To celebrate the publication of The Heart Goes Last in paperback, we asked the Virago team to tell us about some of their other favourite Margaret Atwood books…
About The Heart Goes Last:
Stan and Charmaine are a married couple trying to stay afloat in the midst of economic and social collapse. Living in their car, surviving on tips from Charmaine’s job at a dive bar, they’re increasingly vulnerable to roving gangs and in a rather desperate state. So when they see an advertisement for the Positron Project in the town of 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 this suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month, swapping their home for a prison cell.
At first, all is well. But slowly, unknown to the other, Stan and Charmaine develop a passionate obsession with their counterparts, the couple that occupy their home when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire take over, and Positron looks less like a prayer answered and more like a chilling prophecy fulfilled.
You can buy The Heart Goes Last in paperback here.
As her fellow Canadian I am drawn to what I think of as her most Canadian novel – Surfacing. Here are the mystery of northern woods, isolated cottages, wooden docks, hot sun, deep and cool lakes – and as only Atwood can tell it – the truth behind family stories. Absolutely haunting.
Lennie Goodings, Publisher, Virago
Those who proclaim that schooldays are the best days of your life should read Cat’s Eye. I discovered it in my teens, and have never, before or since, read a book that so perfectly captures the enchantment, intensity, viciousness and passion of female childhood friendships – when your best friend is your enemy; when the games played are mind games, and you can never win. Or can you? Given time. Mean Girls has nothing on Cat’s Eye!
Donna Coonan, Editorial Director, Virago Modern Classics
In Stone Mattress we learn about the practical side of having a vampire in the family, enjoy some delicious, stone-cold revenge and get a window seat for the final show-down between young and old people. Perfect for dipping into or for devouring in one glorious gulp of unexpected comic thrills, it’s a compendium of wickedness that made me laugh and laugh and laugh.
David Bamford, Assistant Editor
Alias Grace turns twenty this year and that seems pertinent as the novel can be read as a classically straight historical novel, but, of course, it is anything but straight or even simply ‘historical’. It’s based on a strange but somehow familiar-sounding 19th century account of a double murder. The victims were a landlord and housekeeper and the alleged perpetrators two young servants – one a young man, the other an alluring young woman: Grace. In this shape-shifting novel where Atwood constantly moves the ball point of authorial control from character to character, it continues to swing back to Grace who is perhaps the most deadly or perhaps the most at risk. This is one of the Atwood novels I am reminded about constantly, whether reading contemporary fiction or looking at, for example, a Paula Rego painting. Here’s to the next twenty years.
Zoe Hood, Deputy Publicity Director
By turns eccentric, lonely, hilarious and mesmerising, The Year of the Flood does what every novel by Margaret Atwood does best – it completely captivates its reader with a kind of chaotic magic. She holds a mirror up to us and what we see is both beautiful and distorted. The Year of the Flood completes an arc initiated by Oryx and Crake and leaves you hungry for more…
Poppy Stimpson, Senior Press Officer
This novel within a novel, told through the stories of sisters Laura and Iris contains Atwood’s trademark dark humour along with an examination of the precarious position of women, and the sci fi flavour that Margaret Atwood’s writing is known and loved for. With all of these elements, the Booker Prize winning The Blind Assassin is a great place to start if you’ve never picked up a Margaret Atwood book.
Sam Book, Digital Marketing Manager
The Edible Woman is the story of Marian, a young woman who finds herself unable to eat after she gets engaged. Funny and dark, it is also brilliant on sex and money and office life (the broken air-conditioning, the forced jolliness of tea with colleagues, and the wonderfully named Mrs Grot from Accounting). Published in 1969, it still feels absolutely relevant and fresh. Perfect if you’ve recently read and loved The Vegetarian by Han Kang.
Sarah Savitt, Deputy Publisher
Oryx and Crake is the book I recommend to anyone and everyone without hesitation. Whether you like sci-fi, thrillers, romance, whatever, I’d be very surprised if you didn’t fall for this utterly mesmerising novel about a character in a post-apocalyptic world. This book has so much momentum, imagination and wonder. I have never forgotten how it made me feel the first time I picked it up and how I was completely obsessed with it.
Ailah Ahmed, Commissioning Editor