Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Monday, 28 September 2015
"Everything in this town is retro, which accounts for the large supply of black vintage items in Accessories. The past is so much safer, because whatever's in it has already happened. It can't be changed; so, in a way, there's nothing to dread."
— Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last


In the centre of The Heart Goes Last, Margaret Atwood's first stand-alone novel in a decade, Stan and Charmaine are a young couple living in their car after an economic collapse crushes the middle class. Broke and living in fear of the roving gangs that populate this not-so-distant future, they're desperate for a solution. Charmaine jumps at the chance to enrol at The Positron Project, a social experiment that promises a refuge, at a cost. Residents in Consilience, the pristine town where The Heart Goes Last takes place, are promised a job and a home; however, there's a catch. They must spend every second month in the town's prison.

Modelled after the past, Consilience advertises a simpler life. Food is grown locally, television teaches family values, and Doris Day hits play on the radio. At first, Consilience seemed strangely familiar, though I couldn't place why. Its manufactured sense of safety and happiness made me recall one of my favourite children's books — The Giver — but, in true Atwood fashion, the dark underbelly of Consilience is anything but appropriate for children.

It isn't long before The Heart Goes Last becomes a twisting (and twisted) tale of adultery, blackmail, organ harvesting, and sex slavery created by unauthorized neurosurgery. Even babies' blood isn't safe in Atwood's vivid imagination in a book that also features robotic sex dolls modelled created in the likeness of dead celebrities.

There's no better way to say this (with deep respect to Ms. Atwood), but The Heart Goes Last is wonderfully demented. It offers satirical insight into capitalism, marriage, and the greed that characterize both, but it's also a hell of a lot of fun to read. It's always a treat to explore the worlds that exist within Margaret Atwood's head.

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