Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Imagine if our history was different. If women held power rather than men. If matriarchal societies were the norm and men were viewed as the nurturing caregivers. Naomi Alderman has done just that, imagined a world where an event flips the current hierarchy as we know it making men vulnerable and leaving women in control.

Roxy was one of the first. Two men came for her mother - Roxy wasn't supposed to be home. And while Roxy hid, something blossomed inside her. Something she could use against the men to save her mother. 

Allie, orphaned and left at the mercy of a family who never should have had a child, uses her power to free herself. Guided by the voice in her head, she makes her way to a safe place - a place where her own voice becomes a guiding light for other girls just like her. 

Margot is one of the first who learns that the young ones can pass it on, awakening it in older women. She keeps her power secret even as her own daughter struggles to control the unpredictable ebb and flow of electricity that runs through her. Margot can't let her own talent slip, she's in a position to effect real change, but only as long as she isn't viewed as a threat. 

And then there's Tunde. On break from college when a girl uses the power on him. When he next witnesses it, during an incident at the grocery store, he catches it on camera and becomes one of the leading names documenting the shocking events now taking place all over the world. 

Each of their stories intertwines, telling a story within a story. A "fictional" take on how Neil and Naomi's world came to be. And even as Naomi has trouble imagining a time when men were soldiers and maybe even rulers, Neil stands by his story. 

Naomi Alderman is a co-creator and writer of Zombies, Run!, which is actually what first caught my eye with regards to The Power. That and comparisons to The Handmaid's Tale, amongst other accolades.

It's an interesting statement piece. A book within a book and set in a world that's the opposite of the one we currently inhabit. And it begins with "Naomi" stating that a world where men were in charge would surely be a more peaceful one!

Certainly the world in The Power is not a peaceful one by any means. The power itself awakens in women and proves to be tied to a skein along their collarbones. And while a small number of women never develop the power, the majority do and use it to enact change. And yet, Alderman's story is one where power itself is the big bad. Regardless of who has it, it's twisted and turned until the very forces fighting against corruption become corrupt themselves.

It's a dark story, to be sure, and a pretty brutally violent one as well. And things don't necessarily come to a nice neat ending for any of our main characters. But it's also a powerful and thought provoking read as well, one that's earned Alderman heaps of praise so far. (It's been out for some time but was just released in October here in the States.)

I actually listened to this one in its entirety on audio. Overall I think the main narrator, Adjoah Andoh, did a pretty good job, affecting different accents and tones for each of the varying characters. (If you're an avid audiobook listener, Andoh also reads Chimamandah Ngozi Adichie's Americanah and Ann Leckie's books, amongst others.) There were also fun audio guide outtakes from the museum of cataclysmic history.

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