The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power Naomi AldermanOne of the books which kept cropping up frequently in lots of end-of-year book lists last month was ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman and so it got bumped up my TBR list as one of my not-very-festive Christmas holiday reads. The main concept of Alderman’s fourth novel explores what would or could happen in a world where women become more powerful than men in every sense. Due to a mutation caused by a nerve agent used during the Second World War, teenage girls develop the ability to release electrical jolts through their fingertips which can be either harmless or strong enough to kill people. The “power” eventually spreads and although it is initially used by women as a deterrent against violent and abusive men who have oppressed them, it has far-reaching implications beyond that.

The story follows four main characters: the daughter of a London gangster Roxy Monke, spiritual leader Allie Montgomery-Taylor later known as Mother Eve, US politician Margot Cleary and Nigerian journalist Tunde. The individual journeys of each protagonist address the global consequences of the “power” regarding crime, religion, politics and the media respectively. However, what initially appears to be a story about revolution and liberation quickly descends into something far more sinister.

‘The Power’ is a book which makes you look at everything both upside down and back to front. Men are afraid to walk alone at night, the Holy Father becomes the Holy Mother, women are seen as physically intimidating and hold the vast majority of political and military leadership positions. It challenges the reader to consider whether or not power is misused differently depending on who handles it and how gender is framed in different contexts. Ultimately, Alderman’s message is clear: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Rather than building a society where men and women have equal rights, roles and responsibilities, Alderman’s dystopian vision sees women misusing their power in exactly the same way as men did and the results are not pretty. As well as graphic violence, Alderman addresses the way in which women treat men with more subtle condescension, an aspect which she explores very effectively in the exchange of letters between a male author and female editor at the beginning and end of the book.

It came as no surprise to me that Alderman has been mentored by Margaret Atwood and that ‘The Power’ has been favourably compared to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. It ranks among the best speculative fiction in that it shines a harsh light on the world as it is now by presenting a future full of unsettling possibilities, asking important and relevant questions about oppression, violence and corruption.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The Power by Naomi Alderman

  1. So funny that you should write about this. I just listened to the Guardian books podcast yesterday, and it was one of the books they discussed and recommended. So that’s twice now. I think I should probably read it!

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  2. I’ve had this in my TBR for a while. Thanks to your review, it’s just been bumped to the top!

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  3. Great review! I’ve heard a lot about this book and I’m really excited to pick it up, especially because of its comparisons to The Handmaid”s Tale, which is one of my favourite books! This sounds like a really interesting and thought provoking read.

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  4. I had never heard of this book before, but it sounds pretty epic to be honest. I feel like this would give me a lot to think about. Thanks for the review, I’ll be adding The Power to my to-read list!

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  5. This is sounds riveting 👌👌👌👌 And the feminist tones are speaking to me

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  6. I’ve loved her other books but really don’t like future fiction and sci fi (except Handmaid’s Tale and a handful of others). My husband likes sci fi and future fiction but doesn’t fancy this one at all. So a book that should appeal to both of us sort of falls between two stools! I don’t fancy the graphic violence, anyway, and I’m glad bloggers have mentioned this, as I didn’t see so much about that in the newspaper reviews.

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  9. Well you’ve definitely convinced me! Great review – Kay (blissbykay.com)

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