What if women ran the world?

It’s a question I ponder often, because obviously I’m a raging misandrist. But Naomi Alderman has done so much more than ponder in her latest novel, The Power, which I cannot stop thinking about. 

This. Book. Is. So. Fucking. Clever.

I sat in silence for several long minutes after closing the last page. Unsure of what just happened to me. Because boy did it happen. It was an experience.

And to think – I didn’t want to read it! It’s not the sort of thing I’d ever pick up. I don’t really read “magic” stuff (I’m not sure what genre this would fall into. Science fiction, maybe?)

But my good friends at Volume recommended it for the Rebel Girl Reads book challenge, and my flatmate Michelle loved it. So I thought I needed to at least try.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that I felt addicted to. That I wanted to devour, and at the same time preserve, because each page was precious and could never again be read for the first time. I was desperate to finish it, and at the same time I couldn’t stand the thought of it ending.

I don’t like the overused term “page-turner” or the, even worse, nongrammatical “unputdownable,” and yet here I am, stuttering through clichés.

This book is the antidote to a lot the nonfiction I’ve been reading recently, which has been basically an endless march of domestic violence statistics, discussions of rape culture, and necessary but difficult analysis of the world’s treatment of women.

If any book at all were to reconvince me of the vital role fiction plays in both private and public discourse, it would be this one. I think it can be easy to forget that “fiction” isn’t a synonym for “just for fun.” It does something. It means something. Sometimes it can accomplish things nonfiction can’t, simply because it can gain access to spaces nonfiction doesn’t. I know a lot of people who wouldn’t read anything to do with feminism – but they’d read this, which is undeniably a feminist text.

There’s not a lot further I can say without spoiling the story. The basic premise is this: women develop a power. A strong, physical power that men do not have. The book is set 5,000 years from now, but looking back – so the events are based today. Naomi Alderman answers the question – what would happen if women did develop such a power? How would the world respond? What would change? Even more interestingly, what would stay the same?

Alderman has clearly done a lot of research and a lot of thinking and there’s parts of the story that are very challenging (TW for rape scenes), but all of it is utterly believable. I was transported. And I didn’t really want to come back.

Naomi Alderman has accomplished something truly unique and immeasurable. I am empowered for having been part of it.