I recently finished THE POWER by Naomi Alderman on audio book and boy was it a treat! Narrated by Adjoa Andoh, who did a fantastic job, especially since several different characters had various(and tricky) accents. The book is a literary work, which blends science fiction and realism to a meta-narrative degree, since the book itself is framed as a historical fiction work, written by a history scholar, Neil. He is pitching this book to Naomi, and therein the story unfolds.
(Disclaimer: multiple instances of graphic rape scenes throughout the book.)
There’s a boy, Tunde, in Nigeria, who is in school to become a journalist. Roxy is rough and tumble, daughter to a London-based gangster. In the deep south of the USA, there is a mixed race girl, Allison, who is abused by superficially, religious foster parents. Margo is a mayor of a major city, who has dreams for more, while her daughter struggles in her shadow. It’s a world similar to ours, but something crucial changes. Teenage girls begin to show signs of immense power and it breaks the world.
In the tradition of Atwood, Huxley, and others, Alderman has created a world that’s very close to ours, but skews it to reflect some important truths. It is hard to read a book post #Metoo and not see the very blatant parallels. Some readers may be turned off to these parallels, but if you decide to stick around, you are truly in for a treat. The variety of POVs should tell you that this is an international scope of a story, because it is one that literally reshapes the world order and shows the vast spectrum of human reaction to this one (relatively) simple change.
Despite, the obvious gender dynamics that may come out a cursory reading of this work, Alderman challenges her readers to dive deeper and really dig into what the subject for which the book is titled. Power is deeply corrupting and based on the various (and truly graphic) depictions of rape/sexual assault/abuse throughout the book, everyone must look at themselves and ask “what would I do?” And the book does not stop there, since the scope is so large it encompasses humanity and asks us how civilization is even framed through the lens of those in power, which for Alderman’s purposes have been primarily men(which is hardly a debatable point).
What truly clinches all of these issues and themes together is how the prose effortlessly flows in and out of each of these perspectives. One moment the reader is with Roxy on the streets of London, the next in middle America reading how Margo chews out an aide. There may be some criticism that Alderman treats all of the international politics and men/women dynamics too simplistically, but for those with a more cynical or realistic vein, why wouldn’t it be that simple?
Either way, Alderman has created a masterwork in power analysis through this work of fiction. THE POWER deserves every award and word of recommendation that gets thrown it’s way. If you can tolerate the brutality of humanity, then do not let this book pass you by!