The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women in English from throughout the world.
In this series of articles we will look at each of the six shortlisted titles in detail, but you can also see an overview of the full shortlist.
Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – women find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death.
What would a young girl do to an abusive father if she had this power? What would a female politician do if she had this power? Imagine how vulnerable a young man might feel alone in the street, late at night and a woman approaches him.
With a single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s novel are transformed, and we look at the world in an entirely new light.
About the author
Naomi Alderman is the author of three previous novels: Disobedience, The Lessons and The Liars’ Gospel. She has won the Orange Award for New Writers and the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. She was selected for Granta’s once-a-decade list of Best of Young British Novelists and Waterstones Writers for the Future. She presents Science Stories on BBC Radio 4, she is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath.
Have you read The Power? Do you want to know what other readers thought? You can leave a review, read a review or add the book to your group’s reading list.
What our readers thought
12 of our brilliant reading groups have been shadowing the Prize this year, alongside three dedicated Library Ambassadors. Here are some of their experiences:
Reading Between the Wines
“Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power explores what might happen if the power to hurt were in women’s hands when one day girls find they have developed a power that they can also unlock in older women.
A dystopian novel offering an interesting alternative reality where your sympathies shift as the novel progresses and you question whether this ‘rebalancing’ of society is welcome and would actually be any better. How far will the women go to retain their newly acquired status?
What started off with exciting discoveries and a balancing of power between the sexes quickly changes and we observe a world where power is abused by women. There is no suggestion that the world would be a better place if women had the power.
One of the four voices in the book was male and it was through Tunde’s passages that we learned how power corrupts some people no matter which gender has the power. Tatiana, Margot and Allie start out with the interests of others at heart but end up exploiting their positions and power to meet their own ends. For all the faults of society as it is currently, the reality painted by The Power is not any more inviting.
Our book club discussed the novel at length; it held our attention for 2 to 3 hours of lively debate and our only criticism was around the ending. Perhaps the anticipation that was built up during the novel which counted down to an unexplained event/time led us to expect more from the conclusion?
It is a fascinating, compelling and unsettling read; in many parts uncomfortable but Naomi includes touches of humour and lines that will make you smile knowingly. The letters that frame the novel are particularly clever and funny and will get you thinking about what you have read and force you to make comparisons with today’s society."
Library Ambassador Lara
“What a book! I’d been told by countless people that this was one to look out for and was not surprised that it made the Baileys Prize shortlist. Dealing with themes such as gender, sexism, oppression, equality and religion it really does make a fascinating read.
What makes it event more interesting is the frame narrative in which the story is set. As if the concept of one sex having a huge power advantage over the other isn’t food for thought enough, Alderman sets the character who writes the novel within a world where women are the dominant species and always have been. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud where the man who has written the novel is talking to a more experienced female author who suggests he consider writing under a female pseudonym to be taking seriously! Very thought-provoking.
The story itself is action-packed and has such a range that I think this would appeal to practically everyone. Told from the view point of four different girls and two different men the power shift in a world very similar to ours changes everything. Chauvinist men who cannot help but reason that this is monstrous that women have more power than they do crawl out of the woodwork in a disgusting and disturbing way…but neither sex is shown to be completely innocent. When women discover that they can overcome the patriarchy, while initially this is for freedom, eventually it becomes for tyranny.
For what does absolute power do? It corrupts absolutely."