Skip to main content

The Power - Naomi Alderman



"Jews: look to Miriam, not Moses, for what you can learn from her. Muslims: look to Fatimah, not Muhammad. Buddhists, remember Tara, the mother of liberation. Christians: pray to Mary for your salvation." It is through these haunting words that Naomi Alderman creates a novel so bold and so daring in order to show us how the present structures of society need a change, and offers us a glimpse of what would happen if you flipped the gender roles in which women rule the world. What would then happen if men lived in fear of women?

   The Power begins as teenage girls over the world discover they can release electrical jolts from their fingertips, ranging from a slight tickle to the ability to kill. Men are segregated for their own safety, countries verge on war on a day-to-day basis as more girls harness this 'power' and use it to awaken it in older women. As this all unfolds, the story weaves between four narrative voices: Roxy, daughter of a London mobster, Allie, a teenage runaway who reinvents herself under the new persona of 'Mother Eve' as she becomes a cult leader and a worldwide phenomenon. Margot is an American Politician desperate to protect her daughter through her new-found strength and Tunde is an attractive male Nigerian journalist reporting on the seismic global change. Interestingly the novel is structurally presented as a manuscript from "Neil Adam Armon" to "Naomi" as he asks her advice upon finishing reading his manuscript.  These interactions bookend the novel and gives it a terrific meta twist, very much what Atwood did with the ending of The Handmaid's Tale.

 
I truly cannot even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this novel. It packs many punches throughout on such a rapid pace, continually reminding the reader of a countdown to some sort of a cataclysmic event, which leaves you riddled with suspense. But what struck me, as I hope will strike many readers, is how the reversal of society's structure really highlights the extremity of how women suffer in the world today. For example, there are diagrams in the novel depicting a 'curbing' procedure - also known as male genital mutilation. FMG is something that is horrifically happening in the world today and there seems to be very little awareness of it or even simple acknowledgement of the issue, so by turning things on their head, it creates the awareness that should be existing. A friend of mine rightly said how it shows the extent to which we place our own ideas of society onto historical evidence, which in itself retrospectively perpetuates sexism.


   The new schematics of sexual violence and power further holds up a mirror to our current reality. Early on in the novel, a fraction of men enjoy the sensation of being hurt by the women's power, being encompassed into pornography, but this is taken to new extremes when a man is violently raped by a gang of women as Tunde watches from afar, helpless, demonstrating his new position as the 'weaker' sex. As the man climaxes, he is killed instantly by a jolt to the heart as the women laugh and seek out a new victim. Our culture often blurs this distinguishable line between consensual, if a little rough, sex and sexual domestic violence, so for Alderman to switch the positions of attacker and victim, it becomes a bold, but thought-provoking statement against our current world. 

   Futhermore, the idea of 'power' was something that was developed over the book. How it wasn't just about the literal power women had within them, but the power they had over men, socially and politically. Margot, for example, is corrupted by her own power to rise to the top of American Politics, which ironically is heightened during a TV debate when she loses control and accidentally jolts one of her political opponents. Roxy, inadvertently becomes the new crime boss after she is double crossed by her father and Mother Eve becomes a household name in which thousands flock to see her in the flesh.  The new society which has been created for these women adds an amount of pressure, one can assume that has shifted from male to female, and we as the reader, see these women tackle this pressure head on; some succumb to it, others fare lucky. The abuse of power goes beyond gender dynamics in this novel and there is no clear answer as to why both men and women abuse this power, but that's what makes The Power a fantastic read. 

   That is to say the book isn't perfect. Some of the sections in the book feel too long or drawn out, characters such as Roxy feel horribly stereotyped ("Bleeding hell, it's only you I've been flippin' looking for!") but thankfully, these things do not defer from the novel too much. I've read other reviews criticising the overtly religious aspects of the novel, but again, I think it does not defer from the main plot points. If anything, it is another signifier for the imbalance of 'power' between men and women today, especially in the church. But that is another debate for another time. 

A brilliant, thought-provoking novel that casts beautiful meditations on the concept of power, possibility and change, The Power is The Handmaid's Tale for a new generation wanting to explore dystopian fiction; especially those who one day may want to question how the natural dominance of women over men came to be. 



Published by Penguin Books

Special thanks to Penguin Random House for the proof copy. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Goldfish Boy - Lisa Thompson

It's a new year which means it's time to shake off your dusty wigs and get your reading glasses back on as I'm back on the old blogger! It's been a rather busy few months (what EVEN was December?!) but I'm back, with a promise to you all of at LEAST one post per week. So, let's kick things off in style with a good old fashioned book review; what better place to start than January's Book of the Month for Waterstones, Lisa Thompson's debut 'The Goldfish Boy'.

  Matthew Corbin suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and rarely does he leave his room. He washes his hands until they crack and bleed, he douses everything with antiseptic spray and he has a secret box of latex gloves under his bed. To pass the time, he observes his neighbours as they go about their daily routines and jots it down in his notepad. Everything is as regular as clockwork, until Mr Charles' grandchildren come to stay, and the youngest, Teddy, goes missing. As the …

How to Stop Time - Matt Haig

"I suddenly realise it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that we age differently. It doesn't matter that there is no way of resisting the laws of time. The time ahead of you is the like the land beyond the ice. You can guess what it could be like but you can never know. All you know is the moment you are in."

Imagine, for a second, that you were different to everyone else. To others, you may seem like a rather ordinary forty year old, but the reality is you're closer to four hundred and ninety. This is the problem of Tom Hazard, the protagonist of Matt Haig's incredible new novel How to Stop Time. Tom suffers from a rare condition that has caused him to be alive for centuries, ageing one physical year every fifteen years. Always on the move to avoid suspicion, Tom now works in a secondary school as a history teacher, but the one rule he is told never to break keeps making itself known; never fall in love. 

  The joyous quality with Matt Haig is that he trul…

The Bookshop Girl - Sylvia Bishop

If you're reading this, chances are, you probably like books. You probably would go as far to say you LOVE books, that if you chance upon a bookshop on your travels that you just HAVE to pop in for a browse and end up losing the rest of your day in there. This love for bookshops and love for reading is encapsulated perfectly in Sylvia Bishop's The Bookshop Girl, her follow up to Erica's Elephant

  Perkily illustrated by my bookselling chum Ashley King, The Bookshop Girl follows the adventures of Property Jones, who lives in a second hand bookshop after she was left there in a cupboard when she was a baby, who wins the opportunity of a lifetime to look after the renowned Montgomery Book Emporium. But can Property save the day when a sinister Mr Pink shows up demanding a rare and valuable manuscript? And will she ever reveal her biggest secret? 

  One of the biggest perks of Bishop's writing is how charming and breezy it is. The story reminded me of Dahl's 'Charl…