It's a few days until the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction is announced! And though I didn't manage to read all the books - which will be explained in a future review - I'm taking these last few days to reviews the books of the long and short list that I did read.
After Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman. Both are now on the short list and are in the running to win the Baileys Prize this week.
The Power takes place in a future world where teenage girls suddenly realise they have the ability to send a sort of electric shock to people. This power varies from girl to girl, but it means that suddenly girls are the stronger sex and are able to overpower men whenever they want to. This changes the dynamic of the world and overthrows gender relationships as we know it.
Naomi Alderman follows several narrators; Roxy, the daughter of a thug whose power makes her rise among the ranking of her father's business; Tunde, a boy who travels around the world reporting on the events invoked by the power; Margot, a mayor who discovers that her daughter possess the power and is torn between her position and her loyalty to her family; and Allie, one of the most powerful girls in the novel who explores the relationship between the power and religion. While I often struggle with several narrators, I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. We follow them over a long period of time and really get to know them and the changes the power brings into their lives. As expected, this is different for every single girl, and boy, and it is interesting to see how these teenagers are influenced.
The author really manages to show a complex dimension of gender relationships. So much of our current society is based on the fact that men are inherently physically stronger, or feel stronger, than women. They feel powerful and women often feel scared - for example, we don't want to walk alone in the dark or feel uncomfortable if someone is following us. By making all teenage girls stronger than any man, Alderman explores how this influences the psyche of men and women. As expected, this is turbulent and I was pleased that this novel never showed an utopia view of this reverse society. In any society where somewhere has significantly more strength than someone else, issues will occur and the women make some dramatic changes throughout the years.
While I enjoyed the concept and character development of this novel, the writing didn't grip me like the writing of Stay With Me did. I can imagine a lot of people prefer The Power because of its innovative and original concept, but I still can't shake the feelings Stay With Me gave me. Personally, The Power veered on being too simplistic at times for me and there were certain parts which I wish were fleshed out or described more.
Overall, The Power is a fascinating read. Its plot is extremely interesting and fascinating and I could not stop reading this book once I picked this up. Anyone who reads this will really start to think about the gender dynamics and how our society works right now and how we could make it work better. Though maybe not my personal favourite, this book is extremely important and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction winner for 2017.