Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman!

Well, first things first y’all: my husband passed his PhD defense yesterday!!! Basically, all that’s left is his defense which is mostly a formality. He’s working on getting his interview in New Mexico scheduled, then we’ll start visiting and house hunting. We are on actual cloud nine right now. This program has been so immensely stressful and it’s incredible to be on the other side of the last major hurdle he has to jump before he gets his degree. OK, well enough fan girling over my husband and onto today’s read! Our review is for The Power by Naomi Alderman!

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Initial Thoughts: giphy

Across the globe, young girls are waking up with unimaginable, unexplained power. With the touch of their hand they’re able to inflict searing, indescribable pain to the point of even death. As girls the world over are discovering this newly awakened power, that has been dormant in women for as long as we can remember, they also discover they’re able to “awaken” the power in the older generations as well. The implications of this shift to the power structure of the world are numerous. Governments, the media, society itself begins changing rapidly as women begin to exercise this power more and more. No longer are women afraid to walk the streets alone, but men must now be looking over their shoulder and preparing instead.

As power shifts from men to women, it begs the big questions: What if women were in power? What if women were the “stronger” and more “powerful” sex? How would this affect our world and what would it look like if women were thrust into running the world? The Power is told from alternating POVs between numerous young girls coming into their new found skills, and a young man who captures some of the first glimpses of women the world over exercising this change in gender dynamics.

The shape of power is always the same: it is infinite, it is complex, it is forever branching. 

Well, I put a lot of hype into this book in my head and so maybe my disappointment is my own fault. Regardless of how much I built this novel up, it really let me down. For me, it’s always the worst when I feel like a story has so much promise and then falls flat with it’s lofty goals. The Power was such a unique take on a old tale that I felt like it was bound to knock me off my chair, ask important questions and challenge my view of the world. What started out incredibly strong, interesting and full of unique vision ultimately fell flat and completely missed the mark for me personally.

I’ve considered myself a pretty staunch feminist for the majority of my life. Since “feminist” is sometimes considered a bad word, I’ve also spent a good deal of time explaining what feminism actually is and what it is not. What it is not, is men hating or wanting women to treat men the way men have treated women – which is oppression. There’s a great Chinese proverb that says “a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” and that’s something that has always spoken to me. Women do not want a world in which they can treat men the way they’ve been treated, it’s simply about fighting the patriarchy to have equal representation. The Power really jumbled that message for me.

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.

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a chance that women could come into some kind of latent power and then become violent and oppressive. That’s definitely a possibility, but it’s reductive to me. Women have been fighting for equal rights, equal representation, equal pay for so long that I would’ve preferred to see women liberated instead of high on power. I also found it unrealistic that women across the globe, who have faced a history of oppression and violence would immediately turn to ripping off symbols of their belief systems and mob the streets. As more and more girls come into this power, society completely collapses into a sea of gratuitous violence and still, a lot of sexism. Yes, women are the one’s in power but how is it that as feminists we can spend all this time talking about wanting to see a world free of sexism while simultaneously plugging books that promote sexism? This didn’t feel like a “win” for women to me.

Past the larger, more theological issues I had with this book I also found that it really dragged for me after about the first quarter. The set up and the premise were incredibly interesting, I was originally semi-invested in some of the characters and how their stories would develop. However, as time went on I found a lot of the POVs to be redundant and best and a snore-fest at worst. There was too much time spent developing the violence and getting back at men, and not enough time developing the characters and their place within the overall story.

Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.

As I’ve mentioned before I don’t normally post quotes that I specifically didn’t like, but what is this even saying? How does this even relate to the story? A lot of this read like it was trying incredibly hard to be deep and philosophical and it totally missed the mark for me. In the end, this book was not for me. It wasn’t a total failure or loss because the premise was absolutely unique and very interesting. I continued to read on in hopes that things would improve but I was ultimately let down.

Long Story Short: giphy (1)

Suggested For: Honestly, I’m not really suggesting this to anyone. But fans of YA dystopian novels, anyone looking for a unique take on gender roles in fiction.

Music Mood: Dance Upon Your Grave by The Brothers Comatose


Have you read The Power? If so, what did you think? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!

32 thoughts on “Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman!”

  1. As someone who has read a lot of SF and some fantasy, back in the day, I hate this kind of novel. It pre supposes an idea but then fails to deliver by becoming what it detests. Maybe the author was just not mature enough or skilled in her writing to pull it off? Or she just thought this is what might sell: women getting revenge on men? Very warped if you ask me.

    Not one I’ll be bothering with.

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    1. I totally agree! It was essentially just a revenge story and I didn’t personally appreciate that. I don’t need revenge, and I don’t think perpetuating the idea women WANT revenge is helpful. It was a disappointment for sure. On to better books!

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  2. Sorry to hear this didn’t live up to the hype. The premise sounds so interesting too.
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

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    1. We are on the same page Jonetta! I just didn’t like the vibe that if women came into some dormant power, our first thought would be revenge. I don’t think many women want revenge on the male race, I think that marginalized or oppressed groups of people by and large don’t want to oppress others because they’ve experienced it before. It didn’t feel genuine that the first thing women do is become immensely violent.

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    1. I’ve seen a lot of stellar reviews for this and I totally see why someone could love it. The issues were there for me but that’s what makes reading so great – books speak to different people differently! If you do read it, I’m excited to see what you think!

