The Power: A clever portrayal of gender roles

The Power by Naomi Alderman is a creative, intelligent novel which I have enjoyed listening to via Audible. I found that the genuine reversal of gender roles blended well with the fantasy elements and made for a very compelling read. I found the characters interesting and multi-dimensional each with a well portrayed back story and plenty of personality. I so wish that many people, man and woman alike would read this title as I find that it is rather important for people to see the different sides of each gender.

The story
The Power by Naomi Alderman is a multi-perspective narrative which tells a made-up history of the world focusing on if women had the power over men. In the book, the women gain this control and influence through a magical ‘power’ with which they can jolt people with electricity, shocking them into submission. All young and baby girls have the power, and they can wake it up in older women. Following Roxy, Allie (and through her, Mother Eve), Margot and Tunde, this book looks at how people from a variety of backgrounds would embrace the situation. Coming across at times like historical research, The Power is a incredible story and I can’t even attempt to summarise it.

TRIGGER WARNING: Rape of women and men

Why I love this book
The Power by Naomi Alderman is incredibly clever. I like how it completely reverses gender identities through women gaining access to power and control and the ways they use it by the end to rewrite history so it seems ludicrous that men were ever the dominant species. In my opinion, it is almost a gender version of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses in that it reverses societal roles and stereotypes and really makes you think about the ways you and the opposite gender behave.
I love Alderman’s characterisation. Roxy is probably my favourite character, as she doesn’t just take things at face value and, although she may come across as the ‘idiot tagalong’, she is actually very wise and considers men much more than the other women do throughout the novel, largely due to her love for her father and brother. Allie naturally sees it as nearly impossible to sympathise with men after how she has been treated, yet also maintains a lack of trust in most others generally. Tunde, a Nigerian journalist is such an excellent character, as he manages to gains many females’ trust and protection while in impossible circumstances. He is respectfully fearful while not completely caving to their every demand.
While I do think that some of the ways the gender reverse was portrayed was perhaps a little idealistic, I also think that it had to be done this way to represent the extremism of society. The Muslim women ditching their hijabs and going against their religion is supposed to shock people, and that it did. This is a work of fiction and is supposed to make people think about the way their gender is portrayed in society and where that has come from. I particularly liked the inclusion of Neil – an author asking for Alderman’s feedback on his manuscript – and Naomi’s communication as it truly represented the ways men look at women and flipped it back on men.

Overall, this is a great, shocking and extremely macabre novel. It is sobering in its criticism of society and gender, especially in its reference to rape culture, and how the men ‘must like it’. I hope that any man who reads this and finds these particular sections ludicrous will reflect on his and his gender’s behaviour and really consider what can be done to remedy this and make women feel more accepted and safe. I would recommend this novel to lovers of political fantasy, gender-based fiction, anybody who loved Noughts and Crosses, and all men.

One thought on “The Power: A clever portrayal of gender roles

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  1. I found this such a difficult book. I loved the first half and found it very empowering, but I found the second half overly aggressive and heavy-handed in the messages it was trying to put across on my initial read. I think in particular the rape bothered me, but I think I’m also something of an idealist and Alderman’s vision seemed very bleak and only able to consider the worst of humanity. I could see it was an important and well-written book, but I couldn’t enjoy it.

    However, the book I read immediately afterwards was “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and I found the opposite – the first half again was satisfying, but as it continued this particular vision of a feminist society felt insipid and perpetuating maternal stereotypes, the kind which Alderman pointedly goes against.

    I found I actually enjoyed each book better for having read the other – I’ve spent a lot of the year since reading both considering them against each other and really gained a lot from that.


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