The Power by Naomi Alderman

Most of my comments about this book stem from a discussion we had in a book club meeting last week – something which I want to talk of in itself as it’s such a great experience, but will do that in it’s own post. One thing the group definitely helped with was developing my thoughts and feelings about this specific book, and hearing the varied responses from everyone.

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In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The Power is a very, very interesting book to read. Looking at a reversal in the ‘power dynamic’ between genders, it explores what would happen if teenage girls everywhere woke up one day with immense physical power and how it would change our world. Overall, I gave this book 3.5 stars because, looking back, it is a very clever book and what the author was trying to achieve was indeed very good. It explored several various issues and topics and dealt with most of them well, but there are definitely some areas in which it lacks. This discussion I will keep as spoiler free as possible for those of you wishing to read it in the future.

First off, there are four main characters we follow: a man called Tunde from Nigeria who chooses a career in journalism to document the changes in the world, a foster girl called Allie whose religious parents abuse her, a local American politician who wishes to advance in her career, and a girl from London who belongs to a family on the wrong side of the law. We follow these characters and watch as each of them are changed and affected by this phenomenon. It turns out that, whilst initially being interested in all of them, I ended up only really caring about the narrative of one towards the end. Whilst it depends on what interests you, I personally struggled to keep interested in certain character plot developments.

The opening and first third of this book is brilliant, and I devoured it rather quickly. It’s dealt with very well, from initial reactions that really don’t surprise you (the overwhelming response from some of the male population to section off these girls from the rest of society) to the small details of how boys are told not to be out too late or go out on their own. This initial section is what I found really gripping, and it is very striking in how society is presented – mainly due to the fact that the usual, commonplace phrases that girls hear all the time are switched to boys.

Yet, I find that I kept thinking – in the narratives that followed – that this book would work far better as a collection of short stories. It felt like the author was taking on far too much, and it would be better to have more focused individual stories, as there are moments when some things are mentioned in passing to the point of being worryingly underdeveloped. A few of these instances was brought up in our discussion, and one that I want to mention is the discussion on sexuality – or lack of. There is a character within the novel whose power is noted to be ‘defective’, and it just so happens that she is also mentioned to be one of the few queer characters. It also just so happens that, for a time, she dates a boy who has a chromosome deformity, which grants him the use of this power. On top of that, they meet online in a group for delinquents and, in it’s name, it uses two derogatory words that were closely associated with the gay community. Unfortunately, comments on people’s sexuality are not developed, which leaves us with evidence for anti-LGBTQ thought. For the only character who is said to be specifically queer to be ‘defective’ and not develop that sentiment sets a very dangerous precedent, and one that we overall could not support without further knowledge of the author’s intentions.

Again, without spoilers, the ending of the novel was hit and miss with us all – the general consensus being one of bewilderment and confusion. The final pages demonstrate exactly what the author is trying to do, and her final lines are brilliant, and it was those final few pages that bumped up my rating as it is a very clever idea, but perhaps one that is just not executed as well as you might want it to be.

There are a few other downfalls of the book – plenty of stereotypes of classes and accents, not to mention a main character who is said to be Nigerian at one stage but then there is no other mention of his background or culture, like he is a completely blank slate before the novel begins, and it feels as if the author had checklist with ‘black character’ on it. Besides these details, which really only stand out when you finish the book and discuss it in full detail with others, this is a very interesting and important book to read. Whilst I’m sure the author was trying to write a sort of feminist dystopian, much like the Handmaid’s Tale, it doesn’t quite come up to the expectation I held. There is also a worrying notion that this book could be used to support the argument for and against feminism, which I am 99.9% sure was not the author’s intention.

So really I leave it up to you to decide whether or not this book is one that you like. Again, overall, I did enjoy this book and would encourage others to read it – one thing’s for sure: you’ll have something to say about it. Whilst my review doesn’t sound particularly enticing, I do stress that I did end up giving it 3.5 stars, 4 on Goodreads, and there are more than plenty of people who absolutely loved this book. As always, these opinions are my own and they by no means dictate what you will or will not feel – and I’d love to hear what you think about this striking Baileys Prize nominee.

