British Fiction Focus

Margaret Atwood’s Heart Goes Last

Per The Bookseller, which clearly doesn’t care enough to count The Penelopiad, it’s been fifteen years since Margaret Atwood’s last new standalone novel—the Man Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin—so for those folks who didn’t dig the MaddAddam saga, the long wait is almost over, as this autumn Bloomsbury plans to publish The Heart Goes Last.

A “wickedly funny and deeply disturbing” story set in the near future, The Heart Goes Last “combines the powerful irony of The Handmaid’s Tale with the wicked playfulness of The Edible Woman,” and, according to Bloomsbury’s editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle, represents the author “at the tip top of her form—stylish, witty, dark and delicious.”

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.

So: a salad of sex, instability and social experiments, slathered in a light sf dressing. Sounds like Margaret Atwood to me!

Looks like a Margaret Atwood book, too! Least, this cover—unveiled via a Vine video to mark the start of what the publisher describes as “a major marketing and publicity campaign”—indubitably does:

Bloomsbury mean to release The Heart Goes Last hereabouts on September 24, five days before its publication in the States. The icing on the cake? Atwood will also be attending a Guardian Live event and the Write on Kew festival in support of the new novel.

Shall we count the ways in which this whole thing is win, I wonder?


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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