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The Heart Goes Last

Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins
4 out of 5 stars (710 ratings)

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Summary

Margaret Atwood puts the human heart to the ultimate test in an utterly brilliant new novel that is as visionary as The Handmaid's Tale and as richly imagined as The Blind Assassin.

Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of an economic and social collapse. Job loss has forced them to live in their car, leaving them vulnerable to roving gangs. They desperately need to turn their situation around - and fast.

The Positron Project in the town of Consilience seems to be the answer to their prayers. No one is unemployed, and everyone gets a comfortable, clean house to live in...for six months out of the year.

On alternating months, residents of Consilience must leave their homes and function as inmates in the Positron prison system. Once their month of service in the prison is completed, they can return to their 'civilian' homes.

At first, this doesn't seem like too much of a sacrifice to make in order to have a roof over one's head and food to eat. But when Charmaine becomes romantically involved with the man who lives in their house during the months when she and Stan are in the prison, a series of troubling events unfolds, putting Stan's life in danger.

With each passing day, Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.

©2015 O.W. Toad Ltd (P)2015 Penguin Random House LLC

Critic reviews

"The outstanding novelist of our age." ( The Sunday Times)
"Atwood makes it look so easy, doing what she does best: tenderly dissecting the human heart . A marvellous writer." ( The Daily Mail)

What listeners say about The Heart Goes Last

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good but Atwood has done better

I enjoyed this dystopian novel from Atwood. It was not as engaging as The Handmaid's Tale (in my opinion), but I enjoyed it and I cared about what happened to the characters.
I'd possibly go for 3.75 stars over four stars but I don't have that option!
Charmaine's piece is read as somewhat "airhead" or "dumb blonde". I think that was at least partly deliberate but it was only slightly annoying at times.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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I loved it!

Interesting and quirky story with great narration! Margaret Atwood's view of modern society was disturbing and dark yet very funny at times.

4 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Atwood by numbers

I'm normally a big fan of Margaret Atwood but this latest really didn't grab me at all. the characters were unlikeable, which in itself isn't a problem, but they were also quite dim and boring. other than a bit of sexual intrigue they are concerned with practically nothing and don't really give us much of an insight into the distopian near future USA that Atwood tries to invoke. this left me feeling that the conceptual world was quite half baked and didnt really bring any new themes or ideas to the table. I stead we are presented fairly well regarded tropes- organ harvesting, sexbots, faux 1950s suburbiana etc.

the narrators do ab ok job but overplay the characters. it's as though they want to make sure you are 100% clear on the emotional state of the characters at all times.

overall, I had to persist to get to the end, and wasn't particularly rewarded upon getting there.

4 people found this helpful

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Really rather disappointing

I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood's however this left me cold. I have little idea what she was trying to achieve with this story; it's so meandering and trite I found it very difficult to tough it out. There were so many elements to it whatever message Atwood was trying to convey was lost in the noise.

The narration of this story however is excellent, it was what kept me going. If I had read this in print I would not have finished.

3 people found this helpful

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What is this all about??

I have read a few of Margaret Attwood's books in the past and never noticed a chaotic story line in any of them... But this is hard to listen to, to follow or to gauge where the story is taking you. You need to go with the flow to get through this!
Characters do not present with realistic with blurred emotions and contradictions in their own values and localities. Sorry but it's a tough one!!

3 people found this helpful

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A saccharin, bitter, sexual satire

Gay Elvis impersonators, a Marilyn Monroe lookalike in heat with a soft blue teddy bear and a talking head in a box

