The reviews for this book seem to be all over the place; some people love it, some hate it, and most are somewhere in the middle. The characters are twits (Stan is a jerk), the plot gets a bit crazy, and there’s a lot of sex – obsessive, illicit, fetishist, and even robot sex. I admit that I was surprised by how much sex, or thinking about it, there was in the book. But, after a while, you just get used to it. The question, really, is why all the sex?
I’ll let you figure that out for yourself, but I will give you my take on the whole novel – I think Margaret was having some fun. In this interview with Shad on Q, Atwood talks about all the information she has stored up after all her years of reading, and I think she wanted an outlet for it. And, why not? She’s already proven herself as brilliant – time to have some fun. The fear of economic collapse, profit-making prisons, robots that can get goose bumps, ageing population, the ethics of tinkering with the human brain, the benefits of baby blood… With everything you read about these days, it almost seems as though the world is going crazy. What would that look like in a book? The Heart Goes Last.
Over and over again, Atwood turns up the ante. Just when I thought she couldn’t take a scene or a thought any further, she did. I kept thinking, I can’t believe she said that. Or, I can’t believe she went there. But, the truth is, I can believe it, because when you step back and pull everything apart, there isn’t one thing in this book that could not or would not happen. Atwood knows people and what they are capable of.
For example, if you are desperate and in need of shelter and food, you would probably do just about anything to get it (like sign up for the Positron Project). Once you have what you need, you start thinking about what you want. Take it a step further and imagine there is an alternate couple who lives in your house, but it’s against the rules to get to know them or find out who they are. Aren’t you going to be curious? Maybe even start obsessing over them? If your partner is irritating you, aren’t you going to imagine that your alternate’s partner is so much better? This is only the beginning…
I think Ms. Atwood has us pegged, and that it’s not very flattering. The world is falling down around us, and what are the things we are most likely to be thinking about? Food, money, and sex. And reading, too, of course. But, reading won’t save the world. Margaret Atwood probably could, though.
Read it and tell me what you think!
Other blogger reviews of The Heart Goes Last:
Rosemary and Reading Glasses: This review of The Heart Goes Last is fantastic. Carolyn compares the book with Milton’s Paradise Lost. If you read any other review, make sure it’s this one!
River City Reading: “Gone are the poetic lines and highlight-worthy passages, replaced with a rather messy plot.” I have to agree with Shannon that there was a bit too much of Elvis in this book.
A Life in Books: “…we humans are all too easily lulled into a soporific acceptance leaving us wide open for exploitation.”
What Me Read: “The Heart Goes Last allows Atwood full rein of her acerbic sense of humor and biting satire. It is reminiscent of the darker excesses of the Maddaddam trilogy but without any very sympathetic characters.”
The Oddness of Moving Things: “I love how Atwood more-so than a lot of writers takes what’s happening in the news and takes it to one of it’s possible ultimate conclusions.”
Bookish Beck: ” …the plot takes plenty of unexpected turns with some Shakespearean comedy reversals, but it’s downright ludicrous at times.”
If you’ve reviewed this and want me to add you to the list, let me know!
Stan has never heard so much bullshit in his life. On the other hand, he sort of wants to believe it.
He really wants another beer. But he’ll wait until this show is over, because what if the TV can see him?
Looking back on his life, he sees himself spread out on the earth like a giant covered in tiny threads that have held him down. Tiny threads of petty cares and small concerns, and fears he took seriously at the time… He’s been the puppet of his own constricted desires.
What’s the use of anything? she often thinks. But what’s the use of even thinking What’s the use?
Even if she could tell someone, and even if they believed her, they’d pretend not to, because they’d see the truth as botulism. They’d fear contamination.
The past is so much safer, because whatever’s in it has already happened.
If you do bad things for reasons you’ve been told are good, does it make you a bad person?
In the Acknowledgements:
Finally, my special thanks to Graeme Gibson, who, though always an inspiration, did not inspire any of the characters in this book. And that’s a good thing.
29 thoughts on “The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood”
You’re right about Atwood having us pegged and it is NOT flattering. I feel like she’s only going to take it to even more extremes at some point and we’re going to have to face that mirror at some point.
And thanks for the linkback!
You’re welcome! 🙂
I hope she does!
Great review, Naomi, and I’d echo both you and Geoff: not flattering at all but spot on. Many thanks for the link and for leading me to the other reviews.
After reading this book, I’m very curious to see what she writes next!
My book group decided recently to read this one, too. As usual, the group’s choices are similar to yours, Naomi, and, also as usual, you’re way ahead of us!
I’m interested in Atwood’s focus on these questions about what happens when someone’s desperate. Looking forward to reading the novel.
I think your group will find so much to discuss with this book – you might need a double session!
(It’s funny that we seem to be on the same wavelength.)
You’ve made some nice observations here.
I can’t wait to read the book! Great review, as always!
Thanks! I hope you are one of the ones who like it! 🙂
Thanks for the review. I like how you provide links to other reviews you have read and enjoyed. I’ve got this book on order.
I had fun reading all the different reactions to the book as I was reading it myself, so thought I’d share in case anyone else found it helpful/interesting.
Enjoy the book!
I’m leaving this one to you and others. It just doesn’t “grab me” for some reason! 🙂 As always, thanks for your thoughts! 🙂
Sometimes it’s just as well to leave out a book you don’t feel drawn to. More time for others!
What a great review Naomi, you’ve made me really want to read it now!
Yay! Oh, and you’re getting this one, right?
It is on the Christmas list!
I really do love the thought that Atwood is poking fun, and you’re so right that everything in the novel is totally plausible…which is pretty insane!
As I read, I was picturing her typing away at her computer, chuckling to herself. 🙂
I’ve also noticed what mixed reviews this has been getting, so I think my next Atwood read will probably be the Oryx and Crake series. But your review makes me want to pick this up to. I love Atwood’s personality in interviews so the idea of reading something where she’s having fun sounds great to me.
There is some feeling out there, I think, that the plot in this book just got too wacky, but if you go in knowing that it’s going to get wacky (and Atwood describes it as a comedy), then you might like it better than if you’re expecting it to be more profound.
I definitely recommend The MaddAddam Trilogy – so good!
I liked your review of this, and I’m not at all surprised Atwood amped it up in her latest novel. I very much liked her earlier stuff: Surfacing, Cat’s Eye, The Robber Bride. But, I very much disliked her later books: Blind Assassin, The Handmaid’s Tale, and especially Oryx and Crake. I do not enjoy reading the author she’s become, which perhaps is limited of me, but still…I don’t think I’ll be picking up this any time soon. Unless, like with A Little Life, I’m so caught up in the flurry of posts I can’t stand it.
If you haven;t enjoyed any of her recent novels, then you probably won’t like this one, either.
I would love to go back and re-read some of her older books. It’s been so long, I can barely remember them! I’m curious what I would think of them now.
Margaret Atwood could definitely save the world. And after seeing in person how hilarious she is, I completely agree with you–she was having fun here. Great review, and thank you for the kind words!
Thanks! And, you’re welcome! 🙂
But if MA can save the world, and we are reading her books and discussing them, then maybe we CAN save the world by reading?! 🙂
This is one of her books which I think, like O&C and TBlindA, I’ll enjoy more on the second time through. I liked it a great deal, but I was so preoccupied with the plot that I wasn’t always catching some of the ideas simmering beneath that surface. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of that interview; I’d missed it and it was fun to watch, as they have a good rapport.
I like the way you think! 🙂
And, yes, I’m sure there is so much I missed the first time through.