book review | ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
Amara Amaryah | travel + books + poetry, always poetry. a platform for story-telling, visuals, positive self-talk and empowerment | ‘the power’ book review.
today i’m finally sharing my thoughts on my recent read, the power by naomi alderman. surprisingly this wasn’t a book i chose for myself, i hadn’t even heard the hype around it either. mum bought this one for me.
my mum has gotten into the habit of gifting me books that i can obsess over. it started with Haruki Murakami’s the colourless tsukuru tazaki. last year it was Jesmyn Ward’s sing unburied, sing and it continues with this book. so we can say that this blog post is courtesy of my mum. again. one day i’ll create a book review series called sponsored by mum and only some of us will get it but we’ll still laugh.
book review in a tweet |
this was definitely a page turner. the kind of book you start and can’t stop talking about after the very first pages. it is also the kind of book you struggle to summarise and resort to ‘you have to just read it yourself’🤷🏿♀️
this book has taken me on a journey. everytime i mentioned that i was reading this book or shared it on my instagram i would be told ‘let me know what you think when you’ve finished it’. i’ve finished it now and i’m ready to talk. i started this book on a bus in budapest and i could have finished it in a few sittings but i spaced it out. maybe because after the second half the book gets a little too complicated to consume at a fast pace…
the plot |
the power is an account of a writer sharing his novel idea with an editor. it is pitched as a historical novel and opens with ‘ten years to go’ and counts down from there. there are several narratives, all of which eventually interlink or interact.
a lot happens to and in spite of our main characters. but ultimately the novel deals with a world where girls and women develop the power to send electrifying jolts from their fingertips because of their ‘skeins’. the skein is the strip of power that sits on women’s collarbones. women and communities use this to their advantage or protection across the globe. we’re invited into a world where this reshapes our understanding of the christian god, governance globally, sex, rape and crime. we see how this affects the lives of a Mayor and her daughter, a victim of sexual-abuse turned messianic-like leader, a male nigerian journalist and a daughter of a major crime-lord.
favourite moment |
Mother Eve leans forward, puts her hands on her knees. “I want to save the women” she says.
“What, all of them?” Roxy laughs.
“Yes,” says Mother Eve, “if I can. I want to reach them and tell them that there are new ways to live, now. That we can band together, that we can let men go their own way, that we don’t need to stick to the old order, we can make a new path.”
the tea |
i found ally/mother eve’s character very interesting. to be completely honest, it was her character that kept me interested. i predicted that her religious/cult-like/ damn-near blasphemous character could only lead to an interesting end. i assumed it would go somewhere. instead i think it escalated into a frenzy that could not actually circle back neatly to my expectations. it felt very anti-climatic. it starts with a lot of promise, gets very exciting and then shifts and becomes very dense and then just takes a seat.
maybe it is just a very ambitious book? it sets out with ‘ten years to go’ and ends with not much. i don’t know i just felt that it unravelled. i really enjoyed the journey any way. i recommend people buy the book and i recommend people read it to the end even when it feels like it goes the other way. ‘the power’ is irresistible, you still want to know what is going to happen on the next page. not because the narrative makes sense to you but more so because you know a twist of some form is guaranteed. i think alderman keeps the reader in the unknown and that mostly works really well.
i personally felt overwhelmed by the volume of plot twists. at one point i stopped trying to understand it or the social commentary and just take it for what it was. towards the end, it felt a little rushed. i wouldn’t have minded if this were made into a two-part novel. it was a very intricate plot (to begin with) but it didn’t end that way. the characters are so dynamic and none of them really got an ending that served their narratives justice. maybe that was the intention though. maybe this is what the power shift would actually look like and the anti-climatic ending is a warning of some form. (not properly convinced because of the readership but i could dig it).
i do think that it was written for TV. when describing it to friends and colleagues i found that it would be consumed better for TV because it doesn’t sound as convincing on page. so. the good news is amazon is adapting the novel into a series.
what I enjoyed |
i have always been a lover of alternate worlds and i’m a massive advocate for womanhood and literature that revolves around that. so it was set to be a win win. as a writer, i am forever drawn towards new worlds and i love literature that confidently plays with that. i think in some instances i admire what alderman did with her commentary about journalism and the way that the power enables women to present their own stories/perspectives.
i also really liked the fact that the younger women were awakening the power in older women too. as someone who grew up in the church i appreciate that the book addresses the patriarchal nature that christianity seems to have adopted. (it gets a little incomprehensible at some point though). i actually really enjoyed this as my travel book. being away from home and reading about a world that felt distant but not imaginary worked well. the power makes you feel welcomed into this new world but also completely vulnerable.
generally, i appreciate that the book attempts to represent womanhood globally in this new power. alderman tries to represent as many facets of this electrifying experience as possible from different parts of the world and it shows. but i will say that a lot of the women who were not western were represented through the narrative of the male journalist.(makes me cringe to say that quite a bit of these interactions with black and asian women were sexualised too). as always, representation matters and truth be told it would had been interesting to see the power in the hands or skeins of a disabled or LGBT+ woman. it’s no good to shove it in but it would have been more than appropriate for social commentary. a friend of mine mentioned that the book gave too much air time to the uninteresting characters and i can see where she is coming from.
also, i live for the little details. the novel includes illustrations and historic texts and artefacts linking back to how women acquired this power. i like that and what that does to the form. it makes you pause and think about the reality, your reality and history in line with this book.
and there it is. my review of naomi alderman’s ‘the power’. have you read it? what did you think?
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