Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Viking

Summary:  In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

Any book that gets me so emotionally invested that when I read the last sentence I actually say to a character, out loud "Go to hell!", it's been a pretty good read. The Power, did that. I don't want to give away too much because I think this is one of those books that is so experiential in the individual reading as to what most resonates.

That women become the more physically dominant by virtue of being physically able to summon and discharge electricity was a very neat idea (that the anatomic body part responsible for this is called a "skein" made this knitter/crocheter, smile). I liked the explanation of how this came about and everything about how it starts manifesting in pockets and quickly goes global. Told in various points of view, there's a look at the events from Allie, a runaway who becomes a major player, Roxy, the daughter of an organized crime boss out of England, Tunde a college drop-out turned CNN correspondent covering the phenomenon from early days on and Margot, a Mayor in a US city with an eye to bigger things. There are also some perspective chapters of a couple other very pivotal but minor players, Darnell (Roxy's brother) an Jos (Margot's daughter). Roxy happened to be my favorite character and I liked her perspective as a woman who began with both positive relationships and interactions with men (her father & brothers) and negative interactions (those who attacked & killed her mother). She didn't see all men as a monolith or problem to be dealt with one way. Her counterpoint to Allie, who had only negative relationships with men, was well done throughout, as was their friendship. Roxy's evolution over the course of the book, after some of her most important relationships take turns for the worse, was to me the most relatable of the characters. I worried and hoped things would come out right for her and considering this book is told in the years counting down to an apocalyptic event, I knew it was a fool's hope but I couldn't help it.

This was excellent in the first third, in the second third it meandered and I admit, I put this down quite a bit. But, I kept thinking about it so I kept picking it up and the final third didn't disappoint. I have to admit that I found this a pretty depressing view of a lot of humanity. The power & ability to assert it unchecked, is what corrupts and women here are no better at wielding it than men had proved to be. I appreciated the women engaged in the same gross power play behavior that men had prior to The Power (murder, rape, genital mutilation, stripping of voting rights & civil liberties, etc). No matter the gender, atrocities are still harrowing and infuriating. I also quite liked the way the book was laid out complete with the anthropological inserts. It added to the feel that this was a historical account of an important time in human history. And finally, back to the first point I made about this book, the email exchanges between Nina and Neil at the end were priceless and the perfect way to tie this off.

All in all, this was a good read and I'd recommend it for fans of dystopias & fiction that makes you think about gender roles and societal structures. This publishes in the US in October 2017 but is available now at Amazon UK. I'm glad I didn't wait.

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