Book review: The Power

The patriarchy is an intangible concept which explains the way in which women have been and continue to be systematically oppressed and disadvantaged - but it can be a tough one to explain.

Men and women are equal in the eyes of the law - we can’t be paid different wages for the same job any more, we’re allowed to vote and as of last year, we can even serve on the frontline.

The Power illustrates the way in which a gender power imbalance exists in a way that is about as subtle as a brick - but it’s fantastic. As the book starts, a power is waking up in girls around the world which inverts the gender power balance.

Suddenly, they can discharge electrical shocks which can hurt and even kill other people, meaning that women rather than men are the dominant gender.

My favourite kind of book is one that’s important but also plot-driven and The Power absolutely meets those criteria.

The story is in no way lacking - there’s an ensemble cast of characters whose lives intersect with one-another and it’s a very pacy, exciting read. It shows, rather than tells, how imbalances of power can be obvious and subtle and would be a fantastic primer for any young person interested in feminism.

It's very much in the dystopian near-future tradition of Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid's Tale) who also explores very real issues in a quite fantastical way.

My absolute favourite bit is right at the end of the novel - I won’t spoil it, but there’s an exchange of letters between a man and a woman in which a lot of sexist tropes are turned on their heads. A very funny, and acutely observed exchange which I think a lot of women will recognise.

It’s one of the best books I’ve read (okay, listened to) this year, and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s light enough subject matter to make great holiday reading but a bit different from your standard poolside fare!

I hadn’t actually realised that I’d read anything else by Naomi Alderman until I saw an article about her win - in a complete coincidence I had also recently finished Disobedience, which was a random car boot sale purchase. That too was one of the best books I’ve read in ages, so it made sense that they were by the same author.

Naomi won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for The Power last week and while I haven’t read the rest of the shortlist, she certainly seems a deserving winner to me! I’m hoping to work my way through the rest of the shortlist in the next few months…

What’s on your holiday reading list this year? Have you read anything else on the Baileys Prize shortlist?


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