The Power by Naomi Alderman has an interesting set-up that confused me at first. It starts out with a letter from a gentleman named Neil writing to a Naomi. So naturally, my first thought was that Neil was writing to our author and she just liked the letter and decided to include it. When, in the letter, he said he included a manuscript, and then it went from “The Power: A Novel by Naomi Alderman” to “The Power: A historical novel by Neil Adam Armon” I realized it that he was a fictional character himself, and this was his book.
Quite creative! Except that the way he wrote it didn’t feel historical at all. With the exception of the few diagrams here and there…it felt like a novel. But maybe he’s on to something. If history teachers thought like this, maybe we’d learn our history better.
The story then takes on 4 characters point of view (with later additions of 2 more characters but I won’t mention whom).
Roxy is the first character we’re introduced to. She was one of the first to gain the power, and she was one of the strongest with the power. Her story was quite incredible and overwhelming that it was unrelatable. She is the daughter of one of the most feared gangsters. Her story lies mostly within the “business” which actually, weirdly enough, makes her seem quite normal. Although she was the most powerful girl with the power, she didn’t abuse it. She used it for her day to day life, but it never went over her head. She was the most responsible with her power and used it wisely. She was mostly always in control. This could be because she has complete confidence in herself and/or she has strong values.
Tunde is our male character point of view. He first discovers it exists when a girl he likes…um…I guess electrocutes him playfully and he doesn’t know if she should be scared or turned on. He wasn’t able to talk about it with anyone and it was driving him crazy. Then, finally, he realized another girl was about to shock someone and he caught it on film. When CNN asked to buy his rights, he realized he could make a living as a reporter. He found his purpose. Throughout his story, we get an insight of all he saw in 3rd world countries regarding The Power and we get an insight of the male perspective and his feelings towards The Power’s existence and usage.
Margot was perhaps my least favorite character. If you like her, great, please leave a comment as to why. I’d be curious to see your point of view on her. I tried liking her at first. She’s a politician and she had to make a decision on whether or not to close down the school since little girls were bullying little boys. She was in a tough position, I get it. I can respect that. When her daughter (which I thought would make an even more interesting point of view character…she was one of my favorite characters) was caught shocking a boy, her mom asked her to do it to her. When she did, that little spark reminded Margot that she had it within her all along as well. That’s when they realized that girls can awaken the skein (that’s what they called the part in the collarbone where it is said The Power lies) of their mothers and grandmothers. At first, I was excited about this because I thought this would be a mother-daughter relationship discovering The Power together. Nope. Margot cared more about her position than her own daughter. Yes, she cared…but she cared more about work. Margot was the person to whom we get to see how greed and fear really affects a person. Which I guess makes sense that she’s a politician. It’s satirical. However, for the sake of interest, I believe it would have been better if she was a regular mom (because how cute would it be having to discover the power together?), a scientist (because it would be interesting to find out more detail about the skein and the power instead of just the blurbs here and there), or even a teacher witnessing the change of behaviors (but I guess there would be no use if the school shuts down….oh! Maybe a police officer seeing all the different crimes or a doctor seeing all the different victims. Seriously her parts were so boring that I would rather read about gory barbecue cases than about her power-hungry driven thoughts). For the most part, she just seemed pointless to the progression of the story. At least with Tunde, who had no power, served as eyes to the story.
Allie was my favorite character…up until she became Mother Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the transition of Mother Eve, but after a while, she just became a symbol rather than a person. But Allie herself was really cool. She is a foster kid who had the misfortunes of the system. She winds up running away and in her adventure, she finds an aquarium with an eel and learns that eels have the power to control the nerves of they prey to do whatever they wish. That’s when Allie gets the idea that maybe, she can do it too. Allie is the only one who experiments with her power to that extent. What Roxy has in energy, Allie has in intelligence. What also makes Allie interesting is that she hears a voice. What that voice represents is up for debate (I included my thoughts in the In-Depth section of my review but it does contain spoilers so I didn’t want to include it here).
