Friday, 2 June 2017

Book Review - The Power - Naomi Alderman

In The Power the roles of men and women change. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

The premise of this book really intrigued me. It promised a feminist, dystonian novel with the roles of men and women reversed. And I would say the first half of the book mostly delivers this.

In the first half of the book we see how the world reacts to the new power - the overwhelming reaction of course being fear. We meet a few different characters and see how the adjust to either having the power, or being surrounded by it - it sets the tone for a very good book.

However, I found the further I got a long with the book, the less believable it became, and the less I enjoyed it. There is one line that sticks with me even after a few months of having read it, where a woman is being interview by a man, that she has seen topless pictures of online, and she thinks 'how can he expect me to take him seriously after seeing that.' If this is satire I think it is poorly executed. Sure there may be some women who think like that - but this is a character we have known throughout the book and it just doesn't fit. It seems to push the theory that if women had the power over men then they would for the majority become scummy and sexist. I get it, it is reversing how it is now, but I don't think it is believable - but perhaps that is the hippy in me.

There is a very heavy scene where women rampage a camp of men in hiding and rape and torture them. It is brutal and horrendous - but what struck me most was how common it was to see the reversed story of this in most fiction, and how normalized it is, to then see if from this point of view and be horrified. This scene really made me aware, and I thought I was before, of how normalized rape and torture of women is, of how you come to expect it of certain genres of books and shows and how numb you are to reading it. Always with the excuse of 'this is how women used to be treated' even in bloody fantasy shows like Game of Thrones where there are dragons flying all over the place. It isn't a real place, this isn't real history, why do we still have to expect to see this treatment of women? (I know this does still happen in parts of the world today, my example is nodding more towards historical fantasy fiction etc)

I would have enjoyed it more if it gave a more believable account of how the world would be if the roles were reversed. I just don't think women would pop up, overthrow men and then treat them like shit. I just don't. I think the idea was great and that is what pulled me in, but the execution fell flat, but then again it did make me think about how normalized sexism is now-a-days, even with this new wave of feminism being seemingly in fashion.  It is an interesting read, and the idea was great but because of how it panned out I will give it 3/5


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