By Melissa Capozio, curator of @thelittlereadingcorner
Naomi Alderman has penned what some are calling the ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ of the decade. Where Margaret Atwood took the patriarchy and turned it into a dystopia, Alderman has taken the gender power dynamic and turned it on its head.
In The Power, Alderman creates an alternate universe in which the young women of the world discover they have the power to create electricity with their own bodies. They can cause pain, devastation and death with a single thought. Overnight the most powerful men in the world are toppled, and in their place the beaten and oppressed women rise. But can women create a feminist utopia?
I adored this book; it was extremely well written and was socially relevant in all the best ways. Alderman manages to sneak several different social commentaries into the story in such a subtle manner. The story provides us with a real opportunity to address the ever-changing face of feminism. I’ll admit the first portion of the book was giving me all kinds of female empowerment vibes. I caught myself whispering “Yeah!” a few times (sometimes you just get really caught up in the narrative).
You’re riding an empowerment high, and then Alderman hits you in the face with the downfall of first wave feminism. What if not all women can control their power? What if your power is inconsistent and weak? What if your power is taken from you? What if a man possesses the power? What if this ideal is more than was bargained for? Suddenly you have a very realistic look at today’s challenges, set in an alternate universe. Men become terrorists trying to take down the women in power, who in turn are abusing their power. Women who cannot control their power are mocked. The men who possess the power are shunned and laughed at.
It’s an intriguing take on what would happen if women ran the world. Would it embody the kind, nurturing, and gentler qualities women possess? Or does absolute power corrupt absolutely? I know this review is providing more questions than answers, but the book left me with a lot of questions; I’m just passing them along. Alderman’s twist at the end makes the definitive final point that women are humans too and will eventually fall into disgrace the way men in power have.
The only thing keeping this book from being a five-star read is that it falls a little flat at times. Some chapters tend to lull and the ending leaves the reader wanting. A plus is that the characters are all unique and intense: an abuse victim, a member of an organized crime family, a politician trying to balance motherhood and career success and my personal favorite, a young male journalist who becomes a neutral observer of everything that occurs. Their intertwining story lines are the lens through which Alderman tells the story. The downside is merely the little rough spots in between. The lulls aren’t enough to make you drop the book altogether, but you definitely find yourself skimming through them quickly.
Overall, it’s fairly well written and gives us such a unique story concept. All in all, I give it four stars for fantastic creativity with just a few moments of “we could do without”. I wouldn’t say it’s Atwood level, but I have a good feeling it will age quite nicely.