The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan (1978)

L’Étranger written by an affectless, acned adolescent? It does teenage indifference and self-pity very well – that sense of bewilderment, self-centredness without self-awareness, making new discoveries but not really understanding them. It’s an unsettling story, beginning with the death of the mean-minded father whose idea of a garden is cement interspersed with a few tulips. The decline and death of the mother leaves their four children alone in a solitary house in an abandoned part of town. They encase her body in cement so that they are not taken into care. As her body slowly putrifies during the hot summer days, so their behaviour and relationships decay. They form their own warped version of a family and, free of adult guidance and censure, they can act as they please . . . but it does not lead to a Rousseau-like state of nature or Eden but to something more like that cement garden.

Yes, rather grim but I was gripped by it.

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