The Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book made a bunch of best of the year lists, and I had picked it from Book of the Month in October, so I decided to make this one of my last reads of the year. I started it the same day as Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which became far more appropriate than I could have planned for. I believe Naomi Alderman must also have read this book because some of the scenarios described in it, where women are oppressed and disadvantaged, have direct parallels to events in The Power.
Women worldwide start developing the ability to transmit electrical shock and this inspires a global shift in power. At first, it comes in small ways, with women able to say no more and being able to overpower an attacker, or even in the confidence bestowed to a woman knowing she has the power. But then, as in many dystopian landscapes, power corrupts. I was unhappy to see the women taking on the same violations of power as the men; at the same time this is a likely fall out (but maybe one we've seen before just in different forms.) There is one very important moment in which a woman who was trying not to display her power does so and rather than it ruining her chances at something, it turns the tide in her favor. It almost felt damning rather than empowering (but I'm not complaining, this was smart.)
Does it matter if it's male or female if it's more about who has the power? The author has some fun with this at the end where she has a meta conversation between a guy named "Neil" who has submitted this manuscript in the world of the novel, and she suggests he publish it under a female name so it wouldn't just be considered a "male novel." Ha!
The alternating perspectives were interesting but this tends to separate me a bit from the characters. I really found Jos, the female who can't control or always summon her power, the most interesting and probably least utilized.
Mother Eve is being led by a voice, and I wasn't satisfied with the reveal of that voice. Perhaps the weakest element of the book. I did like the way religions shifted to the female focus without necessarily forming new religions. Just a reminder that history and religion is heavily influenced by who has the power, and who gets to tell the stories.
This is my last read of 2017!
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