I believe this is a pre-publication review for the US version (which is expected to be released September 29th), but other countries may have it already available.
One thing Margaret Atwood consistently does to the best of her abilities is give the reader the experience of being a voyeur, even if they don't want to see it all. In The Heart Goes Last's case, there are certainly many of those latter mentioned moments to be had- as the book is a dystopian exploring themes of desperation and desire. I wouldn't recommend reading this unless you are comfortable with sexual themes, because although the book isn't raunchy in my view, some other reviewers were put far from their comfort zones.
As much as I was led to believe this would be some sort of odd sex-fest of a book from other reviews, it really wasn't. Sure, you have characters with exploratory sex lives, but it's set in a dystopian compound where there is a 1950's era revival going on. It's almost a satire, but also an examination of the American obsession with sex- or at least that was my take on it. To live in a world as manicured and merciless as the Positron Project, you have to have guts.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'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.'
I still feel bad for Charmaine. Some characters are so misguided, you can't help but pity them, and in her case, that's a very apt description. When something sounds too good to be true, it often is, but if you happen to be desperate enough and in dire enough straits, you buy in, regardless of the eventual cost. Her husband Stan is another story- he was very hard to relate to for me.
Some parts of the story are a little too shocking for my taste, but Margaret Atwood always seems to push my buttons. I obviously won't be disclosing those shockers, because they would ruin the book, but it's safe to say if I'm surprised about something, I won't be the only one.
The Heart Goes Last is a dystopian of a kind I haven't seen before. Depending on the person, it can be a fearless narrative or just plain exacerbating to read, and I found myself leaning more toward the fearless narrative camp. I don't kid when I say this book won't be for everyone, so I only recommend it to those who love Margaret Atwood, or aren't afraid to read books that push the limits.
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great fearless narrative that kept me on the edge.
Content: Ages 18+ the obvious sexual themes and the odd f-bomb, along with some more disturbing moments.
Page Count: 320 pages