The Heart Goes Last

Last weekend, I read Margaret Atwood’s newest book “The Heart Goes Last“. Atwood is my favourite author, but I was a bit reluctant to read this one. I had read some reviews, and it sounded good, but it sounded a bit too bleak for me. I find the state of the world depressing enough without diving into speculative fiction. But a copy of the book basically fell into my lap. No funny business, I promise. My brother was first on the list to borrow it at the library, and we are both very fast readers. He finished the book in record time, and wanted me to read it so that he could discuss it with someone. I had enough time to read it before the due date (and then some), so he delivered it to me. Hard to pass that up.

I tore through the book, because of course Atwood knows how to draw the reader in. One of my favourite elements of her books like Cat’s Eye (my favourite….I think) and Oryx and Crake is the interspersion of past and present. I think she does a really good job of maintaining interest in both plotlines by mixing them up in that way. My brother’s complaint about this technique is that he is always way more interested in what happened in the past than in the present. I agree that the past is generally more interesting or compelling, but I like the way the two match up, and you can see what happened in the past to lead to the future.

Anyway, she didn’t use that technique in The Heart Goes Last. Instead, she alternated perspectives between the two main characters. Everything took place in the present, with references to the past in the form of the characters’ memories, but no chapters dedicated to them. This switching back and forth between the characters was an effective way of keeping my interest.

There were some very familiar elements to this book. Atwood has some themes that she likes to touch on regularly, and this was no exception. This didn’t really bother me, though my brother said he felt like he had read the whole book before. I don’t disagree, but I was caught up in the plot. Atwood created a setting that could very well be our possible future. It was exaggerated, but believable (which is why I didn’t want to read it).

I felt this weird pressure to be super-critical the whole time I was reading it, because I knew my brother wasn’t super impressed. So basically, at the end, I don’t know how I felt. I was expecting – and maybe hoping for – a different ending, because this one didn’t seem the most Atwood-esque, but I recognize what she was doing. Overall, I thought the book was good. Not my favourite, but I don’t regret reading it (any more than I regret reading any speculative fiction, which just disturbs me). My brother described some of the writing as “a crime against literature” which I think was unnecessarily harsh, though I will agree that some of her other works were more subtle. But I don’t think Atwood is really interested in being subtle. She has something to say, and wants to get it across, and I respect that.

Questions for you:

Have you read The Heart Goes Last?

Does it interest you?

Do you like Margaret Atwood?

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