A new world order: The Power by Naomi Alderman
“The shape of power is always the same; it is the shape of a tree. Root to top, central trunk branching and re-branching, spreading wider in ever-thinner, searching fingers. The shape of power is the outline of a living thing straining outward, sending its fine tendrils a little further, and a little further yet.”
If there’s one book you should read this year, it’s The Power. Hailed as “a classic of the future” it imagines a world where girls can kill with a flick of their fingers.
Naomi Alderman’s dystopian thriller won this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction – the first fantasy novel to scoop the prestigious award. The chair of judges, Tessa Ross, praised it as “bold, accessible and beautifully written”.
At the centre of the book is the question of what would happen if women had the power to cause death and destruction. Alderman is interested in whether girls are innately peaceful and nurturing – or if this is simply an expectation artificially imposed on us by society as soon as we exit the birth canal. This re-drawing of gender lines is told from the perspective of four characters whose lives become entangled: Allie, a teenage runaway who becomes a faith leader; Margot, an ambitious US senator; Roxy, the daughter of a London gangster; and Tunde, a young Nigerian student who chronicles the new world order. Through them, we discover the ways in which women exert their newfound control.
It’s no surprise that Alderman chose to explore these timely ideas; she was lucky enough to be mentored by the high priestess of feminist sci-fi, Margaret Atwood (she even dedicated the book to Atwood and her husband). Like her teacher, Alderman employs a thrilling narrative to illuminate and re-think the world around us. And she believes that she owes much of her success to girl power. Accepting her prize, she said that “The Women’s Movement has made my life possible. Women writers have changed my life.”
Since her win, the prolific author has been popping up at literary events and festivals all over the UK. Meanwhile, The Power’s charge shows no sign of lessening: it’s currently being adapted for TV by Sister Pictures (co-producers of hit show Broadchurch) after an 11-way auction. And if the recent success of The Handmaid’s Tale is anything to go by, there’ll be a ready-made audience waiting. With Alderman on board as chief writer, it’s bound to be electric.
For further information about the author visit the Naomi Alderman website here.