Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel, The Power, has been selected as this year’s winner for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction. I decided to pick up a copy the morning after the winner’s announcement, curious to discover what this novel had to make it stand out for the judges.
In The Power, Alderman imagines that women suddenly find that they can conduct electricity through their hands. This changes everything. Women are now physically stronger than men. The global consequences that follow are life changing and catastrophic. The speculative premise of the book is what intrigued me. It sounds like a Margaret Atwood wrote a Marvel comic.
The book explores different aspects of power and how different women react to each one. The characters contend with political power, physical strength and religious influence. There are deaths, riots and rapes. Some scenes are particularly detailed and difficult to read. Immediately after reading these, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the real world. Why is more shocking when we are presented with a world in which women are the perpetrators of these atrocities?
I’m a fan of dystopian fiction. Novels are often set in the reader’s present and The Power is no different. There are constant references to our world and popular culture. It’s the first novel I’ve read which mentions Primark! This allows Alderman’s imagined events to be all the more shocking.
I did enjoy the book and found it to be a real page turner. However, I do have some issues with the structure. The tale is told from various viewpoints, mainly four characters. It is also set up as a fictitious novel and is sandwiched between email correspondence at the beginning and end. These elements did take away some of my enjoyment. I think a more detailed single person narrative would have drawn me in more.
Overall, I’m glad I read it. The story is engaging and being able to dip into Alderman’s imagination was a treat!