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Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman (3/5)

9 May

I’d seen a bit about this book a while back but it had fallen off my radar when my book club selected it. This is another instance where I’m glad I knew nothing about the book before reading it because I think the development of the skein would have been ruined for me. This was fun to discover as I went.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Summary from Goodreads:

In The Power the world is a recognizable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked the idea of women becoming the dominant sex though I didn’t like that it had to be an almost magical power they gained to make it happen. I also didn’t like the number of characters we followed through the book, it almost seemed like too much. I think the narrator took a little away from this for me, too. She wasn’t my favorite.

We got a good variety of characters in this book and, for the most part, they eventually overlapped which was a nice way to tie the whole thing together. I appreciated that, though I think we could have done without one or two of them. Margot was a hard character for me to like but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t believable. I could see someone like her coming to power and maybe that’s what was so unlikable about her. You felt terrible for Jocelyn, being the daughter of such an ambitious woman who seemed to be using her daughter for political gain. Unfortunately, I could see it happening.

Allie was my favorite character. I’m not sure if I think the voice was God or not, but I thought her journey was the most interesting. The way she rose to power and the following she created was incredible. The way she spoke when the Voice was speaking through her was so markedly different from the one in her internal dialogue and I appreciated that in the writing. I liked how she teamed up with Roxy. They were my favorite pair. I think she may have taken things just a little too far, but I still liked reading her story.

Jocelyn was the most relatable to me. Her position, with inconsistent power, is most like a woman in a mans’ world today. She is nervous to show her power and looked down on when she is overpowered. She’s trying everything to stand out and nothing works so she takes stupid risks. I think I’ve felt like or done all of these things at one time or another.

Naomi Alderman Image via The Guardian

I enjoyed the flashes to the future when they would share a museum view of modern objects. The analysis of an iPhone sticks with me a lot. I liked that aspect of sharing objects that would be used in the book and tieing it into the post-Cataclysm view of the present. These bits were a nice way to break up the book.

I didn’t feel like the ending was really clear, or maybe I rushed through it. I’m about to spoil it so skip this paragraph to avoid that. I guess I’m supposed to assume that the rebel army used nuclear weapons to such an extent that they ended civilization altogether. It was on the brink of collapse anyway so I can see how that might happen, but it was still a bit much for me. I don’t understand how that would result in all knowledge of what happened during the time but would leave enough people alive for humanity to restart in a few thousand years. Maybe I’m being nit-picky, but it seemed like a bit of a rush to me. Especially that we’d develop English and publishing again, as Naomi and Neil write in English and are both authors. I think if we got to do everything over again, we might do a few things differently.

The audiobook is narrated by Adjoa Andoh and at times, I liked her and at times I didn’t. I liked her for Tunde, Roxy, and Allie but I didn’t like her for Margot and Jocelyn. Maybe it was the Brit reading an American thing, but it didn’t work for me. She made Margot too pushy in my opinion, and Jocelyn too weak.

The Power discusses the nature of power. Is power derived from physical strength like a skein? Or is it from nuclear weapons? Political pull? Followers? Fear? Information? Each of the characters had power in a different form and none of them were all-powerful. There are different kinds of power needed at different times for different things Allie didn’t have fear or information, but Roxy had fear and physical power. Tunde had information, but little strength. Together, they could have done a lot more than they could apart.

Writer’s Takeaway: When I started the book, I thought the characters would never meet or intertwine and I resigned myself to that. But when they did, I was so glad because they enhanced each other’s stories. Roxy showing up to save Tunde or Jocelyn meeting Roxy’s brother or Margot meeting Allie, all of these times I became more invested in the characters because they were made more vivid by the eyes of the other characters. I liked how Alderman drew them together.

Enjoyable, but not a favorite. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the Future time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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