So one thing I love doing more than anything is getting chance to curl up in bed with a cup of tea and a good book. So I’ve decided to review all of the books I read over the course of my year abroad (and hopefully persuade you to give a few a chance!)
‘The Heart Goes Last’ by Margaret Atwood is a dystopic novel set sometime in the future (but still the 21st century) in America. America has been crippled by economic collapse: people have lost their jobs, their houses, all of their money, and their livelihoods. For Charmaine and Shan, this is their everyday reality. They’re living in a third-hand Honda living off scraps of food they can find.
Then one day they see an advert for a city where you are guaranteed employment and a house. The catch? It’s only for 6 months of the year. On alternate months you become a prisoner in the local prison. This project aims to reduce criminality and increase employment. The other catch? Once you’ve signed into the city, you can’t sign out. You sign a lifelong contract.
At first it seems great, and worth it. But when a series of troubling events unfolds, the residents start to question whether the Positron Project is really a prayer answered, or more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
So here’s my opinion on the book:
Overall, I would rate this book a 4 out of 5. The storyline caught my attention from the offset, and I had finished the book within 48 hours. The main characters are well developed, and the fact that the chapters are written from the perspective’s of different characters allows the reader to feel their emotions, and sympathise with them.
The idea behind the Positron Project, is chilling and engaging. You can understand the reasons why the residents of the city would sign up for such an agreement – full employment, guaranteed food and a roof over their heads. The prison isn’t as bad as a normal prison. The women are allowed make-up, they have activity time, they are each assigned a job within the prison system, from farming, engineering, nursing and cooking. And they know it will only last a month and they can return to their comfortable middle-class lives with jobs on the outside of the prison walls. In comparison to their lives on the outside of the city, this life is much more stable, fulfilling and happy.
The author successfully showcases what can happen when you sign over all of your power and freedom to one person: power can corrupt. And in this case it very much does. The author also intertwines the love story of the two main characters, with issues of adultery, trust, sexual attraction and what lengths a person will go to to protect their own back.
The ending is fitting, yet different from the endings of other books by Margaret Atwood, for example in The Handmaid’s Tale. There is no cliffhanger, the reader is not left guessing, all loose ends are tied up. Do I like this ending? Partly, because I like to know exactly how the stories of the characters will end. Partly not, because there is something in the mystery of not knowing what will happen: it’s left to the reader’s own imagination.