Must Reads: The Power

Has anyone in your life been ranting at you about how you need to read Naomi Alderman’s The Power? No? Allow me. Reviews have called this book an instant classic, and really that much is head-smackingly obvious. This is an absolute tour de force, a page turner dripping in wisdom, a novel that’s as entertaining as it is unsettling. More than anything, it’s breath-takingly timely. Alderman gives us a reality where women discover a long-dormant power – the ability to discharge violent electrical shocks – that suddenly gives them the physical upper hand against men. We see the long enshrined power structures of the world shift, crack, and finally shatter. The central conceit is profound, pithy in its simplicity and mountain-sized in its implications. And Alderman, a part-time writer of videogames, weds this premise to a plot that’s taut and thrilling, stuffed to the “skein” with juicy ironies: the trophy wife who overthrows her dictator husband; the himbo weather boy replacing the distinguished male news anchor. When the brother of crime boss Roxy Monke takes on some of her duties, the observation is laced with familiar condescensions (emphases mine):
Darrell’s set it up; he’s been doing operations here for months, keeping his head down like a good boy, making contacts, keeping the factory running smoothly even during the war. Sometimes a bloke is better at that than a woman – less threatening; they’re better at diplomacy. Still, to finish the deal it has to be Roxy herself.
Such moments spring up continually, and the brilliance of it is that here they are amusing, eye-opening – yet the reader never forgets that each and every one is mined from the innumerable slights and oppressions of real world patriarchy. The reversal illustrating all the more acutely, and hilariously even, the dreadful state of the actual status quo. All the righteous anger and rawness that might be due to this subject are transformed here by a goddamn alchemical art into sheer entertainment, a genre book for all readers that’s as literary as it is commercial. It’s been remarked often that this is an Atwoodian book, and that’s both spot-on and unsurprising, given that Margaret Atwood mentored Alderman while she was writing it. Alderman’s writing is always entertaining, frequently funny, wise, or both, supple enough to encompass the beauty of fleeting human connections and gut-wrenching atrocities, within pages of each other.
When did he get so jumpy? And he knows when. It wasn’t this last thing that made it happen. This fear has been building up in him. The terror put its roots down into his chest years ago and every month and every hour has driven the tendrils a little deeper into the flesh.
The audacity of the premise is nothing to do with feminist wish-fulfillment, and everything to do with humanity. Earlier on, scores are settled – it’s impossible not to cheer the trafficked women turning on their jailers – but Alderman is clear on the corrupting influence of power. No spoilers. This is engrossing, gripping, stunning. There’s so much more to say, but I’m done…
This is the magic by daylight; tricks and cruelty. The magic is in the belief in magic. All this is, is people with an insane idea. The only horror in it is imagining oneself into their minds. And that their insanity might have some consequences on the body.
GO READ IT. Advertisements Share this:
Like this:Like Loading...