The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: Book Review

The Heart Goes Last

Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 320
Publish date: September 29, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

When I heard that another Atwood novel was coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on it. Margaret Atwood is one of those “automatically buy” authors for me – I just love everything she writes, so I don’t usually need to look up reviews or need validation for spending my money on her books. I just want all of them. But even so, I read a summary of The Heart Goes Last and knew that this book was going to be something amazing. And I was not wrong.

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. (Summary from Goodreads)

This is the first book that I’ve reviewed where I’ve pulled the summary directly from Goodreads, because after having read the book, I don’t even know how to properly summarize it. The Heart Goes Last covers so many plots, themes and genres, that kept me on a roller coaster ride the entire way through.

Bloomsbury posted this photo on their Twitter which accurately sums up what I got out of this novel.


The Heart Goes Last was one of those books that I could not put down once I’d picked up for a few hours. The “dystopian” aspects of this book got me intrigued immediately. I love reading dystopia, or a society that isn’t typical Western culture, and having to figure out what’s going on as I continue to read. But what I loved about this society was that it was very close to our own and was not only satirical in a serious way, but also made me laugh quite a few times. Atwood’s writing is very descriptive and extremely witty.

Besides the amazing intricacy in the various plots of this novel, I fell in love with the characters – not necessarily because they’re likable characters, but because they were so dynamic and real. Every characters had good qualities and bad qualities, no one was pure good or evil, which made for a very interesting read. I could relate to Charmaine; I could imagine Jocelyn and her motives; I could perfectly visualize Stan and Max. These characters were so three-dimensional, it made reading about them that much more pressing. I needed to know why things were happening, because there was never a simple answer as to their desires and motives. They weren’t mere characters. They were human.

The Heart Goes Last was very face-paced, not only due to content, but structure as well. Each section of the novel was divided into very short chapters. I would turn the page only a couple of times before I hit the next chapter and was onto the next person’s perspective. This tactic made it very hard for me to put the novel down. Overall, I think I read it in only a few sittings.

This book is absolutely beautiful. I don’t know what I was expecting when I began reading, but it was definitely not as emotional, witty, and sophisticated a tale as Stan and Charmaine’s. I highly recommend this read to anyone who likes… well, reading. I’m confident you’ll find something about this novel that you enjoy.

The Heart Goes Last is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.


3 thoughts on “The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: Book Review

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