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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood Review

Title: The Heart Goes Last

Author: Margaret Atwood

First published September 24, 2015

320 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9780385540353 (ISBN10: 0385540353)

Rating: 3.39


In her latest novel, Margaret Atwood explores the depths of the human heart in a story that is every bit as powerful as her earlier works, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin. Stan and Charmaine are a struggling couple, living in their car in a world torn apart by economic collapse and social unrest.

When they hear about the Consilience Project, they see it as a solution to their problems. The project offers them a comfortable home for six months of the year, with the condition that they must spend the other six months in a prison system called Positron.

But as they settle into their new home, Charmaine finds herself drawn into a dangerous relationship with the man who shares their house during their time in Positron. As events spiral out of control, Stan realizes that the Consilience Project is not the salvation he thought it was, but a nightmare from which he may never escape.

Atwood’s gripping tale is a haunting reminder of the dangers of sacrificing freedom for security.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, an acclaimed author, was born in Ottawa in 1939 and spent her childhood in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto’s Victoria College and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her career, Atwood has received numerous awards and honorary degrees for her work in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is most well-known for her novels, including The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

Her dystopian novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003, followed by The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) in 2006, and The Door, her most recent volume of poetry, in 2007. Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, a non-fiction book in the Massey series, was published in 2008, and The Year of the Flood, her most recent novel, was published in 2009.

Her work has been translated into more than forty languages, including Farsi, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, Korean, Icelandic, and Estonian. In 2004, Atwood co-invented the Long Pen TM.

Atwood currently resides in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson. She served as President of the Writers’ Union of Canada from May 1981 to May 1982 and was President of International P.E.N., Canadian Centre (English Speaking) from 1984-1986.

Atwood and Gibson are the Joint Honorary Presidents of the Rare Bird Society within BirdLife International, and Atwood is also a current Vice-President of PEN International.

Editoral Review

Margaret Atwood has long been a renowned author in both her native Canada and throughout the world. With her latest novel, The Heart Goes Last, she continues to demonstrate her prowess in the dystopian genre, while exploring themes of identity, societal roles, and the ethical limits of scientific progress.

Set in an unspecified future that is equal parts bleak and surreal, the novel follows the story of Stan and Charmaine, a struggling couple who find themselves lured into a seemingly perfect community called Consilience, where they can have stable jobs, a lovely home, and all the comforts of a well-managed, albeit highly regulated, society. The catch?

Every other month, they have to leave their home to live in a prison cell, while another couple enjoys their life in Consilience. As Stan and Charmaine discover the dark secrets of their community and confront the harrowing consequences of their decisions, they must grapple with their own morality and their loyalty to each other.

Atwood’s prose remains as elegant and engrossing as ever, rich with vivid descriptions of the sensuous world she has created. Readers will be swept away by her nuanced portrayal of Stan and Charmaine’s psychological states as they navigate the strange twists and turns of their lives in Consilience.

The supporting cast of characters is equally well-drawn, including the sinister leaders of the community and the ragtag prisoners next door. At the heart of The Heart Goes Last lies a deep reflection on the nature of human nature and the inherent fragility of mankind’s quest for perfection.

Atwood skillfully navigates the slippery slope between utopia and dystopia, and her warning about the dangers of complacency and conformity is both timely and profound. She also expertly explores the themes of gender relations and sexuality, while offering a critique of capitalism and its insidious effects on our collective psyche.

If The Heart Goes Last has any flaws, it might be that the plot feels somewhat predictable at times, and that the pacing can be uneven. Nonetheless, these criticisms are minor compared to the overall impact of the novel, which is an unforgettable portrayal of humanity’s strengths and weaknesses.

Overall, this is a superb work of speculative fiction that will appeal to fans of the genre, as well as those who enjoy thought-provoking literature with a dash of humor and horror. The Heart Goes Last is a tour de force by one of the greatest writers of our time, and it deserves to be read by all those who seek a deeper understanding of what makes us human.

4.5/5 stars.