*warning: there may be spoilers ahead*
I’d first heard of Power by Naomi Alderman late in 2016 when it was discussed on a book programme reviewing the best books of the year. At that time the theme of the book sounded a bit tacky to me and hence I didn’t bother reading the book. Only towards the end of 2017 when the book again started appearing in the ‘Best Books of 2017’ list did I wonder if it would actually make sense to read the book. I finally picked up the book from the library a couple of weeks ago.
Naomi Alderman’s book is essentially a thought exercise. What will happen to the world if women were able to suddenly acquire a definitive physical advantage over men? In her story, young teenaged girls suddenly develop an ability to discharge an electric current (a bit like an eel actually, in fact one of the main characters in the book at one point observes eels swimming in a glass enclosure and reads about how they are not only able to discharge a current but also able to sense and modify that flow) and are also able to awaken this ability in older women. Turns out it’s because of a hidden organ/ muscle near the collarbone called the skein which is able to do this.
Almost immediately the power dynamics start to shift (even as people believe that “a cure” will be found and everything will be back to normal much like in x-men where people are always trying to develop cures for mutation). Girls and boys are segregated for their own good and parents advised not to let their boys wander alone. Things just keep building up from there on to a point of collapse.
The book is written in the form of a manuscript of the years leading up to the collapse sent by a young aspiring male author to a woman asking for her opinion. That is a big hint to the direction that society has taken. The story is narrated from the point of view of four characters who are each living through the changes.
So how does a world dominated by women turn out? Not much better than a society dominated by men. Whether it is because women have lived oppressed for so many eons or whether it is because power simply engenders corruption the world goes through a kind of role reversal- ergo the young man writing to the older woman about her opinion on his manuscript.
Have you read ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman? What did you think?