The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction is the UK’s most prestigious annual book award for fiction written by a woman. It's fantastic that we get an event each year, for women's fiction and this years line-up was not to be missed. My personal favourite of the books was 'The Power' by Naomi Alderman.
A quote that Alderman gave about the novel stuck with me: ’i went into the novel religious, and by the end I wrote myself out of it’. I just found this to be vividly accurate after having finished the book. One day girls develop a strange physical power: they can produce electricity from within themselves. They can -and do- use this power to torture, hurt and kill. A world that is built on the patriarchy is now upturned. Being a women is synonymous with being the one in control. Men are afraid for their lives. for walking home alone at night, living in fear of their physical safety. One woman even claims boys ‘secretly like it’, a tip of the hat to the notion of 'asking for it' in rape culture.
There's Roxy, a white British teenage girl and daughter of a gangster. There's Allie, a mixed-race girl who runs away, after facing years of abuse and discovering The Power, she is revered as a goddess. There's Margot, an American mayor and one of the few older women to develop the power. And then Tunde, a young Nigerian man and journalist who begins to make money from capturing incidents of the power.
It is hard for me to put into coherent thoughts of what I enjoyed, as I loved it so much, I get tongue-tied trying to sift through my favourite parts. I adored the concept as a whole. I enjoyed the four main narratives and didn’t find it confusing. The idea that men now fear women, that the patriarchy is now a matriarchy and the power works to the womens' advantages. I got a thrill from Margot winning the election and the women in Delhi and Riyadh uprising. I wanted more uprisings. A world overthrown and run by women. Gosh this book was just phenomenal, it was devilishly fantastic. I loved the idea that women now effectively run the world and there is nothing the men can do about it. I personally want equality, but it was nice to read novel that strived for more than that, a complete usurp of ‘power’. ‘The Power’ is so well-written and the concept so fantastic I think the only way to properly explain myself would be to talk about it out-loud. One thing I did like, is the feminisation of faith. The fact that Mother Eve made the numerous religions about the female counterparts was interesting. For example, 'look to Mary, not jesus'. It really did highlight and does make you think, what would happen today, if people started looking towards these deities?.
Having been compared to Margaret Atwood’s work, this novel in my opinion is no imitation. Although I understand the connections made -feminist, dystopia etc- The Power is a work within its own rights, that is a phenomenally well-crafted and page-turning novel. The pacing of the novel is a mixture of fast and slow, with some elements being fast-paced, such as the riots that Tunde, one of the main protagonists, witnesses. These scenes are so well-written and fast paced that you find yourself not turning the pages quick enough to keep up. The pacing of these scenes adds to the ‘what will happen next’ element. These scenes of the women uprisings all around the world, gave me goosebumps. I couldn't get enough of them, in a way I wanted the majority of the book to be written as such.
Perhaps the main theme that the novel explores is ‘What would the world look like if men were afraid of women rather than women being afraid of men?’ In particular the websites set up in the novel, where people would discuss this new power. It was so unsettling due to the fact that some comments I have seen about feminism from men, were similar to the conversations within this ‘chat room’ in the novel. Eerily similar to some of the sexist and abhorrent things I have seen written about women being equal as well. Quite scary. If a man doesn't want women to be equal, it says more about them than it does about feminism. Their fragile masculinity shouldn't be protected for the sake of being a strong, independent woman.
One critique I can say, is the ‘research’ elements of the novel were almost not necessary. In my opinion The Power could have been just as jarring if they weren't included.
Endlessly nuanced and thought-provoking, I think everyone should read ‘The Power’. I can imagine this novel will stick with me for a while. Contrary to what some people believe about feminism, I don’t want a world were men run in fear from the threat of women, like in the power (although i will say I did like how the tables had turned for once, as it is fictional after all) I want a completely equal world. One where women don’t face the threats they do and the injustice, and where the events in the power don’t happen. Although It is 2017, perhaps the concept of a word run by women isn't so unordinary after all?