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  3. First of all, congratulations to both you and your husband!! I wish you both the best ❤ Second, great review, and I’m sorry that the book was disappointing. I’ve read a few other reviews of this and many were also disappointed by it. Hope your next read is better 💖

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  4. Islamic women, after an entire history of oppression begin ripping off their traditional garb and mobbing in the streets. – um, okay. Did the book say ‘Islamic women’ or is this how you refer to Muslim women (the correct way)? ‘History of oppression?’ Islam does not oppress women, the patriarchy constructed by culture does. I don’t know what to think. Honestly, I wish more authors and people did their research on Islam, this is so incredibly offensive.

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    1. Hi Sophia,

      My deepest apologies, I meant no offense by the statement. The book does directly mention “Islamic women” word for word but I understand I could’ve phrased this better. I meant to portray that I don’t believe women, of any culture, would immediately turn to violence after being oppressed by the patriarchy constructed by culture and I apologize if I didn’t relay that properly. This book tackles women of many religions, cultures and countries and the idea that the first thing women who have felt oppression by an entire system built on a patriarchy would be to turn to extreme violence didn’t sit well with me. The point I was trying to make (but clearly didn’t do a good job of) is that Islam does not oppress women, a system built by men, for men (i.e. the patriarchy) does and that people (in this instance, women) who are victims of oppression simply want to be treated equally – not oppress others the way they have been. When the women are ripping off symbols of their belief systems it felt very much to me like they were mad at the religion, not the men perpetrating oppressive behaviors, laws and ideas and I didn’t like that. This is what I was trying to portray in my review but understand I could’ve phrased it better and I appreciate your pointing it out.

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      1. Hi Christina,

        Thank you for clarifying and rephrasing your review. I understand what you’re saying and I completely agree with you, I do believe that, from what I’ve read from your review, that the author was trying to flip the script to reflect what would happen if the situation was reversed so men can see how it feels to be oppressed much like what Malorie Blackman achieved with Noughts and Crosses, but as you’ve pointed out, it falls flat when it blames religion instead of focusing on the effect of patriarchy. There’s no need to explain the premise, that’s not your fault, that’s the authors. But again thank you for clarifying.

        As for all religions possessing sexist undertones, I have to disagree here when it comes to Islam. You’ll find scores of Muslim women, myself included, who do not feel oppressed by religion but by patriarchy. In Islam, heaven lies underneath the feet of your mother, our Prophet (SAWS) told men to be good to women, Islam grants us inheritance rights something even the West hadn’t achieved for a long while, our value is that of treasures, and we are told that a family is blessed if the first-born is female. Moreover, my uncle and cousin are pious men and I have never seen anyone treat women so well and with equality. Of course, in order to bridge the gap, there must be communication.

        Thank you for addressing my concerns and making the necessary amendments – not every person would do that.

        I hope you are well! 🙂

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      2. Sophia! I love what you have to say here. I always love to learn more and I think books have such a wonderful way of connecting people from all over the globe and from different backgrounds. I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about other cultures and I definitely appreciate your pointing out the offense of my original phrasing because that was absolutely not my intention. You were kind in how you pointed out my mistake, and kind in standing up for the fact that it was offensively phrased 🙂 Thank you as well for teaching me more about Islam and Muslim women! I really love what you’ve had to say here and think I would do well to do more research myself so I can better understand 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I rephrased my point, which again, I appreciate your pointing out. I’d feel the same way if the book had pointed out Nuns ripping off their habit’s (that’s just not what was directly discussed in the book). I’m not personally religious and I’ve found that if you look into most religions there’s sexist undertones. The old testament in Christian religions directly says that women were created by man, for man and I can’t get behind that. I was irritated by the message of the book and flippant in my phrasing and that’s my bad.

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  5. I read your post before you rephrased it! I see you that you’ve clarified in the above comments that it was the author who used the term Islamic women. The correct term is Muslim women! It is highly ignorant on her part and she clearly failed to deliver the message of feminism and women empowerment when she can’t even bother to do proper research about women from different countries and cultures.

    However, what you mentioned was offensive as well! You said you find it unrealistic that ‘Islamic women after a history of oppression have begun to rip off their traditional garbs’. Firstly, Islam does not oppress women, patriarchy does. Secondly, Muslim women do not wear their ‘ traditional garb’ because they are oppressed but because they choose to and it is a part of their religion/culture. So I don’t see the need why they should rip it off. Thirdly, what you find unrealistic about the history of religion does not really matter unless you are well-versed in it. And since you said you find it unrealistic, it is not on the author! Is it?

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    1. My point (which I understand was not originally clearly articulated) was exactly that they would NOT take off items that represent something meaningful to them. Which is why I said I found it unrealistic that at the first “opportunity” these characters got, they took off items that represent their faith as if they were forced to wear them. I found it unrealistic and didn’t like that the implication in the book was that women of religious backgrounds are only wearing items that represent that religion because they’re told to, versus because it means something to them personally. I would’ve felt the same had it been Nuns and habits, or Christian women wearing cross necklaces. It just so happens that there was a focus on Muslim women in this book versus Christian women “ripping off” crosses or habits.

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    2. I re-phrased my statement to ensure my point was more clearly articulated, so the original statement’s offense is understood and corrected. I also re-phrased the statement to say that it’s unrealistic that ANY woman with a religious background would tear off symbols of that religion at the first chance they got. It felt reductive for the author to imply that these women are only wearing items that represent their belief because they’re told to.

      “I also found it unrealistic that women across the globe, who have faced a history of oppression and violence would immediately turn to ripping off symbols of their belief systems and mob the streets.”

      So basically, I am in agreement with you that it’s wrong to assume that women of any religious background would want to immediately remove items that represent their faith.

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