I have to start by saying that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. I met her as a teenager when I was working in a book store in Canada, around the time she released Oryx and Crake, the first of the Maddaddam series (which I highly recommend by the way). She was extremely kind, down to earth and I was instantly a super fan, proceeding to inhale every novel she had written.
Nifty fact, the novel Alias Grace is based on a true crime story in Canada, and partly takes place in my home town, Kingston, Ontario!
Anyway, to The Heart Goes Last, Atwood once again puts her mind to the future, looking at frightening yet disturbingly plausible near realities of the modern day. Stan and Charmaine live in a time which feels uncomfortably close, they’re both unemployed, both running away from debt and living out of their car, in a country which is on it’s knees following a social and economic collapse.
One day, they are offered a way out in the form of a social experiment. Once signed on, they can have a house of their own in the town, called Consilience, a stable job in community with virtually no crime. The catch? They spend one month in suburban bliss in Consilience and the following month locked up in Positron prison. The motto: Do time now, buy time for our future.
All goes well at first, Consilience seems like a dream come true, an answer to the heightening problems out on the street and the project begins to expand. Slowly things start to turn sour, both in Stan and Charmaines personal life, and with the project, as desire and greed begin to take over. Unknown to them Stan and Charmaine are about to swept up in a coup in which they are merely pawns, forced to do unspeakable things in the name of a cause they often know nothing about.
I really like Atwood’s writing style, but I could see how it wouldn’t be for everyone. She isn’t afraid to use strong language or explore strong emotions in raw human detail. Especially in Stan, you feel a little bit uncomfortable reading his inner thoughts, mainly because he can be harsh and dirty, but also because you recognise that, free from judgement, many of us have the potential to be just as harsh and dirty as Stan.
Certainly not a light read, and one that really starts to grab you about mid way through the novel, this is one to stick with and really get into.
My adoration and love of Margaret Atwood’s work is unwavering following this instalment to her oeuvre.
By Amanda at Ruislip Manor library