“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.
This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.
The Power won the Bailey Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2017. It’s a fascinating book. What would happen to our world if the power structure were suddenly flipped upside down? When women develop the power to inflict pain by channeling electricity from a newly developed physical anomaly, the rules and customs of society change rapidly, with men finding themselves on the receiving end of restrictive laws, sexual violence, and lack of political power.
The book is structured as a book-within-a-book, as a male writer many years in the future writes a novel imagining how this transition came about. As the letters between him and his editor make clear, his work is so far-fetched (in describing a male-dominated society) that’s it’s practically unimaginable. It’s an interesting take on a very different world order, positing a world that’s been run and controlled by females for thousands of years, so that a scenario with men in power — soldiers, police, political leaders — seems like fantasy.
Of course, it’s disturbing to think that physical power is the determining factor in how society is formed and structured. There’s no middle ground. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that a society of equals might be the result? In The Power, the world belongs to the strong — and with absolute power comes the corruption, abuses, and excesses that seem to inevitably grow out of a lopsided power relationship.
I couldn’t put this book down, and found the ending pretty shocking. I did wish to see through a wider lens at time — the focus on the main characters started to feel restrictive further into the story, and I would have liked to see how other parts of the world, especially more progressive urban or cultural centers, might have responded and developed as a result of the shift in power between genders. Still, it’s a totally absorbing book, and one that would be great food for discussion.
Title: The Power
Author: Naomi Alderman
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: US release date: October 10, 2017 (published in UK in 2016)
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Science fiction