I read the second book I received in #SaveTheCulture Initiative. This one was more interesting than the first one, I have to say. This was also the first time I got hooked up with a book I did not enjoy. In other words, this book is so dark that you hate it, but you can’t let it go either.
The book’s title is “The Cement Garden” and the author is Ian McEwan. The Times correctly called the book “darkly impressive” and the Sunday Times described it as a book that, “marvellously creates the atmosphere of youngsters given that instant adulthood they all crave. Where the ordinary takes on a mysterious glow and the extraordinary seems rather commonplace” (both quotations from The Times are quoted from the book cover). The book was originally published in 1978 and the edition I read was re-published in 1997 by London’s Vintage.
The book follows everyday lives of four children who firstly take care of their terminally ill mother. When mother dies, the children live alone and look out for themselves using the money mother allocated to the oldest daughter Julie before she died.
Julie takes over the mother role to Jack, Sue and Tim albeit she is not very successful with Jack who is the main storyteller in this book and who clearly sinks to depression after they buried their deceased mother in the basement fearing ending up in the social care if they announce their mother died and give her a proper burial. Jack also has sexual frustrations and throughout the book we feel he is attracted to Julie. However, as he seems to demonstrate elements of depression he refuses to wash or help in the house, and gets aggressive towards other children. He is also lost in time as he argues with Julie and Sue about something that happened, which two girls clearly remember and he does not. This includes trivial things such as raining as well as something that was said to him by two girls.
When Julie finds a boyfriend who buys her gifts and comes to visit in the house, Jack washes and becomes the old Jack that Julie can talk to. In the end, a climax of the book happens with Jack and Julie having an intercourse and Julie’s boyfriend catching them in the act, and bringing people in the house. It is left to the reader to conclude whose steps are entering the house and approaching the bedroom i.e. Derek’s friends who will beat them up or the social service they feared.
The book vividly portrays everyday lives and thoughts of a child that was left to live like an adult long before this was naturally supposed to happen, and it is indeed “darkly impressive” and impossible to be left aside.
Thank you for reading.