November 01, 2017

Emma Watson picks Naomi Alderman's 'The Power' for Our Shared Shelf

Our next book will be a speculative fiction novel called The Power by Naomi Alderman, winner of the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. The book asks a question we might have all asked at one time: what would the world be like if women were in charge?

In the book, teenage girls all over the world begin to develop the ability to do harm by transmitting electricity through their fingertips. News spreads quickly over social media and soon the girls are teaching older women how to harness their dormant powers. In a few short years, gender roles are reversed and the world is run by women. As governments are toppled, a new woman’s republic is born, and there’s a single new religion led by a cult leader called Mother Eve.

The book follows four main characters: Tunde, a male journalist who is following the emerging stories, and three women with new found powers, Roxy, Allie and Margot. Their paths cross as the world is heading into political and religious turmoil.

Alderman challenges the cliché that women are more noble than men, and that a world run by women would be more gentle, with benevolent leaders and no war. In fact, women become power hungry and begin to repress men. They commit war atrocities, perform male genital mutilation, rape and maim for sport and kill to occupy land.

With power dynamics reversed, the women don’t choose a righteous path - they act no better than men who have abused power throughout history. I think Alderman’s point is that people who abuse, do so because they can.

Alderman presents the main part of the book as an early manuscript of an historical novel, written thousands of years in a future where women still rule, by a male novelist ‘Neil Armon’. Through letter exchanges between Neil and his mentor, a female writer called ‘Naomi’, we see a world where men’s worth is only in their looks and ‘men’s literature’ isn’t taken as seriously as women’s. This is a really clever literary device which highlights how absurd rigid gender roles are.

Neil thinks he can prove that women weren’t always the ones in positions of power, but Naomi can’t see how the history books would lie. Neil’s reality is one where men’s contributions to history have been misattributed, or even stolen, by women.

This made me think about the fact that history was written by those who held the power. It also made me think about how the distribution of power and gender roles throughout history often seems arbitrary, and how they could have perhaps ended up very differently.

I’m excited to hear what you all make of the novel.

Emma and the Our Shared Shelf team


Anonymous said...

God, her consistent pandering to men in relation to feminism drives me crazy. I get that HFS is technically supposed to involve men,’s not working?

We can talk about feminism without constantly having to twist it around and make it about the benefit of men.

Anonymous said...

Young contemporary fiction author.

Nice change up from Emma, good to see.

George Little said...

it needs a prophet and pelicular conditions to make a religion. Like a context of fear and physical needs that Humanity experienced in the beginning

Anonymous said...

she isn't "pandering". She's presenting a book that speculates how things would hv been if everything around gender roles and power were reversed.
Also, stories or books that use our present condition to reverse the entire narrative make me realise just how absurd and stupid and horrible our present condition is-when its put in a different context. So i think its a good choice.

Anonymous said...

How is a book like that pandering? Women are put down in some way and put on pedestals in others. Women arent inherently good, thats a sexist assumption. A book about how its about human nature and power and inherent gender qualities is a good feminist book.
How would that book even be to the benefit of men? It shows the dominance of one group (and this isnt only confined to gender but race or social class) is bad.

Putting only women in power wont solve the problems at all. Good for Emma for understandung that.

Alex said...

You're absolutely right, Emma, women gained too much power. Poor Weinstein, poor Dustin Hoffman Kevin Spacey and others. Sad, sad consequences of girls' power... I'm joking

Anonymous said...

Woah wouldnt have expected such a harmless book to trigger people so hard. Then again we get 460+ comments talking about if an old lady is her boyfriend.
The Gone Girls author talked about this benevolent sexism too. That you cant really write evil women. Or look how Wonder Woman has to be this ultimate good woman. A side effect from less female representation (and some overzealous feminists tbh) but it harms story telling about women. Women are 3D beings. Good, bad and everything in between.
I like that Emma keeps doing this. Other celebs only want to sell your crap.

Rumble said...

I thought the ppl discussing abt the old lady being her boyfriend were fucking around, but it actually got serious in btwn. :DDD
The "overzealous feminists", i think, are just fellow feminist women who hv gotten tired and so frustrated with how women are seen, treated and represented, and so, only want good representation or cleancut women as some form of wish fulfillment or so that nobody would put down/unfairly criticize female characters or female driven plots. I get them. I know that feeling.
But really, now there r quite a few shows and plays with diverse women and interesting & honest characterisation. We still hv a long way to go, though.

Anonymous said...

