Over February and March, I’ve been participating in the #readforwomen hashtag on Instagram, set up by sarasreadingdiary to celebrate the 100th anniversary of some women getting the right to vote in the UK. This means reading only women writers for two months, which hasn’t been a struggle as I read a lot by women anyway. However, I have been more mindful than usual, trying to find books that might fit into the theme of feminism.
I kicked off with The Power, the book on everyone’s lips at the moment. And what a powerful start to the challenge! The novel explores a grim world where gender roles have been reversed due to the awakening of a ‘power’ in girls and women. Suddenly more physically powerful than men, women are able to send electric shocks from their hands, causing terrible pain and even death with one touch. The ‘day of the girls’ has arrived, but what will they do with their new found advantage over men?
It’s an ambitious idea and I was excited to see where Naomi Alderman would take this line of thought. Unfortunately, she doesn’t pull it off. The Power has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, so I was disappointed that the writing didn’t live up to expectations, as well as there being a lack of subtlety and character development. Whereas Atwood can create a believable world, giving just the right amount of information and leaving your imagination to fill in the rest, Naomi Alderman’s world is unrealistic – everything is black and white and over-the-top. The writing is heavy-handed and I felt she didn’t trust her readers to understand many of the points she was trying to make.
There are so many things I wanted to get out of this book. I was looking forward to a well-thought out exploration of this new world, with the positives and the negatives – a balanced idea of what might actually happen and perhaps an insight into why and how attitudes could change. Instead, the world quickly crumbles into chaos and violence. Apparently a bit of extra strength turns women into power-hungry, vengeful and violent human-beings. And I find it quite insulting to be told that physical strength is the only thing that determines power.
The more I think about The Power, the more angry I get, but I’ll admit that it has started conversations and got people thinking, which I suppose can never be a bad thing. So I do hesitate from telling people to totally avoid the book – just don’t let the hype fool you!