Review: The Power, Naomi Alderman

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Let's be honest... even now, in our contemporary world where gender equality is better balanced than ever before; our world where women can become body builders and soldiers and mighty business women, even now, and I’m sure for many years to come, women will be seen as the ‘less powerful’ sex. But, what would happen if this conception of gender, was utterly and permanently reversed? What would happen in a world where men are afraid of women, and women possess the power to kill whoever, whenever, in the palm of their hands?

The world Alderman creates is recognisable— it is our own world, filled with our worries and our wars and our failings. We follow a local American politician and her daughter; a foster girl whose cruel, religious parents abuse her; a rich Nigerian boy with dreams of success, and a hard-core London girl from a difficult family. However, something both horrifying and amazing has happened to cause their lives to change and converge with devastating effect. Overnight, all over the world, teenage girls gain an immense physical power with which they can cause excruciating pain, death, and ultimately, gain control over others. It is with this twisted change in nature, that the world is rocketed into a tornado of events that will cause society to change forever.

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Naomi Alderman’s The Power might upon first glance, look like just another average science fiction novel, albeit filled with feminist imaginations of world domination. But, despite the fact that the female characters can electrocute men and other women, the story Alderman tells is much subtler than that. Through several diverse and distinct characters, over sprawling novelistic years and places, Alderman shows what might happen across the years, if the power roles in society were extremely and suddenly inverted.

As well as gender relations, Alderman’s thought experiment meditates on extreme religious faiths and societal ideals, terrorism, and war. She shows oppressed women being saved, going on to assume that it is divine intervention that has saved them from their previous existence. A new religious leader is prepared and waiting to feminise faith: “Jews: look to Miriam, not Moses ... Muslims: look to Fatimah, not Muhammad. Buddhists: remember Tara, the mother of liberation. Christians: pray to Mary for your salvation.” Extreme, all-female religious faiths are born. All-female armies are bred to harness and exploit girls’ now natural aggression, and gradually, sexual violence starts to flood in the other direction.

Something’s happening. The blood is pounding in her ears. A prickling feeling is spreading along her back, over her shoulders, along her collarbone. It’s saying: you can do it. It’s saying: you’re strong
— THE POWER, NAOMI ALDERMAN

The Power is a beautifully written and astonishing novel, that will make reader’s double think their own opinions and beliefs. It is not only a breath-taking account of how things would change, if all the world’s power was possessed by women, but, it more importantly, exposes our own contemporary world.

Naomi Alderman, is a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, and for her book The Powerwinner of Bailey’s Women’s Fiction Award 2017.

Pick up your copy in all good book stores.

Gemma Tadman