Rating: 5 stars
I was put onto this book by a Guardian article by the author. I think it was around the time of International Women’s Day, and it touched on the idea of what makes a dystopia. The Power is an imagination of a near-future in which women develop the power, like electric eels, to electrocute others, and become the dominant sex.
The best (and most disturbing in their own way) parts of the book are the letters that bookend it, which imagine that the book was written by an aspiring young male author to Naomi herself, asking for her feedback. The same nervous hedging and not-really-jokes that every woman has herself written in an email to a man are there. I won’t spoil the punchline in the final letter, but it’s a killer.
In the story itself, the near-future depicted is a kind of pre-fempocalypse, and the text is punctuated by images of “artefacts” that chart the fall of the patriarchy and the rise of the matriarchy. Biological essentialism is turned on its head because of course women are physically stronger – they have to protect their young after all – and men are subject to the same kind of oppression that women are now.
Of course, it’s a simple premise. Flip things around to see how they really are. Things that we notice when they happen to men but don’t when they happen to women – like the simple but effective race-flipped pictures Elite Daily published recently. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch.
There is one irritation with it, which is the British character, who when she first appears is all “cor blumming blimey babe there’s a bloke over there guv’na”. Thankfully this settles down. I had been going to suggest that a British author should write a book in which all of the American characters speak in “yee haaa howdy” isms so that we could see the process in reverse. However, Google is my friend: Alderman is English, and therefore has no excuse.
Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Female readers be warned: it will make you wish that some power was coming your way.
Reviewed by Louise