The 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner – The Power; what an interesting and thought provoking book.
Due to an unexplained aberration, teenage girls develop the power to produce electricity through their fingertips, electric shocks can be delivered which can cause pain or death. Girls can pass on this power to some adult women but what is clear is that this power is something most girls are developing in their mid teens. Any that don’t are considered abnormal and feel shame and experience teasing, name calling and shunning. The power balance within society shifts with females being seen as stronger and they become the dominant sex and natural rulers.
This book follows four individuals and through their eyes the reader observes the emergence of the Power. Allie an abused foster child unwittingly becomes leader – Mother Eve. Roxy, one of the first to develop the Power is the daughter of a London crime boss, she has contacts and resources plus an immense amount of Power. Margot is an American Politician, who advocates the acknowledgement and development of the Power rather than the initial mainstream view of segregation and treatment for those affected. Tunde is a young attractive male Nigerian journalist who reports on the Power from very early on and through him we see the change in attitude towards men emerge over time.
Prior to reading I thought this novel was going to be about a gentler, fairer, more balanced society ….if women ruled the world. It really wasn’t that, but rather a reflection on power associated with gender detailing atrocities committed by women, because they could, because they had the power and because of that power they could choose to dominate, control and abuse.
…’Why did they do it, Nina and Darrell?’
And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’
That is the only answer there ever is.
At times the picture portrayed in this book felt bleak, I think because fundamentally power can corrupt and despite best intentions the struggle for equality is so hard. I was surprised to feel shocked reading the abuse of men by women despite knowing abuse of this nature happens all the time in this world by men to women. This book turns everything we currently accept on its head simply by making women physically stronger than men and the result is fascinating, thought provoking and insightful.
This was an excellent contemporary read cleverly written as a piece of historical fiction. Billed as Sci Fi / Dystopia – a genre which is not a preference of mind, however for me this was not too ‘otherworldy’ and felt accessible and engaging to me – a non Sci Fi fan.