The Power: WINNER OF THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION
By Naomi Alderman
She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.
It starts with a tingling in the fingers, a feeling of focus, of a change in the rhythm of the world, a pricking of the thumbs.
Power is everywhere, it is under our feet, it circles around the cities and towns we have made our homes. We gather it and order it and make it flow from the centre outwards in a network like veins, pulsing with an electric heartbeat that keeps things functioning just as they always have. Yet power transfers and the time is coming for it to change hands.
What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands?
Imagine a world where teenage girls awake one morning with extraordinary physical strength and power that outstrips their male counterparts. Thanks to a newly acquired section of muscle near their collarbone, young women can now conduct electricity like electric eels: inflicting pain or electrocuting to death as they wish. They can even waken this power in older women too. In Naomi Alderman’s The Power, the balance of the world is irrevocably altered overnight.
The novel weaves four central points of view; that of Margot, the ruthlessly ambitious member of American government; Roxy, the somewhat gullible daughter of a London gangster; Tunde, a young Nigerian man who documents the worldwide change known as Day of the Girls; and Allie, a teenage runaway who becomes revered as a deity; through their experiences, we witness the ways in which women utilise their newfound dominance.
This brave new world is far from a utopia however. As uprisings and revolts spread through the world and after the initial delight in female empowerment subsides, a darker side to the new world order emerges.
Exploring the concepts of gender, hierarchy and power, The Power is an ingenious and masterfully crafted piece of feminist science fiction as well as a searing indictment of our contemporary world.Tweet
Wow! Girl power! But when the women get all the power will they behave better than men, or will they abuse their sexual power and physical strength in the same way that men have during the centuries? You will have to read the book to find out.
Generally favourable reviews from our book club but if you are not into science fiction this is not the book for you.
Very different from Disobedience which none of our book club liked.
There were 10 members who read this book but only 2 who really liked it.
Most agreed that the book was very thought provoking and liked the idea of a man writing it to explain events but under the guidance of a women editor who was dismissive at the end.
The main reasons behind them not enjoying or liking the book were;
They didn't believe women would become so cruel and act in the way portrayed if they had 'The Power'. Some thought that there were too many themes involved which made for a muddled read and that most characters were 2 dimensional and not developed well.
The two who enjoyed the book thought the take on power was interesting and how a lot of the events resonated with what has been happening e.g Hilary Clinton and Trump and Me too campaign.
All of us agreed that power often corrupts people who have it, but that it is not necessarily linked to their gender.
This book is written in a very accessible style and is a classic thought experiment. What if one thing changed? What would that mean for people and society. And, specifically in this case, what would it mean for gender roles?
I had such high expectations for this book that perhaps it is inevitable that it didn’t meet them. I heard Naomi Alderman speak about the book and say that she had thought that she needed to know everything about the world that she had created and had had to let that go to write the story. I respect that but, perhaps because I am so much of an sf reader, I really did want some more world-building. In particular I would have liked to have seen exploration of the effects of the coming of the power on at least one positive male/female relationship (whether father/daughter, friends, brother and sister or a couple). I would also have liked to have seen some exploration of the impact related to different sexualities.
Towards the end of the novel, children are mentioned and again I felt I wanted more understanding of them in this new world and how the changes in power relationships related to parenting. Also, I thought the novel was on the verge of addressing the ‘not all men’/‘yes all women’ debate but it never did.
The novel is an engaging and thought-provoking read with some standout scenes, some of which are suitably uncomfortable and written in a very balanced way. Ultimately it was good at what it did but I wanted much much more from such a strong idea.
The Power! 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 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. While 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 experience 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 then them 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? But corrupts absolutely.
This is an amazing book. Clever, innovative, funny, shocking and thought provoking. 15 year old girls suddenly acquire the power to generate and use electricity. They can then pass this power on to other women, thus tilting the balance of power between men and women. Across the world this creates a huge gender change. This story is a story within a story, and the novel is interspersed with hilarious illustrations. At first you feel hurrah, now there will be true equality but then things all begin to go very wrong. Who can forget women rioting in Saudi Arabia or taking control in Pakistan, and the voice of god, that would be Mother Eve.
What do you think would happen if women could and did seize power. A terrifying vision and a salutary reminder of the corrupting influence of power itself.
