August 27, 2015
The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.
I read that this book is Margaret Atwood’s first stand-alone novel in a decade. I was not aware that part of this story had been previously released as an eBook. I’ve seen other authors I like mention Margaret Atwood, and when I saw this on NetGalley, I just had to request it.
The story is a little slow at first. I think I stopped reading for the night at around 30% or so. The next night I read again, and I did not want to put it down. (I had to get some sleep before work, so I had to.) The tension keeps increasing and the ending is fun. The villains were easy to hate, and I ended up liking more than one.
Charmaine seemed to have a pendulum swing between likable and deplorable, which reminds me of real-life people – with all our foibles, and our flaws – good, bad and indifferent.
The feeling of the book is bleak with a sort of dark humor that made me LOL at least once. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but I gleaned a commentary about love, marriage, sex, and what we as a people are willing to do for comfort.
I hope to reed more by Margaret Atwood, as I really enjoyed The Heart Goes Last.
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College. Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels. Margaret Atwood currently lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.