Our first choice for our Bookish Mamas book group was The Power by Naomi Alderman. It certainly came with the credentials for a great read: it’s won the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction; it’s had amazing reviews from both national newspapers and authors like Margaret Atwood, and Cosmopolitan described it as ‘The Hunger Games crossed with The Handmaid’s Tale.’ I have to admit, that was the review which persuaded me.
What’s The Power all about?
The idea is orginal: one day, in the not too distant future, women discover they have an electrical power, which they can use to inflict pain on others. Suddenly, women, especially teenage girls, discover they have power. The world as we know it turns upside down. There are riots. Enslaved women escape their traffikers. The women take control.
This affects every single part of society. We see this through the four narrators: Allie, with abused foster child who becomes a religious figure, Mother Eve; Roxy, the British daughter of a gangster, who has more power than anyone; Tunde, a Nigerian journalist who follows the story from its start; and Margot, an American mayor with a political career ahead of her – and two teenage daughters.
What did The Bookish Mamas think?
The opinions in our Bookish Mamas book group were very mixed. Some people really enjoyed it; others hated it with a passion.
I found it gripping. I read it quickly, not wanting to put it down. The narrative is very plot-driven – so much so that I’ve had to go back and re-read sections that occurred close to the end as I missed all the nuances and subtleties. It’s definitely an uncomfortable read, with some scenes of terrible sexual violence, but, I think, an important read.
Why? Because the things that seem so shocking when women order them or instigate them, are happening every day, ordered or instigated by men.
This book made me re-evaluate my perspective on our society, and that’s a pretty impressive achievement, and one that I’m sure the author intended. It’s been called an ‘instant classic,’ and it did make me think about the world, in the way that some literary greats have as well.
Tell me more
The novel is framed by a series of email exchanges between Naomi and ‘Neil.’ Neil calls it a ‘novelisation of what archaeologists agree is the most plausible narrative.’ We realise that Neil and Naomi are 5000 years into the future, looking back on something that had cataclysmic effects. The novel then documents the steps towards that cataclysm.
I loved that idea. I also loved the archaeological findings that are depicted in the book and thought they worked well. In fact, this idea has probably stayed with me more than the actual plot and characters.
You see, I’m not convinced that having four main characters worked so well. Each one did seem to have her or his own voice, but that voice seemed somehow stunted. I almost think this could have been a quartet of novels, each narrated by a different character. Each character had the potential to be extremely complex and multi-dimensional, but this character development at times felt abandoned in an effort to progress the plot.
Interestingly, the male character, Tunde, was one of our favourites. He’s an observer; a good-looking young man who documents the events. He’s not afraid of the women and is hopeful for a future. His perspective – perhaps after the three other characters – is refreshing.
The other troubling aspect for many of us in Bookish Mamas was the speed at which the women took control and then started manipulating men. After centuries, or millennia even, of women being oppressed by men, would we really forget how that oppression felt? Would we be so quick to rule based on our gender? Some of this didn’t ring true – or as true as it could.
Would I like it?
I think the more important question is, should I read it? To which, my answer would be yes. I think it’s important to read books which challenge our views of society, and this book would definitely do that. I personally think it would be a brilliant book to do for A Level English coursework. If feminist dystopian fiction is your thing, you’ve probably already read it. Even if it’s not, there’s still a lot to enjoy, and a lot to think about.
Have you read it?
If you have read it, and you’d like to join in with our Bookish Mamas linky, do pop your link into the Linky tool. Any book-related post goes, not just reviews of The Power. All we would ask you to do is to link back to Catch a Single Thought, Mrs H’s Favourite Things and The Organised Life Project, and to comment on a few other posts.
Want to join Bookish Mamas?
All our discussion, including live video discussions, happen in our Facebook Group.
Our February 2018 book choice is The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange.
Our March 2018 book choice is How to Stop Time by Matt Haig.
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