The Power (Naomi Alderman)

February 1, 2018

4/5 Stars


Feisty, dark and unflinching - challenges the reader to re-address everything they think they know about feminism.

What would happen if one day, women discovered that they had the power to electrocute people with a single touch? That's the central premise behind The Power, and the concept has an outcome that you might not initially predict.



There are several 'main' characters in this novel: Allie / Mother Eve, who flees an abusive foster-family after killing the father, Roxy, a street-wise girl who witnesses her mother being murdered, Tatiana, an increasingly power-hungry self-appointed president of her own nation, Jos, whose powers don't seem to function as they should, and Tunde, a young man photographing the horrors of a female-only regime. 

From the start, the pace is relentless. Initially, it's just the occasional female, accidentally electrocuting someone in the heat of the moment. Teenage girls across the world realise that they have the ability, and things start to get chaotic; especially when they realise that they can 'activate' the power in older women too. Before we know it, we've descended into a world where women rule the roost, and men often run scared for their lives. 

What's great about this book is that it doesn't go down the predictable route. It could have so easily veered head-first into ultra feminism; casting women as the 'goodies' and benevolent leaders, and men as the sinners. 

Instead, the tone was potently muddy. Yes, some women used their power for self-protection, to defend others and to even up the playing field. But others behaved monstrously. In this novel, male rape is a thing, as is sexist abuse. There was a particularly disturbing moment where Tatiana insisted her male servant get down on the floor and lick up the smashed glass she'd dropped there - truly nasty stuff. 

That's not to say the men are innocent either. In fact, with factions of men determined to seize back power at any cost, it's just as negative a reflection on them as it is the ladies. The ultimate take-home here is that power is deadly in the hands of anyone not able to wield it carefully - male or female. 

So, what did I love about this book? Aside from the remarkably clever, thought-provoking premise, I enjoyed the author's pacey style, which drove the narrative through at a cracking rate. It's smartly written, bold and unapologetic, and I like that it dared to go dark. In this instance, to inspire true contemplation of the subject, the darkness was totally necessary (though very unpleasant in places)!

I felt at times that there was a little too much over-excitement in the writing; some over-the-top scenes that took away some of the subtlety at times. The whole idea of the skeins (the muscular 'power packs' within women's bodies that gave them their ability) was a little sketchily depicted too, though for the most part, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief. 

These minor points aside, it was a turbulent, troubling, yet enjoyable read - which really got me pondering about the nature of power, and how it relates to gender. A clever, challenging idea that was put to excellent use - I definitely recommend reading!

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