Review | The Power by Naomi Alderman


Hot freaking DAYUMMM

The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favourite books of all time, and when a friend of mine linked me to an article that called The Power 'The Handmaid's Tale for the ipad generation' I knew I had to take a look.

 In many ways that article couldn't be more on the nose. Right down to certain incredibly interesting structural decisions that I won't spoil, The Power touches on the themes presented in Atwood's famous dystopian novel and updates them for a globalised, technologically connected generation. Even without this literary heritage, however, The Power stands alone as a compelling thought experiment and a brilliantly executed novel.

“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.” 

The very basic premise is that, in our modern day and age with the world exactly the same, teenage girls all around the globe suddenly develop the ability to generate and harness electricity. This suddenly turns the tables in places like Moldova, where thousands of women are trafficked as sex slaves, and gives girls all over the world, especially in places where they are more obviously oppressed, a power to fight back and claim authority for themselves. This of course creates havoc with the establish gender hierarchy, even in places like America and Britain where many believe sexism no longer exists and, like many novels that explore the possibilities of a new world order, it all goes very well until it doesn't. We watch the slow tipping from a Utopian vision of women claiming liberation, down a very steep, slippery slope.

Alderman explores the problems created when one type of person is able to claim all of the say and authority over another, from replacing the older male host of a daytime television show with a younger, prettier model, to more explicit sexual violence and oppression. In doing so she unapologetically holds up a mirror to the way we live now, and shows how shocking and strange it is when the tables are turned and we can see the gender norms we live by for what they are.

 One of my favourite aspects of the novel is the inclusion of drawings and diagrams of historical artefacts, some fictional and some not, reimagined in a clever way to show historical bias. She includes two figures discovered in the same location and dating back to the same period in history, one depicting a man with his forearms extended and another of a woman with one arm raised. They have been labelled by historians as 'Priest King' and... 'Dancing Girl'. Through a reimagining of historical bias Alderman shows quite clearly how we paint societies we knew nothing about with our own gendered assumptions and colour two figurines, who could just as easily have been a revered Queen and a serving boy, with a lens that reinforces sexism back throughout history and reaffirms our own assumptions that things have always been this way and should therefore continue... which is stupid af.

“He feels excited. He feels ashamed. He wants to talk to her, but he is afraid. Maybe he imagined it all. Maybe she will call him a bad name if he asks her what happened.” 

I have the odd issue with the text. Firstly, the character Roxy and her 'Cor Blimey!' Dick Van Dyke style brit-speech made me wince a few times, and there were occasional events in the novel that felt a bit heavy handed,  like they were thrown in as a quick pointer to 'also this problem' without feeling organic to the plot, and it would have felt more natural to have them weave in with the narrative so they didn't feel like add-ons. Nevertheless I absolutely loved it and would be more than happy for it to win the Bailey's Prize for which it's been shortlisted, I definitely think the structure and the thought and the relevance of the novel make it something that should be read and appreciated by as many people as possible.

 Alderman's tale is absolutely not a poetic tribute to how women should be in charge, it is a ballsy and fearless display of the tragic stupidity of assuming that one gender should be in some way more valid and have more opportunities, purely because they can cause the most damage, and the ways in which everybody suffers because of sexism, and what happens when we stop seeing the oppressed as human. Pick it up if you haven't!

Thanks for reading!

I was very kindly sent a copy of The Power for review by the publisher. All opinions are my own and all that.

Post a Comment

Thankyou for your comments! I love reading your thoughts :)


© Folded Paper Foxes. Design by MangoBlogs.