About the Book
Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.
This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Heart Goes Last certainly is a unique book, and while it is really well written and rather thought provoking in many aspects, I have to admit I struggled with it quite a bit. Atwood, as usual, packs her novel full of plenty of political and social commentary. The experiment of Consiliance is interesting, though I found it rather unbelievable and lacking in the kind of detail that made it take form in my mind.
Stan and Charmaine started out as rather compelling narratives. Charmaine had an addicting sort of naiveté and innocence, and Stan felt like an everyman – protective, and strong, but incapable of utilizing his strengths in any real way. I was instantly gripped by them and their struggle, and their voices which brought their struggle to life. Once thing moved to Consiliance I started liking the characters less and less. However, Atwood worked in some rather fascinating character depth by slowly making their individual weaknesses more prominent and important to the story. Charmaine is rather ruthless, and Stan is spineless.
The plot is pretty quick moving, but it isn’t quite predictable, That’s not really a bad thing, but sometimes it is nice to at least have a feel for where things are going, and in this one I didn’t. Even the “ah ha” or surprise moments didn’t really surprise me that much because I never really bought into it. I had a hard time feeling really engrossed in this book for the same reasons I had a hard time with the Consiliance project as a whole. Much of the novel lacked the depth and details that I appreciate in the books I read. The story was interesting, but it felt really two dimensional in many aspects.
The Heart Goes Last is a unique book that will be a hit or miss with readers. It will either work for you or it won’t. I don’t predict much middle ground here. Atwood is a fantastic author, and the characters are well crafted, and there is some great social and political commentary, but in many ways this one didn’t work for me. I never really connected to it, which is unfortunate. Perhaps others will have better luck.