The Power review

What would a Bizzaro version of The Handmaid’s Tale look like?

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Or how about if Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned weren’t so male-fantasy adventure dystopian?

And then throw in a lot of political intrigue and you might get The Power. It’s a really fascinating sociological look at the origins of power. What makes a society patriarchal or matriarchal? The Power answers this succinctly: innate physical power to dominate the other sex (“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.”). And I think Alderman is probably right.

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Tipping that scale toward the ladies does a host of interesting machinations. Overnight, religions are contorted toward the feminine pronouns and cults arise. Political power shifts dramatically. Male rape is rampant. In the worst sections of society, slavery and extermination threatens to wipe out men.

On the one hand, it’s all brilliant juxtaposition, turning our male-centric expectations (in language, faith, politics, warfare, etc.) on its head. This makes The Power a cunning satire.

But on the other hand, I can’t help think that the book’s weight is undercut by perfectly mirroring patriarchal abuse into a female equivalent. Is this really a feminist work if it inverts the story of all human history and paints women as the bad guys?

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1 Comment

  1. I read this a while back and it turns out I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I didn’t particularly enjoy it so I guess it didn’t leave an impression other than that.

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