Thursday, February 8, 2018
[Book Review] The Power by Naomi Alderman
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who lounges 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.
TW: graphic rape, graphic violence
This is such a hard book to review for me, because there are so many things about The Power that I really loved, but then there are a few big things I wasn't the biggest fan of. The Power has had a lot of hype surrounding it, and it's been compared to The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (which I have not read, but I did watch the show) and I was really excited to pick it up. When there's a feminist book getting praise, you know I am here for it.
First, the characters. This story is split up into a handful of characters. The main ones being Tunde, Margot, and Roxy. Some side characters get a chapter or two also. I think some characters got more development time than others, and the ones that got less time suffered. Specifically Margot and Jocelyn. I feel like by the end of the story I didn't have much of a care about what happened to them because we didn't get a lot of them to begin with. I really enjoyed Roxy's story, and honestly would have loved more of just her. I found Allie and Tunde's stories interesting, but not always engaging. Roxy by far was my favorite character to follow.
The writing was a bit hit or miss for me. At moments I was engaged in the story. The dialogue is really well done and the characters each had their own voice. Which is sometimes hard to do when you have so many character point of views. So that was great. However, there are definitely moments when I felt like I just didn't want to continue. This was the kind of book that as I was reading it (besides a chunk in the late middle area of the story) I was enjoying the story. But once I put it down I had to force myself to pick it back up. Which got difficult because I let myself get distracted with other things when I should have been reading.
The plot definitely had a lot of potential and the whole theme about power imbalances was one I think was done extremely well. At first the thought of women getting all this power is really exciting as a woman to read. But then as the story keeps going, as a reader you almost feel guilty for being so excited at the thought of women gaining all this power because of the abuse of power that happens. It's really interesting and I know for sure I would have loved to discuss this book in college in a Women and Gender Studies class or something. However, the plot sometimes got a bit heavy on the political side, and although I expected it with a book like this one, it got a bit boring or confusing and I found myself skimming some areas. As someone who prefers more character driven plots, I would have enjoyed more character development. The story started off really strong for me. And then there's a chunk in the lower middle area where I felt myself having to push through. I even almost DNFed it at one point. But then you get to a part where things pick up and stay exciting until the end. I really like the way the powers are handled in this version of our world. The way it's kind of hidden for a while, the way the men react to it (and the online forums), and the way the government goes about figuring out what to do with young girls and even the older woman who develop the electricity powers. I felt like it was realistic the way each year gradually gets more and more dystopian. It felt natural and plausible for how it would go down in real life.
I think that this book is worth the read and I understand why it won the Baileys Women's Prize for fiction. It is an incredibly thought provoking read and one that I think I would have loved more if I had a group of people to discuss it with. That was one of my favorite parts about classes in college. I hope this book is being using in classrooms because it's an important one. The rape and violence in this book is graphic, and although I understand why it was used and the message it was portraying, it was hard to read.One question that I am not sure is answered (if it was, I probably missed it during the areas I ended up skimming) but I wondered what happened with people who were non-binary, trans, or genderfluid. Women are given this power, but was it only women who were biologically female? What about women who had any sex changing operations? If I ended up skimming an explanation of this and you have read the book please tell me in the comments below.
I definitely recommend this book, but I think knowing that it can get slow at times and a bit heavy politically is helpful information before diving into the book. Of course, if the content warning I have put in bold at the top of this review are topics that can be triggering for you be careful when reading this book. The messages in this book of this book are so important and I hope to read more books similar to The Power in the future.