The Power by Naomi Alderman Review

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Contains spoilers

With the fall of a certain Hollywood producer that I have fondly nicknamed “Harvey Wankstain” and the sexual harassment that has been brewing under the surface of blockbuster movies for quite some time finally making itself known, the idea of women dominating the world is appealing. With more women coming forward about their own dealings with sexual harassment and sexual assault there are more men – a term I use loosely - waiting to tear them down. You can’t share your own experiences without a male telling you that it’s a compliment, that you’re overreacting, that you should be grateful for the attention. It’s easy to ponder how life would be if the world’s power were switched; if men were the oppressed ones while women stomped all over them and Naomi Alderman explores just that in her fourth novel, The Power*.

The Power Naomi Alderman

The Power is a dystopian sci-fi novel that is set over the period of 10 years. During this timeframe, we’re introduced to and follow the lives of 4 main characters; 3 female and 1 male. The first character we’re introduced to is by far the most exciting. Fourteen-year-old Roxy is one of the youngest and one of the first girls to experience the power; an ability women have to generate electricity through their fingertips. She’s the daughter of a British mob boss which shapes her character development throughout the story particularly towards the end. If this was any other novel, Roxy would be a male as she’s often depicted as a strong hero who exudes confidence while maintaining some degree of vulnerability.

Tunde is the one main male character of The Power. He is the first male who experiences the women’s dominance in the story and his experience comes during a minor sexual encounter. The feeling leaves him confused but sparks a degree of interest. He chooses to film another female letting off her power and after posting it online, decides to become a journalist documenting the rise of the women. It’s through Tunde that we see how the power is developing across the world especially in poorer countries where women are significantly more oppressed than in the western world.

I personally found the other 2 main characters, Allie and Margot, to be rather dull and one dimensional. Allie is an orphan who escapes the abuse of the people who are trusted to look after her and lives in a convent. Throughout The Power, Allie becomes Mother Eve and brings a heavy religious aspect to the story. Margot on the other-hand is a mother and a mayor who desperately tries to hide her power at all times. Throughout The Power, Margot is presented as a strong female who uses her political connections to build up girls and help them control their own power.

The beautiful thing about The Power is how easily Naomi Alderman has taken everyday life for girls everywhere and turned it on its head. There are rape culture references scattered throughout the story as the women justify what they’re doing to men, there’s the use of religion which more often or not paints the women as the weaker sex but in this scenario, it’s used to empower women and the men are fearful for their lives and terrified that women will humiliate them through rape and assault. Alderman makes the switch so easily that it provokes your own sense of empowerment while also building up rage towards the men who resist the female uprising. The anger I felt was predominately directed at the males posters of a Reddit style forum as they plotted to take the women down and assert their dominance once more. It is an accurate depiction of the thoughts of some men expressed violently on the internet.

The Power Naomi Alderman

The Reddit forum in question is mainly a discussion surrounding the real identity of Mother Eve i.e. Allie and this is where my interest in the book began to waver. Allie/Mother Eve preaches religion to anyone who is willing to listen and it got to the point where my eyes would roll whenever I saw her name at the top of a new chapter. I’m struggling to find the value Allie/Mother Eve brings to the story other than being a stepping stone for Roxy's character development.

As the story progresses and tensions between males and females rise, it starts to feel disjointed. Allie/Mother Eve seems to be everywhere and nowhere and Margot becomes governor but continues to contribute nothing of interest to the overall development of The Power. Roxy however, is the first and only introduction we get to a woman losing her “skein”; the part of a woman that allows her to generate the electricity.

Roxy’s brother and father surgically remove the skein so it can be implanted into her brother which leaves the once powerful and sure of herself Roxy, intensely vulnerable and scared. Tunde also begins to fear for his safety as tensions boil over and laws are implemented that make men worthless. He needs to escape but he finds himself in the mountains and a witness to a rape and the death of a man. It’s at this point where a mild romance between Roxy and Tunde blossoms which in turn gives Roxy a more human quality to her as a character.

It’s not long after this moment where The Power falls flat on its face. The ending to the entire novel seems rushed and it highlights how many loose ends remain throughout the story. The entire premise of the story is built on all women reacting violently with their power and, although I understand what Alderman was trying to do with this depiction, I personally felt it removed my overall enjoyment of the book as it painted women as cold, callous and shallow. Other than Tunde, Roxy and the women who were victims of sex-trafficking it was hard to cheer for anyone throughout The Power.

