The Power – Naomi Alderman

This revolutionary dystopian book is utterly mind-blowing and thought-provoking. Though as a reader and as a female, i have imagined a world ruled by women, but this book just takes the concept to an entirely different level.

As it is written: “She cuppeth the lightning in her hand. She commandeth it to strike.”

All girls, across the world, start developing an unusual power at the age of 14-15. They find themselves able to discharge electric current via their fingers and palm, sometimes enough to defend themselves during dangerous situations and sometimes even enabling them to kill. Then the power grows and they find they are able to invoke this power in older women, which cannot be cured or surgically removed safely until their death and that every girl child in the world is born with this power.

Book is written via four main characters – with different lives and providing different perspectives.

Allie Montgomery, a runaway teenager, who after killing her foster guardian to fend off his sexual advances, finds herself set up in a convent as “Mother Eve” – the messiah arrived to lead the world to a different enlightening. “God is neither woman nor man but both these things. But now She has come to show us a new side to Her face, one we have ignored for too long.”

Roxy – daughter of a drug lord, who uses her powers to kill the man responsible for her mother’s death, with help from her father and brothers. She learns from the “electrical eels” and cultivates her power to become stronger and more in control. She is the soldier that faith leader “Mother Eve” teams up with to realise her dream of setting up a safe harbor, a country for all women, away from men.

Tunde – a Nigerian journalist, first encounters the power at the hands of a young teenage girl, he has a crush on and finds it fascinating and horrifying at the same time. He places himself in dangerous situations and countries to chronicle this change in the world – the new age so to say, the political change and the world gone upside down.

Margot – a mayor of an American town, who as only a woman could in such situation, tries to harness the power by providing training grounds to girl – for them to learn and control this mystical ability as against her competition men, who ruled by their fear would like to destroy all.

At the beginning of the book, all wronged girls are able to take revenge, all young girls are able to defend themselves against boys and men. There is unrest – as would be natural, with parents trying to “cure” their female child, turning them out of the house and even looking at them fearfully. It’s almost ironic to read about “special buses for boys to keep them safe” and formation of “save men’s rights” type of communities.

“Power to hurt is a kind of wealth” illustrates the next phase as the dark side of the power starts to build up. Women start feeling empowered ” Now they will know that they are the ones who should not walk out of their houses alone at night. They are the ones who should be afraid.” Government’s fall and women establish their kingdoms. Females find themselves in positions of power and are no longer afraid of the male dominion, that had always been the ruling force in the “previous world”.

Initially, male half of the population harboured the illusion that this is a temporary state, then they start looking for reasons behind this evolutionary change; post that comes the stage of acceptance – this is the way world is now; and of course followed by ways to defend themselves. I found the commercialisation of this power delightfully satirical – advertisements of rubber shoes & socks, personal batteries, etc. Author has ingeniously provided us with an insight into social media as would be at such times. Men are scared and women are now hungry to use their power.

Ultimately power corrupts – be it man or woman. In the third phase we find that though women have risen using the power from their so-called “weak” state into the more powerful gender, they also lose their ability to empathise with the other gender. Roles are reversed, but cruelty, corruption and atrocities remain the same. Though a new state was set up to promote peace, it leads to slavery and oppression for men, rapes by women, and laws that force men to be enslaved to a woman in every which way “At first we did not speak of 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.”

“Men are no longer permitted to drive cars.”

“Men are no longer permitted to own businesses.”

“Men are no longer permitted to vote”

Its ironic, Saudi Arabia (actually Moldova in the book), that led the women revolution once the power was discovered and tried to break free of all these rules imposed on the women, ultimately reverses itself in a worse form, only to have much harsher rules imposed on men.

The book does not end with an apocalypse or an “end of the world” flood, nor does it provide a definitive answer to this dilemma – We who covet power at some point in our lives, why are we unable to stay true to the path of peace. Is this how our DNA, our brains have been programmed. I found this book highly imaginative and an educational read, raising a lot of questions in my mind. Is there a way we could ever find a way to exist peacefully, without brutality and wars – perhaps not – maybe some of those elements make the kindness and humanity shine and maybe some of these darker elements make us appreciate the value of good.

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