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Book Club Reviews

Becky Lees, Arnolfini Bookshop Assistant, reviews The Power by Naomi Alderman on behalf of the Arnolfini Book Club…

“What a read! We normally start off Book Club evenings with general thoughts about the book – just a broad sense of whether people have enjoyed it or not…this discussion started a little differently. There is nothing general you can say about this book other than ‘whoa’. It kind of hits you square in the face and we found ourselves talking about the book, woman’s rights, men, injustice, Rebecca Solnit's 'Men Explain Things to Me', and the importance of books like this. (I should say at this point that the Book Club this month consisted of all females.)

The Power reads as a historical novel recording an alternative universe where teenage girls begin to conduct electricity through a muscle below their necks, resulting in a shift of power between the genders. Not only are women now physically stronger than men, but they are dangerous too and can inflict pain from their fingertips.

The reader follows four main characters – two young girls from different but troubled backgrounds – Allie and Roxy. Margot - a mother of teenage daughters, one of whom awakens the power in her as we see her rise in the political world; and Tunde, a male journalist chasing the news as events unfold. We constantly switch between characters as each chapter focuses on one at a time (with their paths overlapping occasionally), but what makes this title different from other novels formatted this way, for me, is that you never want to skip past a particular character’s section. Frequently, I have found in other books that there are characters I prefer and others I would rather skip through – but not here. Each personal story is gripping and plays an equal share in the plotline. If anyone stands out it is Tunde – for his role is particularly important to gain a male insight in this new woman’s world.

This book is extreme. As a piece of speculative fiction, it takes a concept and really carves out the heart of it. Whilst it begins as quite a fun read, it holds a mirror up to our own world in a brutal, honest and intense portrayal. As women become the dominate sex in this world, there are those who abuse that power and treat men horrifically. The scenes are truly shocking to read…and yet similar (if not, worse) things are happening to women in the real world we live in. We are reminded here that we should not be numb to what is happening around the globe.

During our Book Club discussion, we realised that women are still on a long road. It is easy in this society to think we have equality and to even feel like we don’t have the right to ask for more but there is so much more to be done. What’s shocking is that in little ways we can all share examples of gender inequalities in our own day to day lives and I certainly came away from the night thinking more needs to be changed.

On a personal note, I find books like The Power equally enjoyable as they are frustrating. Because it moved me, it stirred up strong beliefs in me about important global issues but I’m not quite sure how I can practically help solve these problems. I wish titles like these came with a list of bullet points at the end of what I can do next – but I fear it is not as simple as that. However, this time was different – my feelings were shared with the Book Club members and there is power in being together in that.

My next steps are to get a man to read The Power and find out his male perspective of the novel. And I’m buying a copy of Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit and seeing where that takes me…

This book isn’t about hating on men, it is about anger towards people who have power and abuse it.”

-Becky Lees.

Find out more by joining the Arnolfini Bookclub Facebook group.

Saturday 21 September 2019 to Sunday 22 September 2019, 21:00 to 01:00


A night of big bass tunes from Booty Bass; celebrating womxn and non binary folk behind the decks and pon di ...