Strathclyde Telegraph

Essential Read: The Heart Goes Last

 

By Sibylle Sehl

Named among best fiction in 2015 by The Guardian, The Heart Goes Last is Atwood’s latest eagerly awaited novel. Atwood, winner of many awards including the Booker Prize, mostly writes speculative fiction as she calls it. Stories of the future that are likely to happen and could take place in a not so distant future. Indeed, Atwood can illustrate a dystopian future as no other, her earlier work, the Handmaid’s Tale, sent shivers through my spine and remains one of the most depressing and sentimental books I have read as of yet.

The Heart Goes Last depicts the story after the economic boom and bustle in which crime has replaced the ordinary life and common luxuries are a relict of the past. Stan and Charmaine are among those who have lost almost everything and try to survive without a home or a steady income. Currently living in their car, an advert about Consilience and Positron, a social justice experiment, seems more than promising to them as residents are assured to have a home for one month, in exchange for a life in prison for next month. While Stan and Charmaine have initial doubts, the alternative of living in a car for the rest of their life overpowers their fears and they are quick to sign up and engrossed in their new lives in Consilience and Positron, letting go of the possibility to ever go back to their old life. However, the nightmare quickly unravels and Stan and Charmaine find themselves entangled in a series of events including guilt, sexual obsession, disgust and compliance with the overlooking system.

The scary thing is that this future Atwood depicts does not seem as farfetched as one might expect. The greed and presumptuousness of major corporations and high-classed individuals has reached its peak and lead the population to throw away their morale completely, engineering and harvesting the unbelievable. Atwood is not afraid of tapping into our biggest fears and shakes up our emotions throughout the novel. Her writing is enthralling, eerily recounting a story that the reader is fully absorbed by. Stan and Charmaine, the main characters in The Heart Goes Last, are not only believable but let us identify with them through alternating accounts of their life in Positron and Consilience and we share and feel their guilt, their lust and mostly their despair.

With The Heart Goes Last I was expecting a great novel, but I didn’t expect to be so captivated by the storyline that Atwood has created. It’s full of suspense and despite dealing with a dim account of our future; it remains incredibly fresh and vibrant. If you have a liking for dystopian literature as much as I do, ‘The Heart Goes Last’ will not disappoint you and offer you a few hours of ‘escape’ in a world which resembles ours more than we might admit.

 

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