I’m a big fan of the dystopian novel but only a recent convert to Margaret Atwood. I picked up the Blind Assassin at last years LifeLine Book Fest because I loved the retro style cover and while it was a great book I much prefer her speculative fiction works like The Handmaid’s Tale. I chose The Heart Goes Last for this prompt as its been sitting in the virtual unread pile on my Kindle since it was released last year so it’s about time I read it.
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
It’s an intriguing concept that so many dystopian novels go into – what would you give up for the perfect life?
Stan and Charmaine are fairly non-descript everyman type characters to start with but by the end you know them all too well and the more I knew them, the more unlikeable I found them. Charmaine was a total child and as for misogynistic, homophobic Stan, well the less said the better. This actually added to the story for me as it made their fates a little more complex – you weren’t necessarily rooting for them to succeed.
What I loved about this book is it seems simple and easily resolved at the start but then spirals down and down into something far more complex by the end. The synopsis is extremely misleading with its focus on the relationship aspect of the story which only takes you about halfway through the book – and what happens after that is so so much better.
The Heart Goes Last had Atwood’s trademark dark humor while still managing to be thought provoking. It felt like a world maybe ten or twenty years away from where we are now, which is really quite terrifying.
My Rating: (4.5 / 5)