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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

the-heart-goes-lastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Release Date: September 29, 2015 in the U.S. & September 24, 2015 in the U.K.
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Pre-order your copy here: The Heart Goes Last

To say that Margaret Atwood’s newest novel is highly anticipated, is the understatement of the century. The Heart Goes Last is Margaret Atwood’s first stand-alone book in over 10 years. Her last one, The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Man Booker Prize.  The novel is a reworking of the Positron ebook series: a series of 4 short stories that were released exclusively as ebooks. The hype is deserved. If you loved The Handmaids Tale and Oryx and Crake, you will probably love this book too.

In a society filled with poverty, violence, and unemployment, married couple Charmaine and Stan are living in their car and barely surviving from day to day. When they see an advertisement for the Consilience project, it seems like a no-brainer to sign up. Consilience offers a guarantee of stable employment and home ownership for the small price of a loss of freedom every other month. As part of the project they must agree to alternate every month between their home and the Positron prison. At first, Consilience seems like a paradise but as the months progress, cracks start to appear in Charmaine and Stan’s relationship and there are indications that all is not what it appears to be in this idyllic suburban paradise.

With wit, dark humor, intelligence, and imagination, Margaret Atwood brings us yet another terrifying look at a bleak future. The Heart Goes Last was a lot of fun. I hadn’t read the ebook stories so the plot was new to me and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book. I loved both The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake and this book felt like a blend of those two books in terms of atmosphere and some of the underlying themes. One thing I love about Atwood’s style is that she constructs sentences in a very straightforward and unpretentious way but the ideas underlying her stories are complex and intelligent. This book was no exception. It reads like a commercial fiction but has themes and ideas more reminiscent of literary fiction. As a result, many readers will be able to enjoy this book on multiple levels. It is an engaging and fast-paced read and it raises some scary possibilities.

My only criticism  was that I found the choice of jail as the alternative to be an odd one that Atwood never really addressed or justified. Why would a solution to societal problems and poverty be to put non-violent, non-criminals in jail? Why not dormitories or more controlled communes? It felt like an odd decision and while reading, I found myself thinking, why would anyone agree to alternate with a month in jail if they haven’t committed any crime? That said, there were many bizarre occurrences throughout the story and part of the fun was being carried along in the wacky plot line. It didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the reading experience but I did bump it down by a star as a result of this nagging question.

Who will like this book?  It’s a dystopian novel with some dark humor, sexual content (consensual and non-consensual), and some quirky and bizarre occurrences. I found the situations in this book a little more “out there” than some of her previous books (Elvis & Marilyn sexbots, headless chickens, organ harvesting, etc) but it worked for me. If you like dystopian novels and can suspend some disbelief in the weirder elements, you will enjoy this novel.

Want to try it for yourself? You can pre-order your copy here:The Heart Goes Last

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love Atwood but haven’t read Oryx and Crake as it didn’t seem like the type of dystopia I would enjoy. This one seems more “up my street.” But I think I’ll wait for it to be released in a cheaper paperback format.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 16, 2015
    • There are some similarities between the two -although the plot is completely different. I’ll be curious to hear if you like it whenever you get to it. It was a fun read


      September 16, 2015
  2. Atwood is my favourite female author. I’m worried that her well might be running dry. The Year of the Flood and Maddaddam were, for me, hugely disappointing retellings of Oryx and Crake (that’s an over simplification, but not far from how I feel), and this new one isn’t really new. I haven’t read the eBook stories. They’re among the few things by her I haven’t read, so I’ll probably read this novelization, but it’s starting to feel to me like Oryx and Crake was her last great work and she’s on repeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 20, 2015
    • I haven’t read books 3 and 3 of the trilogy but I have heard they don’t compare to Oryx. I did like the new book but I haven’t read a huge number of her books so may not have noticed some of the repeated themes. I did not find it similar to the other books I read. I hope you like it


      September 20, 2015

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