April Wrap Up

How is it May already, I mean seriously this is getting ridiculous. One minute you’re thinking ‘new year, new you’ and the moment you start making decisions on how to change your diet it’s almost halfway through the year. This past month has been packed with essays and finishing uni and my dissertation, but somehow it feels like I’ve read more than ever. I’ve been trying to do a 30 day reading challenge, which started off fantastically (reading at least 50 pages a day), but then I became really ill and didn’t read a word for several days. So, up and down, but what can you do?

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So first up for this month I finally finished reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, something which I have been reading for one of my university modules. I really enjoyed it actually, especially with all the classical references and allusions, and would highly recommend this edition (pictured above) if you’re interested in studying it. On every page there is an array of criticism so if you’re writing an essay on certain passages there is bound to be some great details that you can get in.

Then I finished The Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso, a short book about Calasso’s experience of being a publisher. It’s a short, quick read and really interesting if you’re interested in books and the process of publishing. There are some beautiful passages in there as well – my favourite being that of him describing the insert blurb of the book as a letter to a stranger.

If you’ve seen my last few posts, you’ll know that I finished the glorious Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, which I did a review of here. Definitely give the review a read if you’re curious about the book, but for now all I’ll say is it’s packed with magic, stories, and dreamers.

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This month I also finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I have been listening to on Audible for a good few months! I haven’t been listening to audiobooks much recently, so I was really happy to get back into the rhythm. This book was especially fantastic and, as I’ve found with all the Harry Potter books, the final quarter always has me up until the early hours of the morning listening with avid anticipation.

I picked up Saga as well this month, a graphic novel by Brian Vaughan. I’ve heard some really good things about it and was recommended it by a friend, and I can honestly say I loved it. Great sci-fi fun with a perfect balance of action, pathos, and humour with brilliant characters and an immense imagination.

Finally, last night, I also finished reading The Power by Naomi Alderman. When I try to think of what to say about it, I’m kind of lost for words, but to sum up I gave it four stars on Goodreads and wrote this when I finished it: The only thing I can say for a fact is that I’m conflicted. There are many elements of this story I loved, and think maybe overall it could have landed itself better as a short story. There are however elements that I wasn’t sure about. I think what the author was trying to do was very clever, and I agree that although the ending is unexpected and I’m not entirely sold on it, I can say that it is a challenging move for the author to make. Basically I just want to discuss this with someone – especially as some parts are really oversimplifying gender as we understand today.

SO, this is how I’m standing for this year in my reading challenge:

  1. *4 ‘Classics’
  2. *A Man Booker nominee
  3. **A Baileys nominee
  4. *A Feminist Book cover to cover
  5. **‘A Blue Cover’
  6. *A Graphic Novel
  7. A Horror Book
  8. *Finish a series you’ve started
  9. A friend’s favourite book
  10. Poetry book
  11. *Book over 500 pages
  12. *Book under 150 pages
  13. Book with a character with your name
  14. An autobiography
  15. **A play
  16. *A book from your TBR
  17. ***Book published in 2017

Harry Potter was the only book I couldn’t find a slot for on my list, but for the others I could tick some things off! Art of the Publisher sorted out a Book under 150 pages, Saga ticked off the Graphic Novel, and I’m on my way with the 4 Classics target as Paradise Lost is being counted as one. Strange the Dreamer I chose as a book published in 2017, though really it’s as blue as blue gets so could have been another mark for ‘blue cover’, and The Power is nominated for this year’s Bailey’s prize! I’m really happy with the amount I finished this month, what with all the uni work that I had going on, and it’s terrifying to think that in my next wrap up I will have finished my exams and university completely! This year needs to slow down, stat.