Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman


Publication: October 10th 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Pages:  386 pages
Source: Gift (Thanks Dad!)
Genre: Fiction, Sci Fi, Feminism, Dystopia, Gender Studies
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤⛤

“Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there,” (Alderman 381).

TW/CW: Rape.

I’ve been waiting to read this book a good long time. Whenever you are waiting to read something that’s been on your To-Be-Read pile for a long time, you can’t help but get notice. The hype to reading the book is so great, will reading the actual book be as good as the wait? With Naomi Alderman’s The Power I can safely say it is.

The Power is a terrifying novel that envisions a day when the power dynamics between men and women flip. On a day known as “The Day of the Girls,” teenage girls around fifteen-years-old begin showing a strange new sense they have; they can now send an electrifying shock from their hands that can hurt and kill others. Through scientific research, it is discovered that since the Second World War girls and women have been born with a skein on their collar bone and that now it is reacting with this electrical power, and the teenage girls with the power can wake it up in adult women.

The story goes on to follow Roxy the daughter of a gangster and one of the most powerful girl’s with a skein, Allie a runaway who ends up forming her own religion, Margot a mayor who has the power awoken in her by her daughter Jocelyn’s who’s own skein is faulty, and Tunde a Nigerian man who begins reporting on the power and how it’s changed communities around the world.

In short, this book is terrifying! While a completely hypothetical look at women becoming the dominant gender (I don’t see any women developing strange superpowers anytime soon) it’s an amazing look at how power can shift so suddenly and cause so much damage. While power isn’t a bad thing, Alderman’s book repeatedly reminds the reader that what one does with power can make it a bad thing by showing examples of power repeatedly being used wrongly.

It’s understandable seeing the women in the book start out using their powers in negative ways. A lot of examples show women who were being abused using it on their captors, using it to be listened, but from these sparks a fire becomes lit and starts to consume. It’s understandable, and again realistic, but that doesn’t make it right.

I know their will be people to who completely misunderstand this novel. I can see people seeing this novel as a warning about women in power and as a need to keep the patriarchy alive and well. Of course that isn’t the message of Alderman’s book, but people are very good at misreading things.

I think The Power is a must read in any Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, or Women Writer’s course. It’s an excellent look at power, the many dangers and forms having power can take, and the dangers that come when one gender is given sole power over another.

Favourite quotes:

“…they’re cutting into her so carefully it feels like a compliment,” (Alderman 264).

“There is a noise that is different to grief. Sadness wails and cries out and lets loose a sound to the heavens like a baby calling for its mother. That kind of noisy grief is hopeful. It believes that things can be put right, or that help can come. There is a different kind of sound to that. Babies left alone too long do not even cry. They become very still and quiet. They know no one is coming,” (Alderman 317).

“Children are born so small. It does not matter if they are boys or girls. They are all born so weak and so powerless,” (Alderman 359).

“When does power exist? Only in the moment it is exercised,” (Alderman 370).


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