Naomi Alderman: The Power – Book Review
Naomi Alderman: The Power –Anna’s reading challenge
I was strolling through the library to find my next victim and after only one minute in the English section I came across Naomi Alderman‘s book, The Power, with Margaret Atwood’s recommendation. I read The Handmaid’s Tale (which was adapted to be turned into a TV series just this year) a couple of years ago and I have been a fan of hers ever since so I decided to follow her advice and read the novel.
The Power takes place in the distant future when girls and women are suddenly able to release electric jolts out of their bodies. This little change in girls alters the track of history and the reader can witness the birth of a matriarchal society in the making. Throughout the novel we follow three women and a man: a girl abused by her foster parents who becomes a prophet after the event, a daughter of a mafia boss who has stronger powers than the others, a woman who strives to become the head of a state and finally, a man, who reports the events.
On the surface, The Power is a very readable novel. It is about a revolution after all, with constant twists. However, the book is a playground for Naomi to imagine what the word would look like if women had the upper hand.
Briefly? The same. In the beginning things take a turn for the better: oppressed women start rioting all over the world because they finally have the power to defend their rights for the first time and consequently they refuse to obey their oppressors. And for the first part of the novel my feminist self was very eager to read about men being overruled and experiencing the reality of being “the second sex” but after seeing the violent side of power I realized that I was rooting for the wrong party. As events unfold and the distribution of power starts to finalize, women start taking advantage of their newly acquired position. They are blinded by power and they conspire to gain even more of it. Naomi cleverly chose the characters: as the story focuses on figures in the political, the religious and the martial sphere, the authoress can depict the process from several vantage points.
However, I had more appreciation for those subtle changes which appear in the behaviour of society due to the power-shift. In this society it is no longer women but men who are shown in sexually explicit poses on billboards and it is the men who use apologetic tones of voice while being flirty. Naomi makes the readers face still existing sexism by turning the situation the other way round, by placing men in victimized positions. After reading the excellently chilling rape scene we would never accuse the raped person of dressing too flagrantly, we would never defend the rapist and claim “the boy was asking for it”. Then why do some people in our society find this acceptable?
The novel openly poses the question why people were doing such things and the answer is that “Simply because they could”. The novel warns us not to be hypocrites because given the chance, everyone is susceptible to misusing and abusing power. However, we can already improve our non-fictional world simply by being aware of this weakness of ours and controlling it.