The Power by Naomi Alderman / ★★ 1/2
Summary: Women suddenly gain an extraordinary power. They can control, kill, cause extraordinary pain- all with the touch of their hands. As this power is revealed in more and more women, civilization as the world knows it begins to change radically- and not necessarily for the better.
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.
The concept of this book is fascinating, but unfortunately the execution of it just couldn’t grip me. It wasn’t a bad book, it was well written and proposed compelling ideas, but it was all just a little too blatant for me. Too “I know what this book wants me to get out of it.” Nothing about this book surprised me or shocked me, even though it did get gruesome. Nothing about this book was really unexpected, even the twist(s) at the end. I did like how the book was framed though, as a historical novel written in the future about when the Power first came about.
I was engaged with this book at first. It was interesting watching the female characters discover their powers, but then the book seemed to escalate very quickly, which really testing the breaking point of my believability. It’s not that I find this book unbelievable, per say, just that too much happened too soon, and because of that, a lot of it seemed outlandish. I found it difficult to believe that the women of Saudi Arabia would rebel against their government so immediately and so radically, and I think a deeper exploration of culture would have lent a lot to that particular plot point. The cultural aspects of this novel seemed very oversimplified. I found the religious plotline to be overly contrived. Those were the parts that I began to skim first (though I loved the use of the Bible verse from the book of Samuel at the beginning, and how it came back in the end).
I felt like this book could have used a bit more nuance, a bit more depth, and more ambiguity. And, perhaps most importantly, engaging characters. There was a lot going on, and a lot happened in a relatively short span of time, but I still found this book slow to get through and my interest in it waned the farther I read. I skimmed/sped read about the last 100 pages, and while The Power is a book based on a fascinating concept and full of interesting ideas, but it was a bit too pointed for me to actually enjoy it, and by the end I was just bored.
I don’t think my boredom with this book stemmed from the plot, but from the characters. I just…didn’t really care about any of them. None of them won me over particularly, except, perhaps, for the sole male character in the book, Tunde, interestingly enough. Was it because I sympathized with him? Or for him? Jocelyn, too, I sympathized with- a character who had struggles in harnessing her power. It’s interesting, how those with the power I cared for less (especially Margot, the politician, oh my gosh, she bored me to DEATH).
This book is told through multiple points of views, and it’s revealing how my interest in each character’s point of view shifted. How much I liked or disliked a character didn’t necessarily correlate with how much I enjoyed their point of view (I said I liked Tunde best- but some of his chapters had me snoozing). And a particularly interesting point of view by a character didn’t necessarily make me more interested in them. Roxy, a teenage girl from a dangerous family, was the most mixed bag of all. I’d eagerly begin her point of views only to find myself bored, or I’d start them less than enthused and find that I was enjoying myself.
Had this book been stronger in character, I am sure that I would have enjoyed this book a lot more. The plot of the book steered them too pointedly for my taste, and I think because of that I felt they lacked nuance and depth I was hoping for.
I really have nothing to complain about with the writing of this book. It was very well done. While I slogged through a lot of this book, it was a relatively easy read. I wasn’t a big fan of some of the Bible-speak in the prose, but I understood its use. Otherwise, this is a book of quality writing, if not necessarily of the most engaging storytelling.
Was I satisfied?
I wish! This book had a lot of interesting stuff going on and surrounded a fascinating concept, but it’s execution just didn’t do it for me. It was too outlandish and the characters mostly bored me. It was a bit too “nail on the head” and I wish it’d been more thought-provoking. I admit I liked the ending, though. I don’t think this is a bad book, just one that I didn’t enjoy.
I got this book through through the Book of the Month Club, from which you can pick a brand new release every month! If you want to subscribe to Book of the Month, you can use my referral link!