The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Atwood’s speculative fiction is always creepy, and The Heart Goes Last is no exception. It triggered some anxiety for me in the beginning, with the collapsed economy, lost jobs, lost home. Atwood is skilled at painting the portrait of a bleak society. The basic premise didn’t make much sense to me – why make everyone stay in prison half the time? Why not just roll the prison economy over to a largely self-sustaining community, that would still provide housing, goods, and occupations for the population? Perhaps that was necessary to what felt to me like the overriding point: How much personal freedom will you exchange for economic security? Still, I was able to get into the story, although it seemed almost farcical in places. The alternating points of view between Stan and Charmaine were very well done; each character had a distinct voice. It was an interesting coincidence that I read this book, in which the lifestyle intentionally echoed that of the prosperous 50’s, right after my husband and I were discussing that the last decade in which Americans really identified as happy and secure was the 50’s.The themes of misogyny and commodification of women and sex are here, set in a corporate control dystopia. The takeaway: I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood and this is an enjoyable enough read, but for me it didn’t have the depth or grab of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Blind Assassin.
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Doubleday Books in exchange for an honest review.