The Power, Naomi Alderman, Viking Press, 2017, 341 pp
I thought this was great! Not everyone agrees. I suggested it for one of my reading groups. Four out of six pretty much hated it and two of those didn't even finish it. One thought it was good but had qualms. Checking out the Goodreads reviews I found a wide range of opinion. The novel does have a slump in the middle where it felt like the author was working out some plot points a bit awkwardly but I appreciated the premise and the way she explicated that.
Something happens to young women, maybe due to radiation or pollution, and it changes their DNA. Suddenly these teenage girls have electrical power in their bodies. They can cause terrible pain, even death, in male bodies, as well as heightened sexual responses. They are definitely "on top" and the men become afraid, very afraid.
The plot is intricate. There is a "voice" who guides one of the female characters. Political angles, religious angles, gangsters, an eastern European country ravaged by civil unrest and terrorists. It is a stew and in that regard not that far off from the world we live in now.
Here is what I think. Naomi Alderman gives us a big what if. What if women had the power over men that men still have over women? She takes it to the ultimate bad outcome, switching the power dynamic, but that does not make life better. I don't think this is a completely serious book. It is satire intended to show up the ridiculous nature of both sides. The only serious side to the novel is a study of power and its inherent problems.
I was completely entertained. I must admit it was thrilling to imagine having enough power to unleash all my female anger and win! I understand why a man might not like the book. Women raping men? Oh no! Hardly any males on Goodreads gave it more than three stars.
I think perhaps Alderman's ideas went over a few heads. I don't think she was trying to be literary. It could have been a graphic novel in some respects. It could become a cult classic, especially among certain women. Because it IS therapeutic to imagine being able to demean, overpower, obstruct and nullify abusive patriarchal men.
In the end it came down to having to admit that wouldn't work either. We have to keep plugging away at achieving a balance and it will be the women who have to do it. As usual.
(The Power is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)