Books, Review

Book review: The Power – Naomi Alderman ***

“One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’
And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’
That is the only answer there ever is.”

book review the power naomi alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who lounges 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.

So…

I didn’t like this book.

My non-liking got to a point where I was glad when I turned the last page.

This isn’t a BAD book. It can’t be when so many people love it. It just wasn’t for me, at all. I wanted to love it, I wanted to be blown away, I wanted to read something I had never read before. I was disappointed on all levels.

I could have known without opening the book that I wouldn’t get any of the things I wanted. There’s this author’s quote by Margaret Atwood on the cover: “Electrifying! Shocking! Will knock your socks off! Then you’ll think twice, about everything.” And I have to say, I did think twice, but mostly it was just reconsidering my decision to read this book. I didn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale (still haven’t watched the tv series either) so I could have guessed that this one wasn’t going to do it for me either.

Both Atwood and Alderman do this thing where the story itself is actually a story within a story and it’s discussed afterwards. It puts me off, I think it feels cheap, like they want to distance themselves from the book they just wrote. I understand that for some people it will add an extra layer or it’s supposed to give it that extra twist. I skimmed over both the one in The Handmaid’s Tale and this one. I just didn’t care anymore when I got to that point.

Still, I didn’t want to put it down, not because I just couldn’t stop reading it but because I was hoping it would get better, that I would GET it.

There are four main characters and you follow each of them through short chapters. More than once I had to really think who this Margot was supposed to be again. I kept forgetting about her. Not a good sign.. Then she decides to add in extra side characters. I would have preferred if she actually fleshed out the already existing points-of-view. I understand that you maybe weren’t supposed to get attached to these people but the plot was moving so slow.. I needed to get to know these characters and she wouldn’t let me…

If I had to choose, I preferred the Roxy and Tunde chapters but all in all, they meant nothing to me. I think this was my biggest problem with this story, it wanted to be too many different things, there were too many characters, really there was too much of everything.

I still gave it three stars (more like 2,5 but let’s keep it at 3) because of the “idea”. It was a really good idea switching the power roles and I’m glad she didn’t make the women into heroes. The message I took away is this: People in general lean either towards ‘good’ or ‘bad’. When they get ‘the power’ some will use it to do good things, some will use it to do bad things, some will use it to do no things at all. That’s how humans work. Gender doesn’t matter, it’s the same for all of us.

And yes, I did enjoy that brief moment when it’s the men who feel uncomfortable when they walk home alone at night, afraid they’re being followed, walking a little faster, their heart skipping a beat when they think there’s someone waiting for them in the shadows. Or when they feel angry and frustrated when a woman catcalls them in the street. And I did enjoy it when the women become the stronger ones, but then it all goes to shit.

When the story finally picked up (in the last 80 pages or so) I was beyond caring and then this happened:

(To escape some soldiers two characters throw things at an oil drum so they could use the noise it would make as a distraction)

They risk one single look back to see if the soldiers have tired of the empty oil drum now, to see if they’re after them. They’re not. The drum wasn’t empty. The soldiers are kicking it, and laughing and reaching in to lift out the contents. There were two children in the oil drum. They’re lifting them out. They are perhaps five, or six. They are sobbing, still curled tight into balls as they’re lifted up. Tiny, soft animals trying to protect themselves. A pair of blue trousers frayed at the bottom. Bare feet. A sundress spotted with yellow daisies.
They run on. Those children would never have survived. They might. They would have died there, anyway, of cold and exposure. They might have lived.”

No.

Just.

No.

That’s my daughter right there, a five-year-old little girl, terrified, about to be killed.

No.

That will stay with me and not it a good way.

Even though I was glad to have finished this book, it left me beyond frustrated because after all the (wasted) time I spent reading it, you don’t know what happens to half the characters you’ve been following. You have to make it up for yourself.
Once again, I’m sure some people will love that, not me, not here with this story I’ve struggled to get through. I wanted a reward and I got nothing.

If you’ve read this book, let me know your thoughts. Especially if you liked it, because I want to know if I missed something.. And if you didn’t like it, let’s rant together ;).

 

 

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