Bibliophile: The Heart Goes Last

The Heart Goes LastThe Heart Goes Last

by Margaret Atwood

Bloomsbury

After a mega financial meltdown, with unemployment at around 40% of the population, people are starving, scavenging and pilfering. Houses are repossessed and desperation rules as gangs roam the streets. Married couple Stan and Charmaine are living in their car “condemned to a life of frantic, grit-in-the-eyes, rancid-armpit wandering”.

When they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of Consilience to be pioneers for a secure and prosperous future, they jump at the chance. This social experiment offers jobs and houses for everyone but they have to trade freedom for security as there is no way of leaving the town. Another condition is that they need to leave their suburban paradise every alternate month by swapping their home for a prison cell.

The couple settle into their new lives that seem to resemble the retro/hetero lifestyles in 1950’s sitcoms and films. Of course the lack of control over their lives becomes more evident when the established rules have to be bent. As black surveillance cars glide around like sharks, cameras record everything and management removes glitches in the system, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions.

If you have read any of Margaret Atwood’s masterpieces, you will be aware that she becomes quite pre-occupied with her characters’ sex lives. She really has fun with imagining what people can come up with and just when you think things couldn’t possibly get more twisted, Atwood comes up with an even more outlandish sexual perversion to spice up the narrative.

Margaret Atwood refers to her novels as speculative fiction rather than science fiction as she utilises what is already available in our world to create her dystopian visions. At 75 years of age, she has lost none of her bite. This one is not as dark as her previous creations but the attempt at being light and bright is only superficial.

Atwood expertly grabs hold of human foibles and even though her disturbing story ties up loose ends rather too hurriedly, her wicked humour lingers. Remember that even though the head rules the body, the heart lasts the longest … in love and in death.

Lezly Herbert

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