This book started as a four part publication of ebook segments, similar to the way The Green Mile was published, but it lacks the cohesion of The Green Mile or the soul.
Stan and Charmaine the main characters have fallen in hard times and are living in their car, in constant fear of roaming gangs, rape and murders, they take solace in an offer by a Positron project, that gives them the use of a house one month but the next they become prisoners while the prisoners become the inhabitants of the house, no outside communication is allowed, no outside contact, you come in you stay and you question nothing. You would think that this would be enough for A dystopia, but no, sexual politics, sexual desires, infidelity, bestiality, sexual robots of all kinds, and love potion operations that imprint a person to the first thing they see with two eye, and tons of other shenanigans take over the story and turn it into a not very humorous satire, that feels more like sitcom than a novel. To make matters worse none of the characters are likable, so I could not feel for them.
This is a Canadian author writing a satire of americana pastiches that are superfluous cliches, that do not add but diminish the story with buffoonery, we have a town in the near future that only play music and movies from the fifties, that is american fifties, Elvis Presley impersonators, Marilyn Monroe impersonators as a kind of entertainers come escorts, or hospital fantasies for the elderly, also robot versions that can be rented to have sex. I know it is supposed to be funny, but I just found it irritating.
The plot is easy to follow but you never know what are the motivations, for those manipulating until the end, but by then it is just feels banal.
The prose is agile and expert like I would expect from Margaret Atwood but the humor never really took me over, and I could not see the point of this saccharin bitter story.

The narration was excellent and using two actors when you have two distinct characters telling the story works very well.

21 people found this helpful

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Outstanding experience

The story is remarkable
The performance was catchy
Enjoyed every minute

2 people found this helpful

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Confused by this.

If you could sum up The Heart Goes Last in three words, what would they be?

Dystopian Shakespearian comedy.

What did you like best about this story?

Atwood's wicked sense of humour and her ability to keep the story moving.

What about Cassandra Campbell and Mark Deakins ’s performance did you like?

Both read extremely well, Campbell was a suitably ditsy Charmaine.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The scene where Charmaine administers a lethal injection to Stan. Very well done.

Any additional comments?

I really don't know what to think of this book ... I enjoyed it because the writing is so damn good and the plot is deftly handled, but I feel not a little confused by it.

The novel starts off as dystopian fiction - a young couple, Charmaine and Stan are forced to lose their house and jobs and live in their carwhen the banks crash, with the ever present danger of violence. So when they are confronted with the possibility of entering the privately owned community of Consilience where jobs and houses are guaranteed, they understandably go for it, even though they will spend alternate months apart, inside a rather cushy prison (Positron) where she knits teddy bears and he rears chicken. The other months sees them back in their house, and the community is stuck in a pseudo-1950's time-warp. Sexual boredom kicks in and soon both Stan and Charmaine are fantasising about their "alternates" (the occupants of the house while they are spending their month in prison).

Things get slowly more sinister as they learn more about what is going on in the prison (including the bumping off of unwanted prisoners via fatal injection and the harvesting of organs). And then the book nose-dives towards total ridiculousness with sex-bots, Elvis impersonators and a Marilyn Munro who can only feel sexual desire for a knitted rabbit. The novel is .... like 1984 and The Stepford Wives meets The Wilt Alternative and a Shakespearian comedy.

Not a single character is believable or likeable. The only glimmer of light at the end for me is the thought that one day Stan might actually take the hedge trimmer to the simpering Charmaine's throat. (These were characters I was rooting at the beginning, so what happened?)

I think Atwood was having a lot of fun writing this. I hope so because she really deserves it. But it feels like something that was improvised on the fly and not really thought through.

2 people found this helpful

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If Barbie & Ken could speak...

...they'd sound like the narrators of this book. Gets irritating very quickly. Set in a dystopian America (which Atwood conjured up so well in A Handmaid's Tale) the story disintegrates into farce, with shallow, unlikeable central characters. I hung grimly on until the end, but this isn't Atwood at her best.

16 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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The strangest Atwood tale I've encountered

I love Margaret Atwood and was pleased to find a novel I hadn't encountered before. While I did find the story compelling and listenable, I found the female protagonist irritating. I loved the plot conceit, but I found a lot of events that advanced the plot too convenient. The denouement seemed bizarre and unsatisfying too. I suppose this is a satirical novel but I wasn't sure what the message was by the end.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Karen McCarthy
  • 23-04-19

Not her best

These readers are fabulous, but I didn’t feel this was Atwood’s best. The story wasn’t terribly imaginative and it seemed like a vehicle for a hackneyed idea. None of her usual sparkling intelligence.