First Book Club: The Cement Garden

These book clubs will be subscriber-only, so if you want to get onboard, you know what to do…

Public affirmation in the comments this week is clear: we need a book club. And since I aim to please, we’re having one. This is the first post in the Book Club section of this website. This section will house posts where I will intro a new book and then have weekly thoughts/observations/questions based on a given reading schedule, depending on the length of chapters in any given book. In the comments sections of those posts readers can discuss anything about the book they wish to, provided they do not discuss any plot details from the book that occur later in the text. Spoilers will be ruthlessly deleted. In each weekly post I’ll give where you need to read up to by the next week in order to be caught up. I’ll try to err on the side of “assigning” less rather than more. I may throw some choices for future books out there to you and let you vote on them, but… I’m pretty controlling about this here site so we’ll see.

There will be no emails associated with the book clubs; you’ll have to access the site to see the posts, so bookmark that section or set up your RSS feeds. This also means that, for those of you who have no interest in book club posts, you need do nothing to avoid them. There’s enough emails rattling out of this newsletter as is.

I want to start with something short and accessible, so we’re going to go with Ian McEwan’s 1978 novel The Cement Garden. (Note that short and accessible does not mean easy reading….) It’s a book I find quite devastating and a work of great craft, with a simplicity in its prose that belies far greater complexities of tone and theme. I rate it far higher than McEwan’s much-celebrated Atonement, which I think is moving at times but overdetermined and too self-consciously a capital-B Big Book. For the record, McEwan himself has disavowed The Cement Garden, which is fine by me because I think he’s a bit of a wanker. Incidentally the cover of the Vintage Blue edition that is the main image on the Goodreads page could hardly be less appropriate, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…. It should go without saying that there won’t be any trigger warnings here.

On the morning of Wednesday September 8th I’ll have an introductory post about the book up, but the first post covering the first chapter (or two, we’ll see) won’t come out for about a week after that, so that you’ll have a couple weeks to get your hands on the book and get reading. Any edition should be fine. We’ll start out doing Wednesday mornings for now and see how that goes. (I’m going to try to stick to free post Monday, free post Tuesday, book club Wednesday morning, RBG chapter Wednesday evening, alternating free and subscriber-only posts Thursday, subscriber post Friday, weekly digest Saturday evening.) I’m excited for this!