When it is 4.32 a.m and as of yet you have been unable to sleep, what is the best thing to do? Have a hot milky drink, avoid all blue screen light and spray some lavender on your pillow? OR you can grab your laptop, prop yourself up with some pillows and write that blog post you have been thinking about for the last hour or two anyway.
I thought I would come online and eventually talk about ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman. Now fellow book bloggers and/or regular book blog readers will be well versed in this book by now, has anybody not talked about it?! But you know what, the fuss is for a reason and I loved it, so I want to get in the mix as well.
Alderman has a phenomenal background, quickly spotted as a rising literary star she has had three other novels published, makes appearances on Radio Fours most well-known shows, regularly writes in the Guardian AND co-created one of the top selling games for your smart phone. Oh also, she is a Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (big up my fellow Bath Spa crew!) and did I mention the fact she is mentored by MARGARET FREAKIN’ ATWOOD!! As Beyoncé would say, bow down bitches.
You’d think it all couldn’t get much better but I really believe with ‘The Power’ she has gone into a whole other league. I finished reading it a couple of months back now but it plays about in my mind regularly. I can imagine in the future 16 year old brains being expanded as they read this for their GCSE’s (well, if the Gove’s of the world can keep their noses out of literature in education and stop insisting on only dead, white men being worth studying).
The novel looks at a period of time when, one by one, girls are finding out they have a power within them that has possibly lain dormant until now, or maybe has just started to develop in their bodies. Under their skins a type of electricity flows, which they can harness and by touch can cause serious, potentially life threatening, pain to others. Around the world girls learn just what they can do with this new skill and the realisation also comes that for the first time in history they are the more powerful sex. Walking home with keys grasped between fingers becomes redundant when you know you can fell an attacker by simply touching him. We then watch as the ramifications of this spread through society, men crossing the street to put distance between them and a girl right the way through to segregation in schools for the protection of boys and riots breaking out in the streets of Delhi. With social media the world can change that much faster and the pace of the story reflects this, I found myself so caught up in these changes it was exhilarating. Power will always lead to problems though and this novel plays out the whole difficult scenario of a world struggling with this new strata.
We are lead through this changing world by four characters, first off meeting Allie. Using her power for one of the first times to make a change in her life that few could not cheer her on for, she soon propels herself into something of a mysterious figure head for girls embracing this way of life. We have Margot, an American politician who has the challenge of towing the party line with what is appearing to become something of a revolution, while fully aware she has a teenage daughter of her own that needs ‘controlling’ at home. And then there is Roxy and Tunde. I adored these two characters. Roxy for her energy, she is so vibrant on the page and I would most definitely want her fighting in my corner should the world order ever be flipped on its head in such a way. Tunde fascinated me and I thought was beautifully drawn and complex. A Nigerian journalist, intrepid in his travels, who finds his moment of fame because of his recording of a girl using her power going viral. He decides to pursue this story no matter the dangers that could be await him.
One of my favourite things about this novel is its structure. Alderman has used the format of giving us a book within a book. We begin and end the story with letters going back and forth between a woman named Naomi and a man called Neil. The man has asked her if she wouldn’t mind having a read through his book, which looks at how on earth women came to be such a dominant force in society, why they live under the matriarchy…and so we go on to read his work. The letters that are penned once Naomi has read the fruits of his labour are possibly my favourite thing about the whole novel and I believe this is where Alderman’s real genius comes through. Clever, funny and thought provoking, I wanted to applaud with delight when I read them.
This is easily up there with one of my favourite reads in the last few months and I can see it being a strong contender at the end of 2017 when I think of my favourite books of the year. I love it when I get to recommend a book and I am totally confident in it being everything a great read should be. Everyone needs this dose of feminist science fiction in their lives, trust me, I am a power wielding woman.
‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman £8.99 (Penguin)