haben.
Der Tod der Eltern im Jugendalter, die plötzliche Alleinstellung von 4 Geschwistern, der Ödipus-Komplex, die Suche nach der eigenen Identität, die Adoleszens und die Entdeckung des eigenen Körpers - und am Ende eine Geschwisterliebe der etwas anderen und intimeren Art.
Besonders das letzte Thema ist eine krasse Geschichte für den Leser. Während des ganzen Buches wird ein Verdacht in diese Richtung offensichtlich, doch besonders innerhalb der letzten 3 Kapitel zeichnet es sich ab, dass es tatsächlich in die intime Geschwisterliebe geht. Sich fragend, ob man selber eine zu kranke Fantasie hat oder ob der Autor wirklich in diese Richtung geht, musste ich das BUch teilweise zur Seite legen und meine Gedanken suchen, nur um beim Weiterlesen plötzlich noch tiefer in diese Richtung zu gehen. Doch sobald man plötzlich die Gewissheit hat, dass der Autor bewusst darauf hinausgeht, weiß man nicht mehr, wie man reagieren soll. Plötzlich wird einem diese Geschichte so skurril und doch so realistisch, dass man auf dem Wege ist, seine Gedanken komplett zu verlieren und sich über die moralischen Hintergründe Gedanken zu macht. Sehr einprägsam ist jedoch das Ende, welches mir sogar Tränen in die Augen rührte, als alle 4 Geschwister im Zimmer sind und plötzlich außerhalb des Hauses Krach kam und sich blaue Lichter abzeichneten - und man sich denken kann, dass Derek, der Freund von Julie, seinen Verdacht der Polizei mitteilte und diese plötzlich vor der Tür stehen und man weiß, dass die 4 Geschwister nun getrennt werden.
"We kept on breaking out of our whispers until one of us called shhh! [...] It was the sound of two or three cars pulling up outside, the slam of doors and the hurried footsteps of several people coming up our front path [...]. Through a chink in the curtain a revolving blue light made a spinning pattern on the wall. [...]"

Für mich neben Hermann Hesse und seinem "Steppenwolf" absolut eines meiner Lieblingsbücher. Kaum ein Buch konnte mir die Geschichte bisher so lebendig vor Augen führen und dabei die Charaktere so deutlich machen, wie es dieses Buch getätigt hat. Durch die vielen Thematiken wird man plötzlich nicht nur mit den Figuren, sondern auch mit sich konfrontiert und dazu gezwungen, sich Gedanken zu machen. Gänsehaut, Tränen, Wut, Freude und Enttäuschung - all das sind Emotionen, die dieses Buch nicht nur beinhaltet, sondern spielend leicht beim Leser hervorhebt. Wer sich auf dieses Buch einlässt, besonders auch das Ende auf sich wirken lässt, der wird einen Lesegenuss finden, wie er ihn wohl nur selten verspürte!
Während dieses Buch Themen als Inhalt hat, die kaum ein Buch aufweisen kann, und andere Bücher leider sehr langweilig daherkommen, wäre es wirklich eine Überlegung wert, dieses Buch in den Lehrplan für den Englisch-Leistungskurs aufzunehmen. Jeder wird damit etwas anfangen können, sich selbst neu finden müssen, Gedanken sammeln, Abscheu oder Hoffnung empfinden und - und das ist wichtig - sich freiwillig oder unfreiwillig mit Themen konfrontieren, über die er niemals nachdenken wollte...
5 Sterne sind nicht nur verdient, sondern fast schon eine Pflicht!
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am 25. April 1998
I cannot even begin to explain my liking for this book. I cannot put it into words, its more of a feeling. All I can say is that I highly reccomend you all read it. If given the chance, you should also see the film. Its beautiful. If you enjoy this book, you should viddy other Ian McEwan books. Theyre all fabulous.
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am 19. April 1999
I had to keep checking the cover to make sure I was reading the same book the reviewers wrote about. Mostly puerile teenage boy crap, and some sick stuff. This is not entertaining because it does happen to some girls. Mental garbage. Not even CLOSE to Lord of the Flies, which was an excellent book. Like comparing Charles Dickens and Judy Blume.
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