The Power (Naomi Alderman)

25 August 2021

The Power

All over the world women are discovering they have the power.
With a flick of the fingers they can inflict terrible pain - even death.
Suddenly, every man on the planet finds they've lost control.

The Day of the Girls has arrived - but where will it end?

Average Rating:

Sinclair Manson (31 August 2021 20:21)

Another month, another apocalypse. This book provoked a lot of discussion and there was some uncertainty over the author's sympathies and position. To me, the story explores the way power divides humans, how those with power justify its possession and how those principles apply between the genders. One of my favourite things about this book is that it challenges male readers to confront their privilege but it also challenges female readers to consider how it would be to have that privilege, and how it might warp one's principles.

The end of the story is bleak. Most of the main characters choose Hobbesian savagery over the intolerable pressure that society puts them under. Female versus male (or any antagonistic duality) offers a dynamic for navigating life's difficulties but, when it comes apart on the complexities of their individual circumstances, the characters respond by accelerating it to its self-annihilating conclusion. The story is a warning but not one that I think the author expects to be heeded. The horror of the ending is enhanced by the increasingly inescapable hints from the future dropped through the book.

This makes the story sound schematic and that seemed like the main criticism levelled against it. Events move faster than seems feasible, driven by the requirements of the plot. There was a suggestion that a more gradual transformation of society from here to where the book goes would have been a more satisfying read.

Graham MacDonald (29 August 2021 17:18)

I see what she was trying to do and there are some clever ideas in this but I didn't find it a particularly enjoyable read. It doesn't quite pull off the same trick that Margaret Atwood managed with The Handmaid's Tale and is a poorer cousin of that book in many ways; but the truth is that it does shine a light on the way women have been, and are, treated by society. The slow reveal that this is all written from the point of view of a man 5000 years in the future is clever but could maybe have been handled better as it maybe detracts a bit from the impact. Very powerful (see what I did there?) and very needed book but not really very enjoyable sadly.