If I had to read The Power all over again, I would sit on my hands and take an exceptionally long time to do it. It’s not that it’s a terrible read, it would make an excellent TV show (I believe it is being turned into just that) but it’s not without its flaws and unfortunately, the flaws outweigh the entire premise of the story.

Disclaimer: Anything marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

Book Haul

Sunday, 8 October 2017

I was promised a book if I got out of bed. It was 2 pm on a sunny Saturday so I really shouldn’t have been in bed that late anyway but regardless if being horizontal for prolonged periods of time means I get a book then I will happily snooze away. I did say I was promised a book, didn’t I? As in, a single book but you’ve probably already figured out based on the fact this post is entitled “book haul” that I walked away with more than one.

Book Haul

Let’s do the book I’m most excited to read first. I saw the latest film adaption of IT in the cinema last week and ended up with more questions than answers so I decided I had to read the book. IT, in case you’ve somehow managed to avoid the clown hysteria, is written by horror extraordinaire Stephen King. He tells the tale of Pennywise, a clown that awakens every 27 years to terrorize a small town in Maine, USA, and prey on children. Pennywise becomes the thing you fear the most and haunts a group of children before they decide to take him down. The latest film adaption is incredible (Bill Skarsgard anyone!) and I’m hoping I’m going to love the book just as much as I love the film.

Books To Read

Home Going by Yaa Gyasi was another book I picked up. I have recently finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and wanted to delve a little deeper into slavery in America. Home Going is about 2 women; one who is sold into slavery and the other a wife of a slave trader. Each chapter focuses on a different descendent of the two women so we learn about their lives through the eyes of a relation. I’ve heard good things about Home Going so I have high expectations.

You may remember this book from such awful films starring Brad Pitt. World War Z the film adaption was dreadful but the book is supposed to be spectacular. World War Z by Max Brooks is, of course, about the zombie apocalypse and is written from the perspective of the survivors in an interview style. It follows the people who were there at the beginning of the outbreak and their take on events. Personally, I’m not into zombie things but World War Z doesn’t sound like the usual cliché zombie apocalypse book so I’m very intrigued by it.

Books To Read

A recent addition to my book wishlist is I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin and I already get to remove it as I now own it. I Am Not Your Negro is an accompaniment to the documentary directed by Raoul Peck. Civil rights activist James Baldwin started a project to tell the story of America through Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers; all of which are murdered black civil rights activists. James Baldwin died before his project was complete so Raoul Peck finished the project using James Baldwin’s voice and notes through the documentary. I haven’t watched I Am Not Your Negro (it’s currently on my watchlist ) but I’m in two minds as to whether I should read the book or watch the documentary first. Either way, this subject matter is right up my street!

With the recent shooting in America, it seems a little morbid to read a book on the subject but I’m doing it regardless. Every day, there are seven children and teenagers killed by guns in America and Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge tells the story of 10 deaths on November 23rd, 2013. These stories are of children and teenagers you probably never heard about, they flew under the radar because it’s such a common thing to happen; media outlets will not waste their time reporting on the deaths. Gary Younge chose these deaths at random and researched their family and their lives up until the day they died. Another Day in the Death of America is going to be an emotionally difficult and an incredibly frustrating read but it’s disturbingly interesting.

Books To Read

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Amazon TV show The Man in the High Castle but I didn’t realize it was originally a book until my other half picked it up. In Philip K. Dick’s novel World War II went a bit wrong for the rest of the world and now the Nazis run New York (sorry New York-born rappers), the Japanese control California and the entire continent of African no longer exists. Hitler is incapacitated throughout the story so his hideous power is overshadowed by the men trying to take his place. The Man in the High Castle is a sci-fi novel which isn’t usually my cup of tea but I think I may make an exception this time around. I’ve also just discovered – through writing this post – that Philip K. Dick is the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the novel that inspired Blade Runner so there’s that random fact to run with. I didn’t like Blade Runner so this doesn’t bode well for me.

Finally, we have The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton. This was actually chosen by my other half as I’ve introduced him to the wonder of podcasts and he’s really getting into philosophical ones. The Consolations of Philosophy jumps into things such as lack of money, the pain of love, inadequacy, anxiety, the fear of failure and pressure to conform (just to completely quote the synopsis). I believe the book is designed to help us live our lives and as I’m forever bothered by 5 out of 6 of the above things, I should probably get stuck into The Consolations of Philosophy sooner than later.

I’m really excited about the variety of books I’ve chosen this time around. I’ve been researching present racism in America and historic slavery a lot recently so having physical material to further my personal studies is extremely appealing right now. My to be read pile is getting far too big but I need more books. If I stay in bed until 2 pm again next Saturday will I get more?
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