Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Published October 2016
Teen girls develop the power to deliver electric shocks from their hands.
The #metoo movement’s exposure of sexual assault and harassment likely makes the power to defend one’s self sound quite handy.
Sure, the story is fictional, but the horrors victims face are too real.
In The Power, women and girls under extreme duress tap into a latent defense mechanism, shocking the aggressors. This power spreads until all teen girls and many women have it, and female babies are born with it.
A panicked patriarchy proposes removing females with The Power from positions of power. Inoculations, removal, experimentation; they explore many solutions. Nothing works.
Meanwhile, females begin to embrace the power. One becomes a cult/religious leader. Another gains political power. A third goes rogue. Through the story, we follow the divergent paths the girls take in this new society.
What if the majority of the world was a matriarchy?
When thinking about the possibilities, we often hear about the kinder, gentler world we’d have under a matriarchy. Women are more reasoned, some say. We think with our brains, they say; responding to adversity with righteousness over violence.
(possible spoilers ahead)
What’s fascinating: the kinder, gentler world isn’t the one Alderman’s characters inhabit.
These women rage and fight and strike thee down. Some of them are horrific.
It’s easy to dismiss The Power as a feminist manifesto, reveling in a revenge fantasy against our tormentors. Instead, it seems more of a statement on how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The story is not one of man as scourge and woman as nurturer; man as victimizer and woman as victim. Gender is not the issue here. Rather, it’s about who has unchecked power. The power is electrifying, shocking, and deadly. No one person or group can be trusted with it.
“Power doesn’t care who uses it.”
Others will likely read a completely different meaning into it than I have.
The Power holds the same potential for opposing reactions as the movie Thelma and Louise did.
I know, I know. Previously, I made a Thelma and Louise comparison with The Mothers. Not surprisingly, controversy has a way of following woman-centered stories.
Best friends go on a camping weekend. One is raped along the way. In retaliation, they murder the man and go on the run, igniting a cross-country manhunt.
If you’re old enough to remember Thelma and Louise when it first debuted, you’ll recall the firestorm of debate. Some were sympathetic towards the women. Others thought it made men look like violent bozos.
Selected responses to The Power remind me of the Thelma and Louise firestorm.
Reading THE POWER by Naomi Alderman because I, for one, welcome our new female overlords.
— very stable genius (@thedealwithalex) January 15, 2018
If it's being promoted by this woman, it's probably man-hating garbage.
— ThePigman (@The__Pigman) December 28, 2017
Just finished this by @NaomiAllthenews which I started yesterday. Really compelling read with some powerful ideas around gender, power and religion. pic.twitter.com/Y4sD98T3Eq
— Keir Harding (@Keirwales) January 1, 2018
This is like a guy writing a book about men having power to fuck any woman they want. It's a stupid, offensive and divisive exercise.
— In My Darkest Hour (@TimeHasAWay) December 27, 2017
To be fair, most of the reviews I’ve seen for The Power have been positive. Alderman went a different way with this what-if scenario than expected.
Would it be too punny to call it powerful?