What I Thought:
I love books like this: books that force us to question the world around us, to question how we would react if normal was no longer normal. The premise for The Power is certainly an attention-grabbing one: “All over the world women are discovering they have the power. With a flick of the fingers they can inflict terrible pain – even death. Suddenly, every man on the planet finds they’ve lost control. The Day of the Girls has arrived.” Winner of the 2017 Bailey’s Women’s prize for fiction, this book has had its share of attention, and deservedly so.
The Power has been touted as The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games (two books that are firm favourties of mine) but I’m afraid I can’t agree. The book didn’t feel cohesive enough to me although I do recognise that that may well have been the point, being set in a society that is both crumbling and back-lashing simultaneously. I liked so many aspects of this page-turner, but I also admit I did find myself becoming somewhat confused at various point throughout. Again, maybe this was the point.
The book begins and ends very cleverly, with letters between Naomi and a man called Neil who has written a novel based on his historical research. These letters are set in the “present” although this present is actually 5,000 years in the future where things are not as we know them – this is a world where women have the upper hand and have the same sense of entitlement that men do today. Neil has written a story about The Cataclysm, which is what the beginning of the shift is known as, and he has written it as fiction (based on fact) rather than some dry textbook. That novel is The Power.
Centering around a few key players in this dystopian (or utopian depending on your viewpoint) tale included Roxy, daughter of a criminal gang leader and Allie, runaway teenager who had been passed from abusive foster home to abusive foster home. While both great characters for a book of this ilk, I did find that I couldn’t empathise with most of the main characters. It would have been good to have some “ordinary” people in there too – and by ordinary I mean girls who had an average upbringing, who went to school, had friends, did their homework and then suddenly found themselves in possession of the power. How did this new found power affect them? How did their parents, teachers, boyfriends etc. suddenly deal with these girls? What happened to their lives as society began to shift. These were questions that were never really answered for me and personally would have liked to have seen explored more.
The book takes us around the world, from Saudi Arabia, India, the UK to the USA and also a newly created country where women take over. It doesn’t shy away from religion, terrorism, uprising or even rape. It doesn’t portray the changing world as better for women having the power. It’s gritty, it’s raw and it’s frightening.
Despite some misgivings, I still heartily recommend this book. It will challenge your thoughts, preconceptions and give your brain a damn good workout. It’s clever, shocking and will hopefully make you question things you had never even thought to question. And the last sentence of the book is a corker!