CANNONBALL!!!! Sorry. I just can’t believe that it happened this fast for me. Back in the olden days of CBR 3, I read mostly shortish YA books and still struggled to eke out 52 books and reviews by the deadline. Now that I am drunk on CBR 10 early completion power…..let’s talk Naomi Alderman’s “The Power.”
The premise itself is very simple. Young women begin to have the ability to harness electricity and manipulate it. Its source is a mysterious skein located in their collar bones. Once the young women are aware of this, they discover that they can also awaken the power in older women. As they begin to understand their physical dominance over men, the women start to use their advantage to rescue themselves from abusive situations, to promote themselves at work and to rise up against patriarchal cultures.
Never has it been more evident in our world that power corrupts. For us, it’s predominately male and white and generally affluent. What Alderman questions here is: if the advantage of physical strength was reversed, would women begin to dominate in the same way as men? Would women actually be benevolent peace-loving matriarchs? Is the corruption of power a human flaw and not a gender one?
The sudden deference of men holds a mirror up to women who often temper anger or frustration so as not to be accused of being shrill or bitchy. When a female Mayor confronts the male Governor of her state, her newfound directness makes him unsure: “She thinks, That is how a man speaks. And that is why.” It was a powerful moment of sudden awareness that the power that had often held her in check was now available to her.
Many fellow Cannonballers read and reviewed this, and it is a mixed bag in terms of what you all thought. I liked it, but it started to drag part way for me. The narrative got a little too bogged down in a weird Eastern European female dictatorship situation. I appreciated the political angle, but it lost its way for me a bit.
Alderman did an interesting job of handling the role that religion plays in the empowerment of some at the subjugation of others but shied away from other hot button issues. The novel touches upon ethnicity and sexual orientation within this power shift, but only peripherally. I wish that she had explored that a little further.