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April 2018: Strong Women > The Power - Naomi Alderman (5 stars)

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message 1: by KateNZ (last edited Apr 30, 2018 04:28AM) (new)

KateNZ | 2671 comments This is perhaps the ultimate "what if" story for the #MeToo era - and a book that lives up to its title. It's an illustration of power in many guises - not just the literal electrical power than women are suddenly able to use. Most obviously, it's about power between the sexes and how people cope (or don't) with a sudden and inexplicable reversal of the norm. Power is a leveller of deeply uneven playing fields, but also is a corrupter and a tool of appalling revenge. It's something to be stolen, if possible, regardless of the cost to the previous owner. Each of the main narrative characters wields a different kind of power - religious, criminal, political and media power - and use it for different ends and create varying and shifting degrees of sympathy from the reader along the way. The fact that the male character becomes the most vulnerable and (justifiably) the most afraid is no coincidence.

I didn't always enjoy the story - there is some horrific viciousness to parts of it, with both women and then men as victims. But I think it's an important and a good book: particularly because it has so many layers of possible meaning - each reader will find her or his own story in it. And it felt deeply real, however fanciful the central concept was.

For me, I guess the main thing is the question whether women would be more 'humane' than men, if our current power imbalances were reversed - and Alderman's answer, ultimately (I think) is that we're not so different: it is the imbalance (as opposed to mutual respect and equality) that creates strife. The power for good or ill lies in all of us, and choice about how to act is a human not innately a gendered one. In the current climate, it gave me some very interesting food for thought.


message 2: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I'm so glad you enjoyed it Kate. I agree that it made me think about the fact that none of us are all bad or all good, but rather have the potential for either depending on our environment. My brother always says 'Everyone has it in them to be an arsehole'. Not a wordsmith but it rings true! Did you see the interview with Alderman that I posted on Anita's review? It was good to read about her motivations and thoughts.


message 3: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2671 comments I saw the link but hadn’t followed it yet - will do so now. It’s a book I wanted to let settle in my brain for a while before I tried to put anything into words.

Your brother has it right! Perhaps that should be the book’s subtitle :)


message 4: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments It's still settling in my brain several months on. The mark of a special book for me.


message 5: by Anita (last edited Apr 30, 2018 04:56AM) (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6749 comments I love your review, Kate. So perfectly stated.

Lol, Susie, on your brother's statement. I happen to agree with it to a great degree. It often amazes me how some of the kindest people I know are so incredibly judgmental when it comes to viewpoints they oppose. There's a feeling that if they were able to do something about those "stupid people" with which they disagree, they would have no hesitation to trample on their rights in the name of some higher value system. I do believe that our survival instincts (our Id if you will) are not quite so well controlled by our super ego as we would like to think. The Power takes these concepts to the extreme to make a point, but I think the underlying social commentary is pretty compelling.


message 6: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments I know I have seen evidence of this point in workplaces, where people morph into evil monsters once promoted to positions of power. It makes me fear what I am capable of myself to be honest! I like to think that my fair, compassionate, caring, altruistic side would remain intact, but who knows?


message 7: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6749 comments Susie wrote: "I know I have seen evidence of this point in workplaces, where people morph into evil monsters once promoted to positions of power. It makes me fear what I am capable of myself to be honest! I like..."

Great point about the workplace! I didn't even think of that, but I totally agree that we see many manifestations of this issue there. My thought is that many people are able to continue to manifest their good side; until their power is threatened in some way. That's the true test.


message 8: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments Yes, that sounds like a reasonable theory. The fight or flight response is present in all of us.


message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason Oliver | 2105 comments A book I am looking forward to. Great review.


message 10: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2671 comments Thanks Jason - will be really interested to know what you think of it


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