Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Power is an amazing feat of speculative fiction by Naomi Alderman. Girls all over the world realize they have a newly developed ability to blast electrical arcs from their bodies. As they wake the power up in older women, the balance of power in the world begins to shift. Women, long held captive by fear and and inequality, use their power to take control, creating riot groups, new nations, and worldwide faith organizations. The book rotates through character perspectives. Margot, an aspiring political leader, tries to find the best policy to guide The Change. Tunde is a journalist trying to capture the heart of social tensions in Europe and the Middle East. Allie is an abused runaway who manages to channel her power into a matter of faith, creating a loyal following of female worshipers reshaping modern religion. Roxy is the fierce daughter of a British gang syndicate, and possibly possesses the strongest power of all. These characters view The Change from their own corners of the world, and watch as global society struggles with the revolution of power.
The Power is a gem. Alderman’s book verges on Atwoodian women’s fiction, but manages to stay entirely unique and original in both delivery and content. Alderman doesn’t just ponder the consequences of women pretty much gaining a super power; she performs high-quality world building. Her brand new world is totally rooted in modern truths and realities. She often makes cheeky jabs at the reversal of gender dynamics, like when her male narrator, Tunde, confesses he is scared to walk down the road at night. The plot is very busy-we are taken to the hills of Moldova, as an uprising creates Bessapara, a women-run nation that eventually verges on a dictatorship. Alderman’s novel actually ends up straying from “girl power,” instead showing that the “power” is easy to use for evil reasons. The women become as violent and authoritarian as men have been in real life. Momentarily, I wondered if this ruined the book for me, if I would have preferred to believe that women gaining a violent power and running the world would only have good results. However, I have come around to appreciate the bigger picture Alderman presents to us of gender dynamics. Power of any sort requires balance, and good and evil isn’t separated by biological differences. She manages to present this concept while maintaining the emotional impact of switching gender inequality. Even thought the book almost ends up emphasizing the speculative fiction more than the feminist ideals, she presents us with scenes that are heart-wrenching imaginations of women taking back their autonomy. Specifically, she narrates a scene in which a group of sex trafficking captives overtake their oppressors, eventually becoming the catalyst for the foundation of Bessapara. This scene tugged so harshly and hopefully at my heart. If only this power was real, am I right?
Despite a busy plot, her characters remain distinct and interesting. Allie was my favorite to dig into. Her troubled past of abuse at the hands of her stepfather is something that too many of us can empathize with. She becomes a religious prophet for the masses, leading her followers on a path to completely change the world, even if she has to destroy it first. Through her narrative, we witness some powerful changes to the idea of religion. “They have said to you that man rules over woman as Jesus rules over the church. But I say unto you that woman rules over man as Mary guided her infant son, with kindness and with love.” God becomes “She”, as they embrace their woman goddess. I particularly love the unnecessary level of sacrilige that these changes embody. Allie preaches that their god is still the same god, but that She has now taken the form of a woman, and that Mary’s role in Christianity is now the primary basis of their faith. As a non-religious person, this philosophy is incredibly interesting to me.
For all of its strengths, I will say that The Power is incredibly ambitious. I don’t think any of its business necessarily detracted from its quality, but this is one of those books that I would’ve patiently read over a series or saga. I found myself wondering even after the novel concluded. Given that the events of “the Change” take place over the entire world, I would have liked to delve even deeper into more of the societal changes taking place in different regions. I also wondered what the novel would have looked like if it took place in a first-world country, instead of largely in Moldova. I think Alderman could have had a great saga on her hands.
I think The Power will eventually be looked on as a classic of women’s literature. It is simply so impressive and important, and such a grandiose scale of gender dynamics. I appreciate Alderman’s nuances so much, and the fact that every act and comment in her novel is heavy with purpose. She closes her novel with a correspondence between herself and another author, Neil, who has been writing the preceding novel. It seems that, after the results of the novel, the world erupted into a nuclear war, known as the Cataclysm, and they are now reviewing historical documents indicating that women have long been the dominant sex. Naomi, giving feedback to Neil, makes a suggestion to reach a wider audience. “Neil,” she says. “I know this might be very distasteful to you, but have you considered publishing this book under a woman’s name?”