Ian McEwan is often cited as being one of our greatest contemporary authors. After reading Atonement I certainly felt this to be the case, however, as some readers may remember, I was a little let down by Enduring Love, a novel that promised so much and yet I felt didn’t quite deliver. However, faith has now been restored. It is certainly a good job that McEwan’s debut novel; The Cement Garden, is short (approx. 100 pages) as I simply couldn’t put it down, and that is no joke. Taking advantage of our long bank holiday weekend as I’m sure many of you are, I tucked this little beauty into the pocket of my camera case, only to read it all sprawled out in some crag in Derwent whilst the bf got some climbing done.
This is a Lord of the Flies-esque, experimental tale. Four children orphaned and left to their own devices living in a creepy old house in the middle of a desolate wasteland on the outskirts of London; these children are isolated both mentally and physically as they deal with the aftermath of their parents’ deaths. The only trouble with attempting to review this book is that it is simply shock after shock as you turn the pages and it is impossible to speak in any depth without spoiling it entirely….
What I can divulge is that this is a coming of age tale; told through the eyes of Jack who is fifteen years old, suitably moody and sexually frustrated. We are made to feel tense and excitable throughout, constantly in expectation of some taboo act that is about to be committed or of the discovery of the dark secrets that lurk in the depths of the cold shell of a house. As a result this book is certainly long enough and when we are brought back to reality with a bump at the end I was not disappointed but, rather, relieved and satisfied.
This is an excellent story that pushes the boundaries in terms of subject matter and severely risks making its readers feel very uncomfortable, and why the hell not? Call me crazy but this felt like a bit of an old school tale for me that put me in mind of the likes of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the rye (although I admit it is a few years since I read it) perhaps teenage boys and the feelings of alienation that purvey throughout created this connection in my mind.
I know I have given practically nothing away here but DO give this a read as soon as you possibly can, I promise you will NOT be disappointed.
Mr McEwan, I will be reading more of your work sooner rather than later…