The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood
[Image courtesy of Goodreads]
Hmm… this is not your typical Margaret Atwood novel.
Sure. It’s psychologically scary. It’s futuristic. It speaks of a scientific possibility that sends a chill down people’s spines. It messes with one’s mind. But this is probably one of the few (if not the only one) where Atwood had included a fair bit of witty and funny monologues and dialogues.
Hardcore fans of Margaret Atwood may not like it, but I couldn’t put it down, probably because of the pace and wit with which the author had given her writing. Plus, I didn’t know what was going to happen next. The homeless situation that Stan and Charmaine found themselves in felt so real and possible that I wished it would never happen to me. The experiment they signed themselves on had an interesting premise, although I must say there were some holes here and there in the logic that left me with question marks. I mean, I couldn’t quite work out how having participants spend alternate months in prison made economic sense, except that jobs, tasks and even their lifestyles were all centrally assigned (think communism – and yet, communism is not always economically optimal). And the obsession that Ed had with Charmaine probably came to light too suddenly and out of nowhere.
But I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who’s ready to approach it with an open mind. The twist at the end, delivered as a gift by Jocelyn, was much food for thought.
VERDICT: This can be an entertaining read, but if you are a Margaret Atwood fan, this may not be one of her best works for you.
And here’s the storyline, extracted 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.