I wish I could tell you that this Book of the Month post is fashionably late, but that wouldn’t be the case. I genuinely got carried away in the month of July and it still hasn’t quite hit me that it’s August yet.
Nevertheless, my Book of the Month has been insanely popular among women everywhere since it won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. It is The Power by Naomi Alderman.
The hype around this novel has been somewhat contagious. It has been sitting on my shelf for months begging to be read and I have felt left out of the literary loop for having not yet read it.
Oh how I’ve been missing out! Warning. Mild spoilers ahead.
The Power is a stunning work of speculative fiction to say the least. Alderman creates a world where women develop an electrical current that runs throughout their body, originating from a ‘Skein’ in their chest. Such power allows women to turn the dominant patriarchy on its head, debilitating men with a simple touch.
The first half of the novel is a little ‘Hell yeah!’ and ‘Girl power!’ to a female reader as they watch men fall from their high horses. Then things go a little bit down hill. Terrorism and anarchy ensue and the prospect of war looms on the horizon. Men become the source of ridicule and at times are treated like slaves, licking wine from the floor and forced into non consensual sex acts. I was left wondering whether women turned out much better than their powerful patriarchal predecessors. The novel questions not the position of man vs woman as two binaries, but the concept of Power. Gender is answerable to power. Gender can command power but can never master it. Ultimately, Power is power.
Let’s move on to the simpler, bread-and-butter stuff. The chapters are written from the perspective of different characters from around the world and all in very different situations. My favourite character by far is Roxanne (Roxy). Despite Allie becoming ‘Mother Eve’ and commanding the love and attention of women worldwide, I feel like Roxy gains the respect of readers very quickly. She is resilient and full of grit thanks to her “mafia” upbringing. I found Jocelyn and her political mother to be too American and a predictable storyline – after all, are there any stories that don’t see someone rise to power and have an inside influence politically? Think the 2012 film and Independence Day. It was a little too cliché for me.
Same goes for the historical framing of the novel. At the beginning and the end, there are letters between a man called Neil and a woman called Naomi. I got the gist that Neil was writing about the events of the women’s uprising as a part of history. Along with his full name being an anagram of Naomi Alderman’s, the novel made it obvious that she was conforming to the principles of speculative fiction, making the whole story seem historically plausible. Maybe I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve read too many Utopias and Dystopias, but for me, this whole convention was a little lost on me in this case.
Nevertheless, the novel was brilliant.
Alderman has delivered a renewed The Handmaid’s Tale, a refreshing take on the position of women in society and the conflicts of power and gender equality. It was a very easy read – I read the latter half of the book in a matter of hours – and I loved the fantasy and escapism that the book has to offer. Let’s be honest, we’re not going to be shooting lightening bolts out of our hands any time soon!
There have been many reviews on this book, and I hope you’ve enjoyed mine. But here is a much shorter review from a very good friend…
Need any more be said?