I must have finished this book in about 2h or so and I must say I’m impressed. It is set in an alternate future, where all the humans, in order to have some sort of an order after an apocalyptic event (and also as a social experiment), decide to create a city where the population rotates jobs and houses on a monthly basis. Prisoner one month, prison guard the next. They even introduced real criminals into the mix to make it more authentic.
Enter, ‘I’m Starved For You’, Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopian vision, this time about a privatised, modernised part time prison system for non-criminals.
“I’m Starved for You” introduces us to the world-weary inhabitants of Consilience. This gated community isn’t your average American town, but in a dystopian society imagined by the visionary, internationally bestselling Atwood (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Year of the Flood”), it may be as close as anyone can hope to get.
Husband and wife Stan and Charmaine are among thousands who have committed to a new social order because the old one is all but broken. Outside the walls of Consilience, more than half the country is out of work, gangs of the drug-addicted and disaffected menace the streets, warlords disrupt the food supply, and overcrowded correctional facilities churn out offenders to make room for more.
The Consilience prison, Positron, is something else altogether. The very heart of the community and its economic engine, it’s a bold experiment in voluntary incarceration. In exchange for a house, food, and what the online brochure hails as “A Meaningful Life,” residents agree to spend every other month as inmates.
Stan and Charmaine have no complaints—until the day Stan discovers a note under the fridge of the house he and Charmaine must share with another couple while they’re back inside Positron. It’s a missive of erotic longing, pressed with a vivid lipstick kiss: “I’m starved for you!” it breathes.
“Do you hunger for me, do you burn for me”
Stan can’t stop fantasising about the other woman. She must be beautiful, sexy, she must have un-inhibited sex. He starts dreaming of her and can’t stop comparing her with Charmaine, his wife. Charmaine is stable, knowing, very tidy and what you can imagine a New England mom to be like.
If Stan rarely thought about the house’s other residents before—they’ve never met them and don’t know their names; it’s not allowed—now he can’t stop thinking about them, especially the note’s sex-addled author, so unlike his girlish wife, Charmaine. He has to meet her, but in this highly ordered and increasingly surveilled world, disorderly thoughts are a risk, and breaking the rules has dire consequences.
The surprise of the book (or twist if you wish to call it that way), is that Charmaine is actually the other woman. She met “Max” when she was still changing the sheets in the house before the next couple moved in and they started an affair. She found out she could be somebody else with this guy and the idea of infidelity to “Steady Stan” appealed to her.
Purple Passion is its name, on the tube, such bad taste. Which is why she bought it: that’s how she thinks of her feelings toward Max. Purple. Passionate. Garish. And, yes, bad taste. To a man like that, for whom you have feelings like that, you can say all sorts of things, I’m starved being the mildest of them. Words she would never have used, before. Vandal words. Sometimes she can’t believe what comes out of her mouth; not to mention what goes into it.
It felt safe to be caged in, now that she knew she had this other person inside her who was capable of escapades and contortions she’d never known about before.
She is like an icicle that has melted but has to keep up the appearances of being an icicle to keep the status quo with her husband. She thinks about telling him every now and then but then laughs at the idea. And she suspects that Stan knows about her other self, that he found the sexy note she left under the fridge for her lover.
This is more of a break from routine as anything else is and the ending of the book shows that everyone is looking for a break of their normal lives. “Max” also has a wife, an athletic, solid, short and stout type of woman who traces Stan back and with veiled threaths tells him that for that month, Stan will be her husband and that the exchange is complete in all of the official paperworks. If jobs and houses are interchangeable, why shouldn’t husbands be too? Why shouldn’t they touch the forbidden fruit on a regular basis? Why stay true?