Title: The Heart Goes Last
Writer: Margaret Atwood
Publishing House: Doubleday
Date of Publication: September 24th 2015
Rating: 2 stars
‘’Someone’s accepting it, Stan thought. You can bet they are. If there’s money in it.’’
Stan and Charmaine are married, young and hopeful. However, a devastating economic crisis has taken away their jobs and their home. All they have left is an old car that has become their place of residence and is actually the opposite of a shelter. Violence reigns, people sell baby blood for money and the couple has seemingly no escape until Charmaine sees an advert for a new project called Positron. They’re given a house and new jobs in a secluded environment, in an idyllic neighbourhood, a perfect community. Every six months, they are taken to prison and another couple takes their place. The cycle is repeated until feelings and urges take over and everything is put at risk.
And this is me giving two stars to an Atwood novel and my soul hurts…
I had sky-high hopes for this one because it’s Atwood and a dystopian construction and I couldn’t fathom what could possibly go wrong. The universe she created is complex and interesting. A protected environment surrounded by utmost secrecy, where obligations and benefits aren’t clear-cut. No emails, no interaction with family and friends, everything is monitored. And, sometimes, certain people have to be ‘’deported’’ to another world for reasons unknown. I think you all know what this means. The problem is that the heart has its own mind. It desires, contact, love, passion. It lusts for life and attention. And this is such a dark and exciting premise, even if we have seen it before in many successful (and less so) novels. This is one of the reasons I still feel shocked that I was so disappointed.
The writing felt dry and one may say that it is understandable given the context of the story. However, the focus on the sex lives of the couple and their escapades left me utterly indifferent. I understand that this may have been a way for Atwood to demonstrate the effect of confinement and frustration and their immediate influence on a couple’s bonding but it got too much out of hand, in my opinion. The language used to depict these themes was crude, tasteless, the way I imagine a cheap paperback bodice-ripper is written. The dialogue was average, at best. The problem is that when I read a novel by Atwood I don’t want ‘’average’’. I want perfection. The endless romp of sex-robots, fake Monroes and Presleys and all the moaning and wet dreams and what-not isn’t to my taste, I’m afraid. In fact, I find them disgusting. So, after about 50%, everything became too grotesque, low-quality, agonizingly cheap. In my opinion, the major problem was the construction of the two characters that were utterly horrible.
I don’t believe I am the kind of reader who will dislike a book because I failed to connect with the characters. After all, fiction is no reality whatsoever. However, in this particular context, I feel I have to care for the characters and how they’re going to respond to the traps and trials. Unfortunately, Stan and Charmaine appeared to me as stupid, clueless, sex-crazed people devoid of any sense, any principle, any basic moral code. Especially Charmaine disgusted me to no end. As a result, their thoughts and interactions were painful, really painful to read. I understand that this may have been deliberate but they were equally insufferable, in my opinion. Furthermore, I don’t understand the vulgarity with which the theme of sex was treated and the extremely frequent use of the F-word every other sentence. And this from someone like myself who is an utter potty mouth.
I don’t have anything more to add. If Margaret Atwood’s name hadn’t been written on the front cover, I would never have believed she’s the author of this novel. I could never abandon one of her books, otherwise this would have been a DNF at 40% mark. I’m sorry to say that it didn’t win my heart at all. Now, I’ve placed my hopes on Lady Oracle to make me forget this horrible experience…