Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

What would you do, if you awoke one day to find you could shoot electricity from your hands?

the power by naomi alderman“In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.” Goodreads.


Reading The Power was an experience of two halves. Half of me that love the idea and execution, and half that didn’t enjoy the way the story was told.

Both the idea and formation of the novel are clever. One day young women across the world discover they have a power, a mutation stemming from a Second World War experiment long forgotten in the annals of history. The balance of power shifts from men to women, as every aspect of patriarchy gradually switches to women embodying the masculine and vice versa. Women become the aggressors. Alderman exercises a subtle play on language, as you realise that everything that the women do to oppress the men has been (and is) done to oppress women.

The construction of the novel was well thought out, framed within a conversation between two writers. Neil is writing to Naomi for advice, it’s hard to be taking seriously when you are writing “men’s fiction”, had he considered using a woman’s name to be taken more seriously? As well as historical records and internet chatroom logs scattered within the story to accompany the character narration.

Yet, despite all of this, I just didn’t enjoy the writing, there was nothing that made me want to continue reading. Perhaps I was craving a style of writing more akin to Angela Carter or Philip K. Dick. Regardless, it’s a clever novel well deserving of its place on the Baileys Prize shortlist.


Did you enjoy The Power?


2 thoughts on “Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

  1. Ooh. Well I was feeling that the premise was slightly hamfisted and intending to miss this one out (especially as you weren’t wild about it), but then you made it sound rather epistolary and my interest was freshly piqued. Did you feel that it managed the gender switching thing well? Not too preachy?


  2. The idea does sound interesting, although it’s a shame that the shift just results in a mirror image of male oppression instead of something new. Sorry to hear that the writing didn’t do it for you. I’ve been meaning to read something by Naomi Alderman for AGES, so I might give this a try despite your reservations. A good premise goes a long way. If I do read it, I’ll let you know how I found it 🙂


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