#Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

the powerSince I read The Power (I’m still churning through a review backlog, apologies!) it has famously gone on to become the first science fiction work to scoop the Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction. That probably tells you all you need to know about the calibre of this novel – although I’m not sure I would classify it as SF myself (maybe because I think labels are for jam jars, not for books).

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”

In The Power, something has recently shifted in the dynamic of the world. Slowly, teenage girls appear to be evolving the capacity to inflict agonising pain and even death through their hands. This power can be traced to a ‘skein’, undiscovered as dormant in most older women – although anyone with the power can activate another woman’s skein for her. In a short period of time, the entire dynamic of the world changed. What would happen if women could protect themselves and each other? What would happen if one gender could literally wield huge power over another? How do we see gender dynamics when the power is placed elsewhere?

“One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’ And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’ That is the only answer there ever is.”

Frankly – I adored this book. It’s been my go-to birthday present to people for months. It doesn’t just flip gender roles, it explores gender based violence; sexual violence; family; morality; organised religion; and military motivation in a systematic way – holding up a dystopian mirror to the reality we live in through a rollicking story focusing on the convergence of a diverse group of young women. I spent the first half of the book thinking “fuck yeah!” and internally high-fiving, and by the second half battling an increasing queasiness as Alderman forces her readers to think clearly about the balance of power. If you haven’t read this one yet – make it your next one.

The Power is published by Viking. I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

4 thoughts on “#Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

  1. Brian Joseph

    Hi Cathy – I just finished the book myself a few days ago. I also thought it was outstanding. I will be posting commentary on it in a week or two. I have read a few of these science fiction books that explore gender and violence over the past year or so. If you have not read it, my favorite of these books was Sheri Stewart Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country. I thought that Pamela Sargent’s The Shore of Women was also very good.

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