The Power by Naomi Alderman


Jill's take on The Power by Naomi Alderman

I read The Power by Naomi Alderman over a fevered 3 days in Essaouira, Morocco. I say fevered, because I feel like I read this book at a fevered pitch. We had kind of camped out in our apartment and I just didn’t let go. The book came with me to the beach and to coffee shops. I couldn’t stop reading it. It kept me up late into the night and still I couldn’t get enough. I just wanted to keep reading.

There’s so much about this book to love. I had never heard of it before and, in fact, Zac was the one to find it in a bookstore in Milan that had very few English language books. We were on a buying spree while in Milan and I think he felt like we could not leave a bookstore empty handed. The real reason he passed the book to me was because Margaret Atwood (whom I love) has a quote on the front of the book. In fact, in reading the Acknowledgements in the book itself Margaret is thanked for being a sort of mentor.

The plot of the book is a telling of a time in history when women awaken to their power and follows the story of several leading ladies as they figure out how to work within this “new reality”. There are stories of revenge against the men who have hurt women in the past; stories of women committing acts of violence against men because they can, religious tales retold to focus on the women instead of the men.

While this book is strongly feminist and points out the craziness that has been and continues to be perpetrated against women, it is wildly entertaining. It’s such an interesting concept and the trope of retelling an historical event is so strong that I found myself utterly engrossed in the tale. I also smirked and laughed at the bits of the tale where there are regulations and curfews placed upon men that borrow language directly from those currently placed among women around the world. The language that is used is so familiar to how women are talked about and the type of violence used against women is so familiar; but when used in the context of men makes one really stop and think. I don’t think the idiocy of current policies and behaviors against women would have such a striking presence if this book told a different story.

I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a while (I can think of a few that I have loved but for very different reasons). It’s also a well-timed book given all that has been happening with women’s rights and reproductive rights in the US and the popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale. This book echoes with some of the dystopian future that Atwood is so great at; but uses it to different effect. Ultimately this book is a commentary on power and on those who have it. It shows the oppression and fear that occurs in those that feel powerless and the ways in which power in anyone’s hands can be abused.

I would highly recommend this book – there’s a lot of violence toward the end and I found one of the conceits of the book a bit uneccessary. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Maybe you don’t need to have such a fevered pace to consuming the story as I did, but I think you will probably want to.  


Zac's take on The Power by Naomi Alderman

Wow, was this an interesting novel. Jill was specifically curious about how I would react to it as I'm a man and there are parts of the novel where men are treated horribly.

There is this general idea floating around the world that if women were in charge it would be a more peaceful place. I've held this belief myself and this book and further articles on the topic have shown me that this really isn't the case. I mean, women are people and power corrupts, period.

There are things that I take for granted as a man - safety is a big one, as is sexual abuse. I don't fear walking alone down the street at night unless I feel the neighborhood is sketchy. I don't worry about what I'm wearing to make sure I'm covered up appropriately so I don't draw unwanted attention. It's all of these little things that Naomi Alderman turns around and points directly back at men as if to say (subtly and not so subtly): See, see what it's like to be a victim? To be harassed? To be afraid for your life? To feel powerless?

And my security in the world as a white male is so ingrained that it was at times difficult to notice that the lense had been shifted ever so subtly in this novel. Men are afraid of walking down the street as there are roving gangs of women out to find them for sport. There are laws written to prevent men from being outside without a female chaperone. On and on.

It's a really great examination of power and what happens when it shifts dramatically from one group to another - governments fall and the whole world is overturned in a few short years.

I didn't want to put this novel and really hope that it might be turned into a movie one day so that it might reach more people and spark* more conversation.


*I had to.