The momentum of the story was really slow. I started reading this book on Dec 29, which was the first annual Book Fairies Day of Reading. The rules are simple, read all day (or for the majority of the day) and don’t go online. Because I didn’t have the distraction of my phone, I was able to gain some distance in the book but the first half was brutal when it came to transitioning. There is a pleasurable way to do multiple person points of view, and then there’s a rough way. This one was the latter. Because the characters were spread in different parts of the world going through different things, and for the most part, their only correlation was The Power…there was no real connection. The second half was a little easier with the character change although the story was more gruesome.
I would recommend this book if you like to challenge your thoughts, beliefs and if you generally love contemplating a world where women take over. It’s I would not recommend it though if you don’t have reading discipline. The subject matter gets repulsive and there is a lot of controversial topics. Contrary to the storyline, it’s not a fun book. I felt physically tired reading it (but I have an overactive imagination).
IN-DEPTH REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)
(if you are an Our Shared Shelf member and you read the blog threads, some of the content might seem familiar because I posted it there as well)
I don’t even know where to begin. This book was so much. SO MUCH!
I’m still questioning whether or not I like this book. On the one hand, women being walking tasers is pretty great. Women having power is pretty great. But calling it a feminist book when it basically represents gender inequality doesn’t seem fitting. It’s gender reversal. It’s still the “patriarchy” as we perceive it now, but now vaginas are in charge. That’s why Naomi (from the book, not the author) asked if Neil would believe that the world would be better if men ran it since they are gentler. It’s satirical. It’s supposed to be “eye-opening” but I find it hopeless. Yeah, an overwhelming amount of power would become easily corrupt. I get that. I agree with her decision.
My thoughts on “The Voice”
It could be a mental disorder activated as a coping mechanism to survive all the trauma. It could be a way of her separating herself from herself in order to get comfort, especially since she didn’t have a trustworthy adult figure. Which would imply that Allie is extremely intuitive, which she was since she was able to sense fake people. So when she met Roxy and her voice was silent, she found a companion to trust. That’s why she was surprised she had a friend. Another evidence is that she, at first, thought it was her Mom. Whom do we turn to when we’re afraid? Our parents (well…if they were loving anyway).
I eventually believed that it was the skein. And Allie just happened to be more in tune with her inner self. She didn’t always have that voice, and by the time she had the voice, she was aware of her powers. She was also the only one who was able to manipulate her powers to do as she wanted….the power led her to that information. The Power needs a strong host to get stronger. But then again, the book reference Allie speaking to her heart a lot. So it could be her heart and not her skein.
But towards the end, it just felt too Godlike. I could believe that the skein was able to sense the coming of Roxy since like I said earlier, she seems to be more intuitive than most, and Roxy tends to be the strongest. But then wouldn’t she sense the skein alive when she was speaking to Darrell? Unless the skein changes DNA to match, which is possible and that’s why people have died from the operation. But then why would Allie’s skein bring up Samuel? And how did the skein know that Jos was supposed to get in trouble? And why would the skein be so opposed to her reconnecting with Eve unless of course, the skein is still recovering from the trauma of the past? But would skeins even have emotions? Allie’s seemed sympathetic, especially to her needs and desires. Which makes sense because a skein needs a host. But doesn’t anger help it become stronger? And didn’t that realization help her come to grips with what the skein wanted her to do all along? And why would the skein say I’ll see you on the other side? Is the skein a spirit? Was the skein being funny? Was that God saying she would have to face death (like Jesus, maybe? Or in war…we never did hear what happened, we just know the women won). But if it were God, why would God be surprised when Tatiana goes crazy and has her servant lick the liquid from the floor?