This would make a fantastic reading group book. I loved it. My favourite of them all.
Wendy's review - I read The Power as part of the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction shadowing experience. I enjoyed reading this book and experiencing the countdown through the four very different main characters. A very clever and thought provoking concept. I was disappointed in how the women exploited their power and found the extreme violence difficult to read. The ending was disappointing and I only understood it a little better after lots of bookclub discussion. An interesting read which I would recommend.
Jen's review - I thought that The Power was very well written especially after we went back to certain paragraphs in our book club discussions and they were read out loud. I must be honest though and say that I didn't really enjoy the book but that is more because the subject went against my personal views and I felt that the ending was left somewhat unfinished and the reader was left confused as to what the final outcomes were.
It gave us a lot of food though for debate amongst the group and it is probably a book that should be read more than once to gain better understanding.
Sarah D's review. I read this book as part of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shadowing experience.
What I loved about the book - the opening "Ten years to go". The four main characters are introduced to the reader along with the hints (some explicit so not really hints) at the violence, political power struggle and religious fanaticism themes that dominate as the novel progresses. I thought that the use of the "eth" suffix in just a single sentence in each of the characters opening section was massively impactful and gave a biblical, yet sinister feel. Whilst each character is clearly very different, this technique seemed to suggest that there was common ground between them and made me want to read on.
What I wasn't so keen on - the ending. I thought it was too subtle, compared to the explicit nature of the rest of the book. I re-read the ending several times to try and make sense of it, and I felt a little deflated at my own inability to come to a definite conclusion.
I like a good book cover and this is one of the best!
I read this book as part of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shadowing #teampower. I thought that the story started strongly and had me hooked from the beginning, especially with the countdown of how many years to go (it had me wondering, 'to what?').
I enjoyed the different characters, my favourites being Roxy and Tunde. However, as the novel developed I found that the plot became increasingly confusing, and I thought that the violence exhibited by women just didn't ring true (thought provoking though, perhaps that could be how women would react?).
Overall, I thought that the ending to the book was disappointing.
Having said that, it is a really interesting premise, and I am glad that I read it.
I thought the concept for the book was excellent. The reversal of roles and the effect that having the power to control had on the female characters was interesting. It also highlighted the difficulties that are faced by those in charge and the pressures on people to choose force over diplomacy to solve complex problems. The main character's disturbed childhood and the power that her foster mother had on her added another layer. I did feel that I was reading an in-depth newspaper article though, rather than a novel. It didn't make me feel like I needed to find out what was going to happen next. I would like to have seen a strong female character who was not driven by the power to control (not all men are in our current society). I also found the ending a bit confusing. I read it more than once and still didn't really understand what had happened. Some of the things the voice said made me smile. Overall I am glad I read it, but it isn't a book I could imagine reading more than once.
I read this as part of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shadowing experience. From the shortlist this was the book I was most interesting in finding out more about so was pleased when we received our parcel. I liked the idea of reversing the genders and switching the power to females and also enjoyed reading from the different point of views. It was interesting to read and generated a lengthy and most considered book club discussion/debate.
I was a bit disappointed that the story went in the direction it did with women abusing the power and the latter parts being all-action big Hollywood blockbuster movie style.The earlier parts I felt were more subtle and made the point more effectively.
I thought the letters from the male author at the beginning and end were fabulous and 'bookended' the novel in a unique way with humour as well as reinforcing the theme of the novel.
All in all a great read and a book I will be recommending to friends to read.
I read this as part of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shadowing #teampower. I was delighted to be offered this book as it was one I was most interesting in finding more about. The premise and the first few chapters were from an innovative stand point and i liked hearing about the experiences from different people's perspectives. Unfortunately, ultimately, I was a bit disappointed. I thought the letters from the male author at the beginning and end detracted from the story and was confused by the change of styles. I was disheartened about the turn the book took, hoping it would have a more positive ending. Overall I felt it had more of a 'young adult' fiction style to it (not necessarily a criticism) and needed to be strengthened in some areas.
I think that the my problems with this book are all personal - I loved the ideas and much of the writing I just was sad that Alderman's version of alternate history took this path.
It has some powerful moments and it has stuck with me I just wanted a little bit more!
Wow – such a brilliantly clever and engaging novel. At times polemical, comical, and fantastical, it is also just a great page-turner.
A real powerful book