What is this about?: Naomi Alderman flips our world on its head and gives readers a new world where women have the power – literally – which lets the assume the power men have. It follows a selection of characters as they navigate this new world, and in some cases mould it as well.
What else is this about?: Everything above is more than enough. This is a story that takes the slurs and the oppression that women suffer under flips it around and shows readers a world where men are the ones from whom sex is taken, who are abused and suffer everything women do. Ask yourself this: what if it where Black women or Muslim women who had this power? It’s a situation you can easily see so many people in.
Blurb: 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.
In this world created by Naomi Alderman, women develop a power – electricity in essence – through which the author proceeds to flip society on its head. You know this world, it’ll be familiar to you even when things start to change. Consider this: what if women could march up to a police station, and demand the release of a female prisoner and the police could do nothing but give in because how do you fight 300 women who have immense power at their fingertips?
What if it were Muslim women? Or Indigenous women? Or Black women only who had this power?
It’s a simple plot, but in the hand of this author it is superbly wielded to highlight what women suffer, the power men wield and how tightly they hold on to it. The story follows Allie, AKA Eve, who embraces her power and uses it to gain followers — women who are searching to understand and embrace their power. Margot is a politician, whose daughter awakens the power in her, but she keeps it hidden, using the fact that women now have this physical power to build her political clout. Both are strong women, ruthless even as they seek to secure the future of women who have this power.
Tunde is the only male character the book follows. He is a self-made journalist and star chronicler of women in this new world, having taking advantage of social media and his mobile phone. He travels the world, unafraid of women and their power, seeking only to record the stories of the women he sees.
The book doesn’t shy away from the things men will do to control this power — like taking it from women, literally cutting out the organ that is thought to give it to them. Like Roxy, whose father uses her to build a criminal empire, until she takes it from her, and in turn her family — her brother — takes the power from her.
Nor does the book shy away from what women will do to each other as not all women have the power to equal measure. That evolves into bullying and slurs, which causes some to hide their inadequacies. Jocelyn, Margot’s daughter, is torn between wanting to fix herself for her power isn’t as strong as the others she sees around her, and wanting to embrace who she is, power and all.
This set of characters with their diverse experiences of the power, of the society in which they live make for compelling, thoughtful and stark reading. There’s a scene where men are denied the right to travel without a woman’s permission in a country and it made me think of the recent US election, and the possibility that women’s rights could be set back there. And the other countries in the world where women rebel by learning to drive, the very things we take for granted outside this country.
My thoughts are a jumble really, it’s that kind of book that makes you reassess yourself and the things you do that you may not think about. I wish this was compulsory reading in every school, though I suspect it might cause more controversy if it did end up in a school or library somewhere.
Who run the world? Girls. If there’s one book you need to read this month, it’s The Power.