My thoughts on Jocelyn
I liked Jocelyn from the moment we were introduced to her. She is the daughter of Margot. On page 231, we finally got to read her own POV chapter. What made her interesting were that her powers weren’t as powerful as others. Different is interesting. At first, I thought it was due to self-esteem. That the power was connected to your energy. Her’s sounded more bi-polar. Sometimes it was strong, sometimes it was non-existent, and pills tend to help balance it. Also, Roxy’s power failed at first. Roxy. The most powerful woman with the Power. Yet, when she was scared that her mom was being kidnapped, it failed her. That’s why I associated with esteem.
But then Ryan (her soon to be boyfriend) e-mailed her about gender-bending confusion. Turned out he had a skein as well. I started thinking it could be about identity. It could be gender-identity and she is not sure about hers and her skein works when she feels more feminine. Then on page 171, the author writes “Jo quite likes girls. She quite likes boys who are a bit like girls” meaning that Ryan kind of looks like a girl. So then maybe that’s why Ryan had a skein too. But looks are different than identity. But if that’s accurate, it would make sense why when men were trying to get their skeins implanted, it would fail. Because it didn’t register with the masculine mentality. It could be a symbolism of how out of place LGBTQ people feel even when the power shifts. Or it could just be that Alderman wanted to have an imperfect character because statistically speaking, some things do fail and not everyone can be so fortunate. Genetics doesn’t always get it right.
Or maybe it’s the stress of her mom. Having a family that is being under watch. The pressure she has on not getting to be a reckless teenage girl. That perfectionism taking hold and limiting her abilities.
There was a comment on page 235, after Jos accidentally overcharged the man that was trespassing that said: “She has the sense that if she starts to think about it she’ll tumble down into the deep, dark water; there’s a black ocean waiting for her now, it will always be waiting.” I wish Alderman would have elaborated on what the deep, dark water represented to Jos. I feel like it could be depression. Or it could be an inescapable truth.
My thoughts on the Newscasters and Urbandox
From time to time, Alderman squeezed these newscasters in the story. It was weird at first because 1) I wasn’t expecting it and 2) it wasn’t part of the setting. It was quite well accomplished. The newscasters represented the thoughts and gossip of the community at large. Basically, they were voicing the questions we would be asking if we were part of that society. It’s a perfect way to get answers and to feel involved in the story.
Urbandox is a conspiracy website. Just like every huge moment, there are the conspiracy theorists. Although I personally disliked the leader, I appreciated his presence in the story. They represented the resistance. They represented the people who were not okay with life-changing without their consent. The people who are scared and unable to accept that they are not in control anymore. But given at how fast-paced the change seemed, I don’t blame them. I think I’d like the leader more if he weren’t an entitled prick. This is the quote that just rubbed me the wrong way:
“They’ll only keep the most genetically healthy of us alive. See, this is why God meant men to be the ones with the power. However bad we treat a woman–well, it’s like a slave.
See, people got slavery wrong. If you have a slave, that slave’s your property, you don’t want damage to come to it. However bad any man treated a woman, he needs her in a fit condition to carry a child. But now…one genetically perfect man can sire a thousand–five thousand–children. And what do they need the rest of us for? They’re going to kill us all.”
Eye roll after eye roll. Then he says that men need laws to protect them (which I agree) and that women need to have curfews (right, because historically speaking, the people in charge are the ones with curfews…usually it’s the minorities that have the curfew for their own protection, not the other way around. The exception: criminals have “curfews” when on house arrest. But these women haven’t broken the law…yet) and that the government should try to find a cure (because it’s a sickness? It’s a genetic trait. They just don’t understand it so they treat it as a disease or illness. Well, given that it is somewhat “contagious” I can see his confusion. Well, that’s the wrong word. He is not confused, he does not like it).
I am totally against killing all men. But if someone were to execute this guy, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I might actually cheer. This guy is making slavery seem like the owners did the slaves a favor! Abusing a situation doesn’t make you a hero, bro!
