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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
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The Heart Goes Last

by Margaret Atwood

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,6181156,957 (3.38)106
  1. 31
    Slade House by David Mitchell (sturlington)
    sturlington: Each of these books started out as an online experiment.
  2. 10
    A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Similar themes (handled better, in my opinion)
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Society has collapsed. The crumbling economy has snatched away the chance for most people to have jobs, homes, security. Vicious, drug-addled gangs roam the streets, preying on the vulnerable. Charmaine and her husband Stan have lost their house and are now living on the street in their car, scraping a meagre existence thanks to Charmaine’s work as a waitress in a dive-bar. They still have their pride, but it’s on the blink; and Stan is on the point of turning for help to his estranged criminal brother (the aptly-named Con) when Charmaine sees an advert that changes their lives. It offers hope. The chance to have dignity restored. A roof over their head; a purpose in life. In return, they just have to take part in a social experiment. Oh, and, once you’re in, there’s no turning back. As you’d expect from Margaret Atwood, this is a high-concept dystopian fable about the corruption of power and the subjugation of the individual for the ‘good’ of the whole. It lacks the taut urgency of The Handmaid’s Tale and veers into absurdity in the later chapters, but it’s nevertheless a sobering vision of a not-too-distant future...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2019/08/06/the-heart-goes-last-margaret-atwood/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Aug 6, 2019 |
Not good. Such a disappointment. ( )
  nushustu | Aug 5, 2019 |
Quite a strange book: I really liked the beginning, but after that things got a bit strange, and never let up. Well written and certainly an attention-holding read, but ... weird. ( )
  JBD1 | Jun 1, 2019 |
This is a genuinely bad book. Which is a shame, because Margaret Atwood is a brilliant author. She's so much better than this. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
It's one of those books which the more you progress reading the plot, the more you don't understand what is going on.
Anyone who likes an unusual plot - it is a definite book for him. In the end, I read it all, merely because I was queries to know what was going on at the end of it, and for that reason, I give four stars. ( )
  jackBROWN22 | Mar 31, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
But then a narrative that has been taut, dread-inducing and psychologically tense careers off the road, skids into the woods, hits its head, loses its memory and emerges as a strange quasi-sex romp concerned almost exclusively with erotic power, kinky impulses and the perversity of desire.
 
“The Heart Goes Last” wrestles with many of the same themes that have preoccupied Ms. Atwood for decades, such as sexism, the dangers of unbridled greed and the risky moral terrain that comes with technological progress.
 
Though Atwood is obviously delivering a serious lesson about societal greed and human exploitation, it’s frankly an amazing achievement how jovial The Heart Goes Last is from start to Shakespearean-style comedic finish. The novel is certainly a dystopian effort that belongs on the same hallowed list as Brave New World, 1984 and Atwood’s own masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, but it also manages to be a whole lot of quirky, poppy fun, without ever once undermining its core message.
 
The further one reads, the less clear the novel becomes on a philosophical level. The narrative is riveting (if occasionally so ridiculous as to remind the reader that perhaps we’re not meant to take it entirely seriously), and the characters deepen as time goes on, moving from broad types to sympathetic (if not entirely likable) individuals. But throughout, there is a sense of larger purpose, a deeper motivation at work. Part of this is a function of the conspiracy in which Charmaine and Stan find themselves “linchpin” figures, but the overarching narrative control – layers within layers, manipulations within manipulations – comes to feel like the work of the writer herself. By the time the novel concludes, one is left with an image of Atwood holding all the puppet strings, orchestrating every event. And grinning widely.
 
Margaret Atwood’s future holds little cheer.

Dystopian sex romp The Heart Goes Last comes off as jaded, contemptuous...Stan and Charmaine elicit little (Charmaine) to no (Stan) sympathy. Two self-serving, foolish, and facile jerks stand at the heart of Heart. The comedy ridicules them; it’s at their expense. And because their unappetizing characteristics encourage onlookers to grow indifferent to their antics and dilemmas, their fates — good, bad, or more of the same — matter not in the least.

Dystopian tales rely on readers caring or identifying with about the oppressed and victimized. If that’s taken away, so is the tale’s power to move, provoke, and command attention.

 
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Epigraph
... with wonderful craftsmanship he sculpted a gleaming white ivory statue.... It appeared to be a real living girl, poised on the brink of motion but modestly holding back - so artfully did his artistry conceal itself.... He kissed her, convinced himself that she kissed him back, spoke to her, embraced her....

- Ovid, "Pygmalion and Galatea"
Book X, Metamorphoses

"When it gets down to it, these things just don't feel right. They're made of a rubbery material that feels absolutely nothing like anything resembling a human body part. They try to make up for that by instructing you to soak them in warm water first and then using a shitload of lube...."

- Adam Frucci, "I Had Sex With Furniture,"
Gizmodo, 10/17/09

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Dedication
For Marian Engel (1933-1985)
Angela Carter (1940-1992), and
Judy Merril (1923-1997).

And for Graeme, as ever.
First words
Sleeping in the car is cramped.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Heart Goes Last: Positron, Episode Four is the 4th volume in an e-book only serial. It was reworked into the novel The Heart Goes Last, but they are not the same work.
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Book description
amazon ca product description :Several years after the world's brutal economic collapse, Stan and Charmaine, a married couple struggling to stay afloat, hear about the Positron Project in the town of Consilience, an experiment in cooperative living that appears to be the answer to their problems - to living in their car, to the lousy jobs, to the vandalism and the gangs, to their piled-up debt. There's just one drawback: once inside Consilience, you don't get out. After weighing their limited options, Stan and Charmaine sign up, and soon they find themselves involved in the town's strategy for economic stability: a pervasive prison system, whereby each citizen lives a double life, as a prisoner one month, and a guard or town functionary the next. At first, Stan and Charmaine enjoy their newfound prosperity. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who shares her civilian house, her actions set off an unexpected chain of events that leave Stan running for his life. Brilliant, dark, and provocative, The Heart Goes Last is a compelling futuristic vision that will drive readers to the edge of their seats.
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"Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid's Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin. Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around and fast. The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in. for six months out of the year. On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their "civilian" homes. At first, this doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one's head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger. With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled"--… (more)

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