The Power by Naomi Alderman

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A few thoughts

The premise is conceptually strong albeit fazed in many images (1)places. The story in itself is replete with question marks, the characters seem to be sketched out of thin air, lacking real life relational dynamics between men and women. At times I also felt how intense and unnecessary the violence was.

I’m confused as to what the motivation for writing this novel was. Was it to explore the nature of power in general or gendered power? Is the author asserting that violence is ingrained within everyone, but the limits to exercise this aggressiveness is dependent on external factors?

Towards the end, countless strands of the story didn’t seem to tie together for a more coherent conclusion. At times I felt the writing turned sloppy, reflecting perhaps the writers own disinterestedness or confusion as to how to wrap up the story.

All in all, the premise seems half-baked, lacking in depth which is why it was unable to drive its message and intention home.

Favourite passages

• The shape of power is always the same; it is the shape of a tree. Root to tip, 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.
• We send electric currents down orderly runs of circuits and switches, but the shape that electricity wants to take is of a living thing, a fern, a bare branch. The strike point in the centre, the power seeking outward
• if she really wanted to she could get out. The knowledge is as good as freedom.
• There was a time when every crevice of this child’s body was Margot’s to clean and care for. It is not OK with her not to know her own child’s strength.
• Eve has made friends in a way Allie has always found difficult. Eve is kind and quiet and watchful, where Allie was spiky and complicated
• A child in danger must learn to pay more attention to the adults than a child loved and cherished.
• She could kill them. That is the profound truth of it
• 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
• It’s just that there’s something exciting about the storm, something that makes you want to join in.
• the true religion is love, not fear
• The scaffold sways as he climbs. It’s not bolted to the walls of this crumbling concrete building. It was lashed with ropes once, but they’ve frayed and rotted, and the strain of his climbing is pulling the fibres apart
• But she likes doing it herself. Feeling the paper under her fingertips. Watching her decisions turn into maths turn into power
• Don’t give reasons; never give reasons. They’ll ask you why you think you lost, but never tell them, they’re trying to back you into criticizing yourself
• The things you don’t want to know, Roxy, those are the things that’ll get you in the end.
• He has written in the scribbled notes for his book: ‘At first we did not speak our hurt because it was not manly. Now we do not speak it because we are afraid and ashamed and alone without hope, each of us alone. It is hard to know when the first became the second.’
• Men are no longer permitted to vote – because their years of violence and degradation have shown that they are not fit to rule or govern
• There is a war slowly spreading in the country, not declared on a single day between well-defined enemies but spreading like measles: first one spot, then two, then three. A war of all against all
• One of them says, ‘Why did they do it, Nina and Darrell?’ And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’ That is the only answer there ever is.
• Their bodies have been rewritten by suffering. They have no fight left. They cannot, in that moment, tell which of them is supposed to be which. They are ready to begin
• The shape of power is always the same: it is infinite, it is complex, it is forever branching. While it is alive like a tree, it is growing; while it contains itself, it is a multitude. Its directions are unpredictable; it obeys its own laws
• The way we think about our past informs what we think is possible today. If we keep on repeating the same old lines about the past when there’s clear evidence that not all civilizations had the same ideas as us…we’re denying that anything can change.


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