The well deserved Winner of the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction 2017, The Power by Naomi Alderman is absolutely freaking amazing and here is why you need to read it.
Now, the paperback and the hardback covers are very different. I listened to it on audiobook so I didn’t have a cover but the red one is the paperback, pale orange one is the hardback.
One day, women wake up, and discover they have a strange power. With a flick of their fingers, young women can cause pain or awaken the power in older women. The day of the girls has arrived. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.
In a future reality, the book is framed as a historical fiction novel, examining what may have happened before the Cataclysm. It follows a young Nigerian boy who becomes a journalist in the wake of the Day of The Girls, using YouTube to reach a new generation and present the view of the women rebelling over the world. It follows a girl with superior control over her power, living in an abusive foster home. It follows the daughter of a London crime boss, starting on the day her mother is attacked. It follows an American politician and her daughter. It follows these different people in different situations and how they navigate this new reality and the struggle to maintain a world order.
I had this on audiobook from Audible, read by Adjoa Andoh, after it was recommended by a friend. It meant that I didn’t “read” this quickly. Had it been in my hands, I’d have read it in a matter of hours I am sure. Listening to it, however, was incredible as the different characters had different voices and accents.
This book challenges pre-conceived notions of gender, and the examination of what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, what it means to have power, is challenged again and again and again. This story pitches you straight into the darkness, and the violence of humanity regardless of gender. The men suddenly don’t have power over women, and women rebel. But it’s way more than just some allegory of gender. Naomi Alderman said in an interview once that “nothing happens to a man in this book that hasn’t happened to a woman.” This book is dark and it has scenes of rape and torture and the fine line between exercising and abusing power. It’s hard to read at times but if it were easy to read it wouldn’t have been nearly as impactful.
At it’s heart, the people are just that, they are people. They are seduced by power and darkness and twist the truth to suit their own needs. It examines the unspeakable violence’s which build civilisations and those violence’s that may not be included in the histories of the victor. It’s an alternate human history laid bare. It is both exhilarating and disturbing and incredibly powerful.
Previously abused women are suddenly able to rebel, the female politician used to being ignored or looked over because of her gender refuses to let herself be passed over. There is a moment about halfway through where lines we are practically conditioned to hear from a woman is said by a man and I actually had to stop at the reversal of such ingrained sexism being inverted.
Honestly, this is a hugely powerful novel that doesn’t assume a society run by women will be nurturing and caring and it examines what gender means and how they are socialised. It is incredibly powerful and honestly as disturbing as some bits were, it is definitely something that I think should be on the TBR list.