Day of the Girls
In the book club I’m in, someone made a very important observation, that the “Day of the Girls changed the power structure but not individuals” (see the thread discussion here). My argument to this was that The Day of the Girls was a global acknowledgment that the power exists…and in girls. They weren’t aware that it can happen to all women (well, the majority of the women, and some men). I don’t think it would have a huge change in character.
Think of it as Women History Month. We still go to work. We still do the same things we normally do on a regular basis, we just celebrate that we have more freedom now than we did then. Then over time, we make our dreams come true if we’re lucky. But rarely does a person do a complete 180 because of a day, unless that day happened to be rock bottom.
My Thoughts on Mother Eve
Firstly, I love the symbolism of Eve. I may not like the character because she’s boring, but I liked her significance. I thought it was funny that she chose the name of her former foster mom (and how later that backfired on her). But also thought it was cool that it was the name of the first biblical lady and how she turned the Bible into respecting and celebrating women. I really liked that Mother Eve used her electric eel knowledge to help heal and cause “miracles.” Although she was going after what she wanted, so she was a very selfish selfless person. But I will say this, she sure is patient. Unlike all the other women with power, she took her time establishing her plan. She did so well, no one saw it coming. I knew Allie would be special when the grey fox accompanied her for 3 days. I took the fox as a foreshadowing of her future leadership. It’s interesting that it’s a fox because, in some cultures, a fox represents wisdom…in others, it represents a trickster. So her role is perfect. I don’t know if I should take symbolism in the 3 days aspect.
“She listens at doors and around corners. She has always had this habit. A child in danger must learn to pay more attention to the adults than a child loved and cherished.”
“There is a noise that is different to grief. Sadness wails and cries out and lets loose a sound to the heavens like a baby calling for its mother. That kind of noisy grief is hopeful. It believes that things can be put right, or that help can come. There is a different kind of sound to that. Babies left alone too long do not even cry. They become very still and quiet. They know no one is coming.
“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”
“‘They have said to you that man rules over woman as Jesus rules over the Church. But I say unto you that woman rules over man as Mary guided her infant son, with kindness and with love.'”
“‘The day someone else knows where your money’s going better than you do, that’s the day you’ve lost.’ It’s like a magic trick, money. You can turn money into anything.”
“They’re waiting for something to happen. We’re only pretending everything is normal because we don’t know what else to do.”
“She shouts out, ‘Don’t you fucking touch me!’ and pulls at the thing on her head. And blood and iron bloom at the back of her skull because someone’s hit her as hard as she’s ever been hit and her last thought is ‘A leopard, as a pet’ as she goes down into night.”
I know this quote seems very messed up, and it is…but I like it because it’s Roxy’s own version of “Et tu, Brutus? Then fall Ceasar.”
“He has written in the scribbled notes for his book: ‘At first we did not speak our hurt because it was not manly. Now we do not speak it because we are afraid and ashamed and alone without hope, each of us alone. It is hard to know when the first became the second.'”
“This is the magic by daylight; tricks and cruelty. The magic is in the belief in magic. All this is, is people with an insane idea. The only horror in it is imagining oneself into their minds. And that their insanity might have some consequences on the body.”
“The kind of face her dad would have said was a bad bet for business. Never keep someone on a job who likes it too much. She knows when she sees the single flash of that gleeful and hungry face that they’re not here to raid for what they can find.”
“When did he get so jumpy? And he knows when. It wasn’t this last thing that made it happen. This fear has been building up in him. The terror put its roots down into his chest years ago and every month and every hour has driven the tendrils a little deeper into the flesh.”
Welcome to rape culture, Tunde.
If there’s anything you want to talk about from the book, please leave a comment. I wish I could post all my thoughts but I don’t want to take any more of your time. It’s long enough as it is.
P.S. Did your heart hurt when Naomi asked Neil if he considered publishing his book in a woman’s name instead? Ouch
(Featured Image was taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29751398-the-power?from_search=true)