Book Review of The Heart Goes Last

UnknownMargaret Atwood writes some pretty amazing fiction. But I am starting to wonder how good a fit I am for her dystopian fiction.

I really struggled with The Heart Goes Last – a book I began and had to start over again on audio.

There are some very interesting elements – the general premise for example.  Set in a world gone mad after economic disaster, Stan and Charmaine seek refuge from the dangerous streets by entering Positron – a controlled, gated community in which citizens live one month in comfort, and the other in a prison.  This in itself is interesting enough – how far will we give away our rights to buy a measure of security?  It’s the age-old dystopian question after all.  But to this, Atwood continues to add layers of complexity.  Firstly, essential cracks in Stan and Charmaine’s relationship come to light.  Then, cracks in the Positron system come to light – exactly what is happening inside the prison, and with those who are running it.

This is all reasonably interesting, although a little unbelievable in places.  I think what bothers me most though, is how shallow the book portrays all the characters to be.  There are few redeeming features and little to admire in any of the characters.  They fit far too well into this shallow world!  This is a book that will provoke some thought – but mainly around the increasingly negative turn society is taking.  There’s nothing uplifting here – nor would I argue anything particularly insightful. I’d like to think we are better than how Atwood thinks we will go.  But maybe we aren’t.  And that’s depressing.  And that’s how this novel will leave you feeling. Unless of course, you can laugh at the silliness of the characters in the end.

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