The Book Shelf

A Review: The Power

In your book review for March, Yinka Bokinni tackles the hotly reviewed novel from Naomi Alderman. What would you do if you had The Power?

Imagine waking up one day and women have The Power. Sounds great doesn’t it?
Well this is the world Naomi Alderman throws us into in this fun read.

Dystopian novels are my thing. When asked what my favourite books are; I muse about The Handmaids Tale and The Hunger Games, novels where glimmers of the reality we know are still present but in a world where things have gone just that little bit wrong. Immediately The Power challenges our expectations, it doesn’t showcase a world where we are divided into fractions and forced to farm the land, there are no infertile women nor cameras watching our every move. The Power poses the simple question: what if women were in charge?

We start strong! With a letter from Neil Adam Armon, a fictional author who has sent a novel called The Power to a writer named Naomi Alderman for an early read.
Neil’s letter raises flags immediately for example it is postmarked as being from an organisation called ‘The Mens Writer’s Association.’
You see, Neil is a ‘male author’ and much like the ‘female authors’ of today, Neil lives in a world where it isn’t common place for someone like him to be writing books. As a woman living in what many consider to be a man’s world, I recognise the way that Neil gushes in his letter and thanks Naomi for even taking the time to read it. And as we know, it’s Naomi’s name that ultimately ends up on the front cover.

The Power is a genetic mutation that effects mostly women. One day, women across the world wake up to find that they can cause pain and even death, through electrical currents that now run through their bodies. Women find themselves in a place they have never been before: at the top of the food chain.

When we have women in power on the screen it makes our hearts go boom – you only have to whisper the name Buffy and I get all excited. But what if it isn’t all rainbows and round house punches?

We meet our main characters pretty quickly and Naomi does a great job of allowing us to get to know them in a short number of pages. We have a politician who is using her political pull to manipulate the system in her own family’s favour. A Nigerian journalist who is hell bent on telling the stories from the front line regardless of his own wellbeing and safety. And there are two young girls who have extraordinary power, one in America who starts her own religion on one in the UK who is a bit of an East-End gangster.

This book has been met with mixed reviews and I understand why, it starts with a bang but becomes hard to read at times. Not because of the content but because there is just so much in there.
I like what Naomi did with this reimagined version of reality, the idea of women ruling the world has been fantasy forever. When we have women in power on the screen it makes our hearts go boom – you only have to whisper the name Buffy and I get all excited. But what if it isn’t all rainbows and round house punches? What happens when the things that men do to women, the awful ways in which they impose their power on us, are reversed?
There is violence, there is corruption and there is war as women all over the world fight to take control and there is a men’s movement that wants things back the old way.

In theory? This book wins. I just wish a little more consideration was put into the execution and in the way it could potentially make women who are actually living under the rule of men feel.
Some say this book misses the mark but I think that’s harsh, I think anything can happen in an alternative reality and Naomi chose to not show the dreamy utopia we all imagine when thinking of women having The Power.
Maybe it won’t change your life but I’m glad I read it. It made me think, made me wonder if I was physically stronger than a man, if i would exert and exploit my power in the way that the women do in this book. Probably not, but its a good conversation starter around a dinner table.

Today I will award The Power 2.5 worms out of 5.

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