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.

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