Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan was born in Aldershot, England on June 21, 1948. He received a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Sussex and an M.A. in English Literature from the University of East Anglia. He writes novels, plays, and collections of short stories including In Between the Sheets, The Cement Garden, The Comfort of Strangers, The Innocent, Black Dogs, The Daydreamer, and Enduring Love. He has won numerous awards including the 1976 Somerset Maugham Award for First Love, Last Rites; the 1987 Whitbread Novel Award and the 1993 Prix Fémina Etranger for The Child in Time; the 1998 Booker Prize for Fiction for Amserdam; and the 2002 W. H. Smith Literary Award, the 2003 National Book Critics' Circle Fiction Award, the 2003 Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction, and the 2004 Santiago Prize for the European Novel for Atonement. He also won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Saturday in 2006. In 2013 his title, Sweet Tooth, made The New York Times Best Seller List.
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Ian McEwan is known to skirt the edge with his writing; the fringes of society, to test the limits of what we can handle perhaps in our worlds as we bring his writing home with us and allow a whole new being to enter. So it is with The Cement Garden, the story of dying family who live in a dying part of the city. The father of four children decides, in an effort to make his garden easier to control, to pave it over. In the process, he has a heart attack and dies, leaving the cement garden unfinished and the children to the care of their mother. Soon after, the mother too dies and the children, fearful of being separated by social services, decide to cover up their parents’ deaths: they bury their mother in the cement garden.

ll of the children are free thinking independent-minded teenagers. The story is told from the point of view of Jack, one of the sons, the narrator who is entering adolescence with all of its curiosity and appetites that he must contend with (along with the sure confusion of what the children have done). Julie, the eldest, is almost a grown woman. Sue is rather bookish and observes all that goes on around her. And Tom is the youngest and the baby of the lot.

The children seem to manage in this perverse setting rather well until Julie brings home a boyfriend who threatens their secret by asking too many questions (like what is buried beneath the cement pile, etc), surely threatening the status quo (however morbid) that the children have come to accept as “normal” and as “home”. We understand through McEwan that home is not to be defined by anyone else but it is, instead, what you know and have known that makes you feel safe, even if it is rather dangerous and macabre.

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