A review: the new Margaret Atwood

THE HEART GOES LAST, by Margaret Atwood (pub date Sept 29, 2015)


As noted in the flap copy for this title, the basic premise for this latest dystopian novel from Atwood revolves around a society that’s undergone some sort of economic and social collapse worldwide — although it’s left vague enough that we never do find out where or how this happened or how widespread it is — and our main characters have entered into a closed community.

The community is set up with two halves: one month they live in a Leave It to Beaver retro housing development with assigned jobs and provided food, clothing, and accessories, and the other month they live in a literal prison, where they have assigned jobs which provide food, etc. for the housing community. Or so they think. Evil things are afoot, and we soon find out what through a series of reveals via the husband and wife’s perspectives as they discover the underpinnings of what they’ve gotten themselves into.

The dystopian atmosphere, the unremittingly unlikeable characters — I began to feel like I was reading a Pynchon novel. By the time I got to the sexbots, I was pretty sure I was indeed reading Pynchon, but under Atwood’s name.

All this said, I was drawn, without my own consent, into the plot, and read the book in two days flat. Why? I didn’t like any of the characters: not a one had any redeeming qualities, really, and they just got grimmer and more nasty — but with a lovely twist of dry humor — as the book progressed. Did the plot go anywhere I thought it wouldn’t go? In the end, no; no, it didn’t; it slid right into the sordid ending I assumed it was heading, given the characters. And yet it was a satisfying ending in that Pynchonesque sort of dystopian manner, where you know the characters who think they’re now going to live happily ever after, bless their dark horrible hearts, really are going to live short, nasty little lives. And that — probably because I’m not a nice person myself — made me happy.

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