I wish I could say that enjoyed or at least liked The Heart Goes Last but alas I can’t. And yes whilst that may be a rather controversial statement, particularly as it is Margaret Atwood we are talking about after all, I can’t sit here and lie.
It had all the hallmarks of a great novel – a dystopian take on crime and punishment, “socialism” in practice and alternative living, but ultimately all the charisma of a tea towel (sorry to any Atwood lovers, this is just my opinion).
Allow me to elaborate: the novel is centered around Stan and Charmaine, a young couple struggling to make ends meet in a collapsing economic market. Cue the “dream alternative”… a selective gated housing complex where all your needs are taken care of. No more worrying about where to stay for the night, food, paychecks or finding stability in an otherwise unstable environment. Positron gas it all. The catch is simply that residents must alternate monthly between being Positron’s prisoners, carrying out essential but ultimately monotonous, undesirable jobs, and being upstanding citizens of Positron, with normal lives to come home to after work and free weekends. All is not as it seems however, and the life in Positron begins to come unstuck for Stan and Charmaine.
Sounds good so far right, so what’s the problem? For starters the narrative lacks any real momentum, and at a certain point loses most of its credibility (Marilyn Monroe and Elvis impersonators are involved just in case you were wondering). The characters are awful, but not in the sense they had deplorable personalities (I wish that was the case, it would have made them interesting) – instead they were tepid, dull and lackluster throughout, I couldn’t give you a single defining feature for any of them. And perhaps my most damning critique of all, reading it to the end was honestly a struggle, I couldn’t wait for it to end just so it would be over and done with!
I’m sure it goes without saying at this point that I will not be recommending this book anytime soon, not least to any Atwood fans!
Be sure to let me know in the comments if you disagree – maybe I’m missing something!