The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood

I do like Atwood novels. Clearly I had to read this one as soon as possible – I think I even pre-ordered it.

Here’s the blurb …

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 novel had an intriguing premise – people live normal lives for a month and then are imprisoned for a month. They have ‘alternates’ with whom they share a house – when you are in prison your alternate is in the house and vice-versa. In this way a community only needs half as many houses and jobs. The community is extremely isolated – once you are in you can’t leave, there is no internet access and the only media available is produced by Consilience. As you no doubt imagine, sinister things are afoot. What has happened to the original (and true criminals)? What exactly does Charmaine do in her prison time (I will give you a clue the title has something to do with her job)? There are affairs, sex dolls, headless chickens and mind control through brain surgery. Atwood paints a dreary picture of the future and what big business will do to us all – and then we hear about the antics of VW and realise big business probably is amoral.

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