Publisher: Penguin Books
Set in a world where there has been a drastic reversal in gender roles as a new power only women can use completely upturns patriarchy, The Power explores themes of gender and identity at both an individual and a societal level. Tackling topics such as sexual assault, human trafficking and female human rights in the Middle East, this is a bold statement that, in my opinion, ought to be required reading. Alderman effectively uses satire in the right balance to ensure she is able to make her points about gender in today’s society without it becoming an academic lecture.
Alderman is an extremely skilled writer, using language to make me feel extreme discomfort on several occasions, including at one point when a group of women sexually assault a man and claim he “enjoyed it”. These nods to rape culture emphasise how much of an issue it has become in our society, and whilst women do commit these atrocities towards men and other women anyway, seeing it become the norm in this roles reversed society, in my opinion, shocks readers and brings home how abnormal rape culture is. Any contribution to the eradication of rape culture and patriarchy is extremely important, and Alderman contributes a great deal with The Power.
I do have a couple of issues with The Power, however, which have prevented me from giving the full five stars. The first is the pacing – the novel spans over several years, but it often feels as though only a few days have passed. This makes it feel quite jilted and rushed in places, especially as I read it in only a couple of sittings.
The second problem I have with the novel is that some of the characters are not as developed as I would have liked. The character of Jocelyn, for example, is clearly extremely complex, but I feel as though her sections are rushed through, not giving her the space to grow as the individual she is. As one of the most interesting characters in the book for me, I would have liked Alderman to delve into her identity further.
Despite the issues with pacing and character development, I strongly believe this novel is too important to pass up and shares themes with the novels of strong female writers, such as Margaret Atwood and Zadie Smith. Without writers such as Alderman tackling difficult topics surrounding gender, nothing would ever change.