Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Cement Garden

I've read quite a bit of Ian McEwan so far and it has been with mixed feelings.
Atonement is ranked among my favourite novels, while Enduring Love and Solar can't make me happy.

The Cement Garden ranks somewhat in the middle.
Knowing that Ian can write novels that hit me right in thee gut, both positive and negative, I was hesitant of trying this novel.
In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have, because the novel had zero impact on me.

What's it all about, you ask?

Simply said, it's about a disfunctional family ruled by a agonizing father who has a weird sense of educating his family, a mother who demands far too much from her children when she becomes ill and lastly four children who are uncomfortably close.
The father dies first, you get to know that story right from the beginning. Together with that you instantly feel that his death doesn't mean that much to the family.
Then the mother dies and for some obscure reason the children decide to keep her body hidden and try to make a home for themselves.

You might think this leads to a heroin older sister that sacrifices her own future to bring up her siblings.
It's as dysfunctional as it can get.
Julie, the eldest, being 17, is trying to be the parent, but somehow it ends up with the youngest, Tom (6 years) returning to infant behaviour and dressing up as a girl.
Jack, the other brother (14 years) has an unhealthy interest in his older sister. This is shared early on when he describes playing doctor with his two sisters, Julie and Sue, examining Sue in a very sexual manner.
Sue is even the more normal of the four. Keeping to herself most of the time, but in the end even she shares in the madness.

Interesting, you think? Disgusting, maybe.
Well, let me put your doubts to rest.
It's utterly uninteresting.
You'd think that a topic as taboo as incent, can pack a punch, but all it's force goes slack in the narration of the oldest boy, Jack.
I'm glad it's only about a hundred pages long, I couldn't take much more.
It ended even as I thought it would end.
Despairingly needing content.
The topic might be heartbreaking or disgusting, when you apply it to empty characters in an empty story, you get nothing. Just an deflated sense of unease.

I'm happy I've finished it.
Ian, was Atonement really the only one I would've liked?