What would the world be like if, overnight, an ancient physical power embedded in women awoke? If teenage women suddenly had the power to inflict pain and fear on others, to topple patriarchy, and kill in an instant?
Naomi Alderman’s The Power places this possibility directly in our hands and, over 341 pages, we have front row seats.
I read this book a few months ago, towards the end of 2017, after having it highly recommended to me by a few friends and online faces. It’s an award-winning novel, so I had high expectations.
I will begin ultimately by saying that I did enjoy this book very much.
It was the sort of read that I looked forward to every day, excited to see what would happen next when I settled down to read it at bed time. I wanted to know where Alderman would take us next, and how things would unfold, and ultimately how it would end.
However, I’d like to add, here and now, that I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to.
I really, really wanted to adore this book, but I didn’t. It’s like when you’re in a relationship that works perfectly on paper but just doesn’t sit quite right in real life.
A book about powerful women uprising thanks to a supernatural, ancient power, with religious and contemporary imagery woven in? Sounds brilliant – but there was something small missing which, like that inadequate relationship, left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.
My enthusiasm for reading the book was really me hoping that the ending would tie it up nicely; that everything would fit, and I would smack my hand on my forehead upon turning the last page and exclaim “of course!”
I should really give you an outline before I go on too much.
The Power follows a number of characters through a tumultuous time in the world when teenage girls suddenly acquire an ancient power which allows them to control and kill. It’s volatile and scary and turns the world upside down.
The story explores what happens when humanity is terrified, threatened and turned on its head; how men react, how religion interprets, and how the previously weak become the strongest.
I’m not going to go into the plot too much; I don’t want to give too much away, and I want to let you decide what you think without any spoilers. But here are my thoughts.
I felt the characters were a little unrealistic; I wasn’t a fan of the attempt to disguise it as a true history, with research evidence scattered throughout (I felt that was slightly forced and actually found it a bit confusing at times). I also didn’t really like the ending. I felt it was rushed, rather messy and unfinished; almost as if Alderman was given a deadline and had to quickly end things.
I know, I know; all rather negative, all very vague. But I still enjoyed the book; I loved the concept, and how it became an examination of our culture and society today, exploring gender relationships. I liked the ‘what if’ scenario, and so many parts of it were believable. I didn’t think it was too long, and there were twists and turns which kept me on my toes. I read it quickly and, as I mentioned, I looked forward to reading more of it, which is always a good sign.
I just can’t quite fathom why I didn’t utterly adore it, like so many others have.
I’m really glad I read it and I can see why it has been so popular. With the brilliant adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale coming out around the same time, it seemed appropriate and well thought out. I’d love to read Alderman’s debut novel to see what I think of that too.
I enjoyed The Power, but in total honesty, it wasn’t my favourite book of 2017. It’s up there though, and not too far from the top. If you’re uhm-ing and ah-ing about reading it, I say yes, pick it up and see what you make of it!
It’s a very good book, but for me, The Power was missing a little bit of its namesake.
Find out more about what I’m reading by following me on Goodreads.