The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

It took me a while to review this book. I could not make up my mind about it, to be honest, I still cannot, but I’ve been procrastinating for so long that finally I decided to start writing and see what happens.

The first book by Atwood I read was Lady Oracle, when I was in my late teens or early twenties. I found it on a bookshelf at home and picked it up completely not knowing what to expect, only to be blown away. Then there was huge break in my acquaintance with Atwood, until two years ago I read The Handmaid’s Tale and it crushed and terrified me. It was fantastic, I firmly believe everyone should read it. Then there was another break, because I tried to read Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin, but every time I start, after a few pages I feel I’m not in the right moo for those books, so I stop reading. We finally met again, me and Atwood’s books, during my holiday in July. I read Stone Mattress and had fun with it. Maybe it didn’t move me so deeply as The Handmaid’s Tale, but then short stories rarely work this way for me. After that I decided to try The Heart Goes Last. I’ll give you the Goodreads blurb, as it summarizes the plot pretty well and avoids spoilers:

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.

Of course not everything is as beautiful as it initially looked. Stan and Charmaine lead their lives under total control and permanent scrutiny, with a good serving of propaganda. Gradually it also turns out that a ‘social experiment’ run by a corporation is not the charitable endeavor it was presented to be. It is interesting to observe how differently Stan and Charmaine react to the things that happen to them. Charmaine trying to rationalize everything, all the evil that she sees and does, Stan in a bit more suspicious and rebellious mood, but only internally, never expressing his feelings. I won’t go into more details to avoid spoiling the fun for you.

 For me it was a book about how much we are ready to give up in exchange for safety and how easy it is for a human being to become desperate. It also touches on how people stop talking in the relationships and lose connection, how we deceive ourselves daily. What I found disappointing was the ending, it felt rushed and fell completely flat with me. Also the whole plot feels a bit like a device used to bring up some topics, rather than a developed story. It feels lightweight, almost ready for a glossy movie. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I definitely did not get a deep, scary, moving book I looked forward to. I feel like I got an instant version of dystopia, though maybe this was the point to show in our times and near future everything becomes lightweight, meaningless.

Did you read it? What did you think? Do you have a favorite book by Atwood?

This is book #17 of my 20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746books.
See my list as it grows here.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska @ vkphotospace

20-books 2017

6 thoughts on “The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

  1. I’ve read it and like you, mixed feelings. The concept of the story is insanely good and I found the first part gripping. But it kind of lost it’s way toward the end – the chickens and the Marilyns and the Elvises… Anyway, it was originally written as a serialised book so I actually only read the first section (as a short story) before the rest was published. As a short piece (it finished when the lipsticked note was found) it was amazing, and I’m left to wonder if it was ever intended to become a novel.

    I’ve read quite a bit of Atwood. Handmaid’s Tale decades ago (and I will be re-reading now that I’ve watched the miniseries) and of the others, I think Alias Grace and Blind Assassin are the best (so persist!).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read this one yet even though I adore Atwood. My favorites of hers are Cat’s Eye and Alias Grace. It’s been years since I’ve read The Robber Bride and Edible Woman though and I’d like to reread those. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one. Maybe that’s why I’ve avoided it.

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