The cement garden
The father of the house is sick because of heart problems. He used to like being in the garden, but because of his heart it's too much trouble for him. So he decides to cover the garden with cement. And those bags of cement put the idea into the kids their heads to use that cement to bury their dead mother in, so the world won't notice a thing. They try to keep the truth hidden, but at the end, the police finds out.
Wolters-Noordhoff BV => the Blackbirds of 1993
Date of first publication:
At the beginning of the novel four children (Julie, Jack, Sue and Tom) live with their parents in a large old house. The house is literally isolated from the world. The father is very fond of gardening, but since he was struck by a heart attack, he has decided that gardening is too much work for him. Therefore he wants to cover his garden with cement. While he's doing that, he gets a second, fatal heart attack. Now their mother becomes ill and three days after Jack's birthday she dies too. The children put her in a big trunk in the basement, which they fill up with the cement that was left from their father's garden project. After their mother's death Tom begins to say that he wants to be a girl. His two sisters treat him like that and dress him up like a girl. Julie brings home her boy friend, Derek, who finds out the truth about the mother. Jack doesn't like Derek. Derek discovers the crack in the cement (which Jack had already discovered) where the smell was coming from. He helps to fill it again. The four children say that they have buried their dog in the trunk. While Jack and Julie are having actual sexual intercourse Derek catches them in the act and quickly disappears from the room. Then he goes down in the basement to look what is really hidden in the trunk. A few minutes later he has warned the police.
The main character is Jack. He is fourteen and when his parents are both dead, he is at first very hard and keeps a big distance between him and his brother and sisters. But when his youngest sister tells him that and she tells him that he smells (he hadn't washed himself for a while) he gets a stronger relationship with his brother and sisters. He is entering puberty
so he begins to learn about love, sex, relationships and begins to act rebellious. At the end he has a relationship with his older sister Julie. We see everything from his point of view.
The house of the kids is very isolated from the rest of the world. That's because all the other houses have been broken down to make room for a new motorway. Since they are geographical isolated, they are also isolated from humans: they have no family, no friends. The story is mainly placed in and around the house; the garden and of course the basement where the hide their dead mother. The isolation is very important to the story, and it's because of that the kids have such unhealthy relationships with each other and with others.
Jack tells the whole story, so it's told in first person. We look through his eyes.
1) Puberty => the main character is entering puberty and that has everything to do with searching for your own identity. They have lost themselves because of everything that has happened and they are trying to work things out right.
2) Death => the death and how to handle it. They all search a way to handle the death of their parents: Jack gets isolated and refuses to wash himself, Julie tries to talk over her mothers place and does the house-holding and wants to be the boss, Sue begins to write in a diary about everything that is happening and Tom asks for a lot of attention by saying he wants to be a girl.
3) Fear => they are all afraid of the outside world: they try to hide their dead mother so they can stay in the house and everything will stay 'normal'.
4) Relationships => first of all family relationships: they get stronger after the death of their parents. But also sexual relationships. Sue and Jack start such a relationship, while at the mean time, Julie already has a boyfriend. When he sees they are having sex, he tells the secret of them as a revenge.
Ian McEwan was born in 1948 in England. He started to write in 1970 and lived & worked in London.
First he published articles, but then he began to write novels. He writes a lot about sex, and in a lot of books people have to get rid of a dead body. He also uses a lot of themes like: frustration, fear, violence, confusion, etc.
So 'The cement garden' is a typical book made by him.