Title: The Heart Goes Last
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Synopsis: 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.
Having previously read one of Atwood’s more popular novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, and loving it, I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to my expectations. While I did enjoy it, there were too many things that put me off.
One of the main characters, Stan, was such a negative essence throughout the entire book – always grumbling and swearing and never looking on the bright side of anything. He was constantly slut shaming and then lusting over the same women he slut shamed. I can’t stand when guys do that; I find it to be a statement of superiority and objectification of women, and I have no respect for men like that. I also found Stan to be extremely creepy and stalker-like in some cases. I completely cringed every time he did anything, and dreaded reading his sections.
The other main character, Charmaine, clearly had issues and seemed to be an expert at deluding herself and covering up everything she considered bad. Despite this, I did enjoy her character. She turned out to be a lot more clever than she let on and I understand how she could make the decisions she made that may not have been the most righteous.
While I was intrigued by the plot line, and definitely enjoyed Atwood’s writing style, I found that the story flew so far away from the initial situation and premises of the book. There were a lot of questionable situations with high moral dilemmas that were being carried out by the supposed “good guys”, and I found the ending to be left very open-ended.
All of that being said, I did like the book and the plot did keep me wondering what, of all things, was going to happen next. It wasn’t a favourite by far, and I’m glad I didn’t buy it, but it was still good.
Have you read this book? Did you find it as crazy as me? Let me know in the comments!