The Power by Naomi Alderman – When Girls Rule the World

19th April, 2017

Book Review : The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power takes place in a dystopian world where young teenage girls can pass electric sparks through their body because of a newly awakened power. Moreover, they can pass this on to older women too. Women are ecstatic by the new found power and slowly take over the world. The Power is a shortlisted novel for The Bailey’s Prize 2017 which made me even more eager to pick up the read.

In Brief

The story follows three key females – Roxy, Margot and Allie and a man named Tunde. Fourteen-year-old Roxy is the daughter of a London gangster. She witnesses her mother’s murder in their house. She is one of the first to discover the power (and the strongest) when her mother’s safety is threatened.

Margot is the mayor of a town in Wisconsin. When her daughter demonstrates her power, it awakens in Margot too. She keeps her power a secret and works her way up the ladder in meetings that make decisions about how to supervise the girls and their new found powers.

Allie is a sixteen-year-old, mixed-race, foster daughter of white Christians Mr and Mrs Montgomery-Taylor. She is often raped by Mr. Montgomery and one day she discovers her power. She kills him with the power, runs away and resurfaces as Mother Eve. She attracts a large following who believe in a world run by women.

Tunde travels the world documenting the political and social uprisings in different countries. The world is shaken up when women start a revolution – they take over political administration and instil new fears. New rules are formulated to ensure peace in some countries – men can’t drive, men need the signature of a female guardian to go out and they can’t hang out in large numbers. Soon the wraths of our present day world such as bogus religious cults, smuggling groups and fanatic groups against the new order spring up.

Book Review : The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Good

Alderman has done a brilliant job in building a realistic world of consequences. As much as the power empowers women at first, it also corrupts the system as the years roll by. We do not see a calm and peaceful world governed by women. Money, position and animal instincts still remain prominent. There are illustrations that show archaeological observations pointing out that women always had the power. It was interesting to see how the power is misused and how the weaker sex always crawls back in fear. There are some hilarious passages discussing why this new power gets awakened in women with theories ranging from mutation to excessive pollution!

The Bad

I expected more of a scientific and historical interplay of writing in the novel after reading the blurb. But the book is mainly about what happens with the main characters and happenings in the world when the power is awakened in the girls. The historical aspect is limited to some illustrations of excavations that suggest the claims put forward by those who are trying to analyse the power. Also, I expected a faster pace and a suspenseful style of writing, especially since the premise is a frightening reality. If you have enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, you would love this book. Coincidentally, The Handmaid’s Tale is not a favourite Atwood novel of mine either.

I expected a different world ruled by women – not a better one, mind you, just a different one. I would have liked to see how women do things differently, in a good or bad way. Perhaps this is what Alderman wanted to convey – that the world and its horrors will be the same, whether men or women are at the helm.

Final Verdict :

Overall, I enjoyed the book. But I have this nagging voice in my head that it would have been more fabulous if the pacing of the story was faster and if we had a different view point to the way the world would run when women take over the rules, instead of a direct gender reversal in the present day functioning of the world.

Trigger warning – The book has passages on rape.

Title : The Power
Author : Naomi Alderman
Publisher : Viking
Published : 2016
Language : English
Pages : 340
Rating : 3/5

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The Power
This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. This sounds absolutely awesome as a premise, especially when I remembered dream when I dreamt I had Thor-like powers (twice, actually; and yes, it was absolutely awesome), but… I bet it’s the book you tweeted about, isn’t it? Sounds like there’s a lot of trigger points :/

  2. This stil sounds like something I would like. Maybe when my brother visits I should get the audiobook from him instead because those usually seem faster paced if the book is slow. Great review Resh.

  3. A really interesting, balanced review Resh. I’m still a bit undecided about this one. I really enjoyed Alderman’s first novel but was less keen on her second, then I lost track of her – it might be time to try her again.

  4. This one sounds like it has so many layers throughout the storyline, of empowering females and pushing against the glass ceiling but too light on world building and how the girls power manifests. I’d like to think the world would be a different place should it be ruled by women and women being the dominant sex and sad to see it doesn’t explore that element. Still interested in giving it a read but expectations are not nearly as high. Brilliant review sweetheart <3

    1. Yes, I would have liked to see how different things could have been. But it was the same – women thinking lewd thoughts in their heads, women buying men drinks to sleep with them, curbing rights of men , mothers not allowing young boys to go out etc

  5. I loved this book, but I agree with your notes on pacing and the fact that the world was actually not much different when the women ruled. I thought perhaps that was on purpose? To me it felt crueller when the women were in charge, like some sort of revenge. Also the mothers not letting boys go out felt like a very obvious reflection on the whole ‘don’t go out on your own’ thing women currently face, but maybe it was too obvious of Alderman to do that? I’m not sure. I have a lot of thoughts about this novel and not many conclusions, to be honest. Thanks for a nice review! 🙂

  6. I really like your review here! The premise of The Power is such a great one, but it’s sad that in the long run women didn’t do any better than men! I just read American War, another dystopian novel, this one also centered on a woman. I liked that book a lot, but did the main character act in different way because she was female? Not really! (I’m reviewing it on Friday.)

  7. Nice, thorough review, looking at it from all sides. I hadn’t heard of this book before I read your post – I haven’t been paying close attention to the Bailey’s Prize, obviously! But I am intrigued, so much so that I am adding this to my TBR.

  8. Interesting. I have been a strong advocate of gender equality since I went to college. There were 15-20% of women then, 60-40 now! 🙂 (Yes!) However, by mere observation, women that rise to power, seem to fall in the same traps as men have for ages and ages… A shame. Be good.
    Brian

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