” We hardly spoke at all to each other about Mother. She was everyone’s secret. Even Tom rarely mentioned her and only occasionally cried for her now. I looked around the cellar for other signs, but there was nothing. [7; 98]
Moleskine Guy is now officially weirded out, or spooked out by Ian McEwan. Unlike The Comfort of Strangers, a suspense that amounts to an ambivalence, The Cement Garden is a horror novella, with a shocking subplot.
After his first heart attack he stopped work on the garden altogether. Weeds pushed up through the cracks in the paving stones. Part of the rockery collapsed and the little pond dried up. [1; 21]
The father of four children dies. His death is quickly followed by the death of the children’s mother. In order to avoid being taken into care, the children hide their mother’s death from the outside world, guarding the secret from everyone. They turn the cellar in the basement into a tomb, encasing their mother’s corpse in cement left over from the building of the garden.
My sisters and I no longer played together on Julie’s bed. The games ceased not long after Father died, although it was not his death that brought them to an end. Sue became reluctant. [3; 35]
Jack, the fifteen year old narrator, enters into an incestuous relationship with one of his sisters, while their youngest brother begins to experiment transvestism. To complicate matter further, Jacks feels jealous and directs hostility toward a man whom his oldest sister dates. This man becomes very interested in what might be hidden in the cellar.
We had not been at all careful with Derek. Often what was in the cellar did not seem real enough to keep secret. [10; 140]
Subversion in age and role is the main theme in The Cement Garden. Burying the dead and engaging in sexual activity are probably the type of work anybody least expects to have befallen children. It’s not so much that they are free of supervision that shocks me, it’s the the banality of evil. The book is shocking, morbid, and full of repellent imagery.
153 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]