The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Bloomsbury (ebook), 2015
What It’s About
Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine’s job at a dive bar, they’re increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs, and in a rather desperate state. So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of 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 this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.
At first, all is well. But slowly, unknown to the other, Stan and Charmaine develop a passionate obsession with their counterparts, the couple that occupy their home when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire take over, and Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
Sleeping in the car is cramped.
What I Thought
I loved The Heart Goes Last, absolutely loved it. Nobody does dystopian fiction like Atwood. Her other dystopian novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of The Flood and Madaddam are among the best. The Heart Goes Last can take a proud place beside them.
I loved the concept of this novel. Atwood offers something unique and different from her other dystopian novels and dystopian fiction in general. A lot of this type of fiction focuses on survival (i.e. a band of people come together to create a new world after the plague). Atwood chooses to focus on a different sort of survival.
I found this book incredibly sad and moving at times. I completely understood Stan and Charmaine’s reasons for signing up for the project. Anything is better than living in a car. Right? I’d probably have made the same choice. Who wouldn’t?
I loved the way Atwood executes the premise of The Heart Goes Last. A sense of foreboding runs through the novel and you just know the Positron Project isn’t everything is cracked up to be. There’s darkness simmering just below the surface. I had a dozen scenarios in my head and Atwood took the novel in an unexpected direction. I love it when an author surprises me.
The Heart Goes Last is brilliant. I’d highly recommend this novel and hope this is the first in a nw dystopian series.