In Naomi Alderman’s Baileys Prize shortlisted The Power, girls across the world discover they have a power that is located across their collarbone, in their ‘skein’, giving them the ability to discharge electric shocks. As the awareness of this spreads, and girls awaken it in women, society is turned on its head.
The premise of The Power defamiliarizes current global socio-political norms. Demonstrating the constraints and violence men would be subjected to if gender inequality was reversed is an effective device. Alderman does this with some astute use of language by referring to men in the way women are often referred to, highlighting how damaging language can be. She depicts men becoming hyper-aware of their physical vulnerability as they go about their daily lives, showing how this affects their autonomy and sense of self. This all comes to a head in some brutal rapes and murder of men by women, violations stemming from and feeding back into social norms that consolidate their ‘power’ over men.
It shouldn’t need pointing out that women are humans too. We shouldn’t need a narrative where men are subjugated to make us realise the extent of gender inequality, violence and femicide. But sadly, recent events have shown that we urgently need this kind of book. The Power is a brilliant and adroit page-turner that should be read by everyone and should be on the syllabus in every school. It’s the kind of book that can change the world.