I’ve been looking forward to sinking my teeth into this book since I first spotted it’s shiny, red, propaganda style cover. The novel has stormed the book charts, snapped up the women’s prize for fiction and been hailed a modern triumph in the press. Flipping gender power dynamics in a sharp twist of narrative, Naomi Alderman explorers what would happen if women had unrivalled physical power.
In the start of the book it’s discovered that young girls are developing the ability to produce lightning. Boys are shocked in schools, people who have been trafficed into slavery are frying their captors and young women are militarized into weapons. The novel follows 4 major characters as the world tries to come to grips with this new reality.
The bestules of power and influence: religion and politics are examined, as well as censorship and our perception of criminality. Women rewrite the world in their image and we watch on as good intentions begin to turn to ash and violence. I was initially concerned that this book may slide into the territory of portraying women triumphing over men and everyone being obnoxiously happy with themselves. I was pleased to find it to be a slightly more balanced portrayal as the novel counts down to Armageddon.
It really made me consider the concept of power and explores the motivations behind atrocities and political decision making. Would women make better choices as world leaders, or would they fall into the same traps as their male counterparts, waging war in foreign lands and taking bribes from crime syndicates? Is rape predominantly carried out by men because they’re normally more able to physically dominate. If women were suddenly able to easily overpower men would sexual assausts on men become equally rife?
I found it an interesting and well executed read that juggles some complex ideas in a way that works. It feels more an exploration than an adventure which leads to an ending with less punch than might be expected of a different style. Overall an enjoyable and relevant novel which gives a taste of what women experience from a new perspective. I could feel the Atwood influence woven into Alderman’s direct style. Great character building and humour throughout, which is definitely needed after some of the darker scenes. I love it, but I can see that it might present challenges for some readers particularly with some of the events that take place in prodominently Muslim countries. It also carries with it a flashing neon trigger warning for rape, child abuse, sexual assault and violence which some may find upsetting.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!