Oh wow wow wow. I loved The Power. I read it and could not stop thinking about it. I finished it a few days ago, and I’m not sure my brain is done with thinking it all through. It recently won the Bailey’s Prize and I knew from first reading about it a few months ago that I really wanted to read it.
‘She cuppeth the lightning in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.’
The Book of Eve
The Power is about teenage girls developing the ability to create electric charge and shock people with it. Girls in their early teens are developing this power and they can awaken it in older women too. The balance of power between men and women has suddenly shifted.
The story is told through a small group of key, interacting characters. There are several teenage girls, an older mum and also mayor in the USA, and a teenage boy. The story is global and while we concentrate on a few key geographic locations, we get a global picture of what is happening as a result of the power awakening in girls. We get global politics, a seedy criminal underworld, globe trotting journalism, religion, family life and relationships. All the big themes.
The main book is presented as a historical novel depicting events in the distant past by a male author, Neil, trying to get some help and advice to publish his story. There is correspondence between this author and Naomi, who he is trying to get to help him. It’s immediately clear that gender roles are reversed in this future that Neil and Naomi inhabit. There are funny parts of this correspondence – funny because of the gender swap and it wouldn’t be funny at all if we didn’t have such awful, embedded sexism in everyday interactions between men and women. It’s very reminiscent of the The Handmaid’s Tale and how that gives you a historical perspective on the main events.
The main story is set up in chapters titled ’10 years to go’ and counting down to some event. I like how this lets you know something big is coming but you have no idea what.
I’m not going to reveal any plot details in the rest of the review, but I am going to talk about my expectations of the book versus the reality and I think this will be SPOILERIFIC if you are planning to read it, which you should, because it’s completely brilliant. So GO AWAY and read it, then come back. Really, the next bit might ruin it for you. See you in a few days.
Did you love it? I went into The Power thinking I knew what it was going to be like. My expectations are neatly summed up in this picture:
Girls getting strong and kicking everybody’s arses. Then there’ll be a utopia. Oh. no… that is not what happens at all. The power women get does not make them physically equal to men. It makes them much stronger. There’s dark, dark darkness in this tale. Inky, viscous darkness to drain all the happiness from your soul. These women are human, and humans can be depraved and evil. It really challenged me to think about how dark a turn things could take. I wasn’t expecting it at all and that just tells me I needed to be challenged. Naomi Alderman describes the shift in the power balance and the experience of people, men and women, during this shift really carefully and skillfully.
I was truly shocked by some of the turns taken by The Power. It made me feel sad to my core and that is where it’s so brilliant. It is much more than the fizzy, bottom kicking, girl power story it might have been (which would have been pretty awesome actually, but in a totally different way!). So I expected one thing, and I got this:
Ohhhh I loved this book! I’ve been thinking of trying to write a book myself, then I read something like The Power and just, nah. 🙂