What is this about dustin hoffmann? No body can be accusing this good man of anything. I just wonder why the women had to wait - some of them for 10 to 20 years before their yawn becomes loud. I am not protecting Weinstein, but these women could have stopped a lot of evil by saying it straight when it happened. Screw the career.

Anonymous said...

Is she striving to become the bookshelf princess? I decide what I read. When is her next movie.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds pathetic, and I am a woman. Too generic that suddenly a world is run by women. Get mature!

Anonymous said...

"I like that Emma keeps doing this. Other celebs only want to sell your crap"

"The "overzealous feminists", i think, are just fellow feminist women who hv gotten tired and so frustrated with how women are seen, treated and represented, and so, only want good representation "

Agree with you both, i think Emma approaches it in a much better way but ironically she takes a lot more heat from other feminists than anything else. Just recently she had tweeted about the Weinstein investigation to which her first tweet talked about how she supported the women that had come forward and was proud of them for doing so.

She then tweeted again explaining further that she supported any men who had been the victims of rape or sexual assault themselves but made it clear this particular case was about the women involved. I thought what she did was spot on and didnt put one sex over the other when it comes to rape and assault.

It didnt stop certain feminists though from whining about her adding the second tweet even though she was doing it for clarification so that she wasnt excluding any particular sex. Kudos to her.

Eden said...

"What is this about dustin hoffmann? No body can be accusing this good man of anything. I just wonder why the women had to wait - some of them for 10 to 20 years before their yawn becomes loud. I am not protecting Weinstein, but these women could have stopped a lot of evil by saying it straight when it happened. Screw the career"

Pretty sure for most of them if not all it had nothing to do with losing their careers. It had to do with fear to go against powerful men and shame. They definitely don't need people like you to make it worst for them, it's hard enough for them as it is.

Anonymous said...

Well if you read articles, the loss of career was given as reason to be quiet.

On another note, men are also abused by women. There are men who are beaten to death by women. There I agree with Emma that as a feminist one has to live in mutual respect for one another. I know she did not say this, but the meaning is there.

Anonymous said...

Since nothing in upcomg film with Emma, I just wanted to mention my favorite of the trio, Ruper Grint's series Sick Note and Snatch are getting a second season. Snatch will be on UK TV. Germany has also picked up the series- can't wait.Instruments of Darkness is completed. I am all out of breath in Rupert's sudden surge. Now Mel Gibson needs to choose him for Beserker.

Anonymous said...

I think its sad that Emma got flack for tweeting also about men. As we saw lots of men got abused too. Spacey only abused men as far as we know and Terry Crews a HUUUUGE muscle packed dude was also grabbed. If they saw that some people dont want to aknowledge that men are victims too they could have felt that they have no right to speak up.
For men there is even more shame, even more when a man is molesting them. No need to get angry. It is better to be inclusive. No one gets hurt by that.

Anonymous said...

There r men abused/raped, etc. Its not any better or worse for them. The problem is when men r raped, if they come out they r seen as weak and unmasculine and r shamed by many, because of the equation of vulnerability to femininity, femininity to weakness. There's a lot of stigma. To be honest, there is a consistent record of feminists standing by and helping with the cases for male sexual abuse victims when MRAs and other ppl say shit like, "they must hv enjoyed it", etc, etc.

When women come out, they are blamed, shamed, and not believed by many/most.

Another main difference: The threat of violence and sexual abuse is a daily thing for women. The threat becomes an inherent part of our lives, at a point, and never goes away. When we step out of- and in some cases, even-in our homes, the need to protect ourselves from unwelcome attention, abuse, violence is ingrained in us from a young age. It never leaves you.

For (cis, straight) men, violence against men is plain violence against men. It is abhorrent and horrible.

However, what it signifies is different from wht violence against women is indicative of.

Anonymous said...

Sexual harassment and rape is an evil act against men an women. There are people out there who are incapable of love, or rather love is a power thing. Does anyone remember Mary of the Knots- something like that. Like in the Gordian knots, evil was not smashed, Mary though put the dragon on a leash and led it around like a pet. What I am saying, we need to dare to counter violence with gentleness. I am not a dreamer, but obviously the other way does not work. Look at our world and people like Weinstein and other perverts- men or women.

Anonymous said...

Its bad timing to choose this book. It is a false equivalance. Men are the problem as you can see not women. Women would do a lot better than men.

Anonymous said...

This book is not smart, childish. does she plan on acting again. What happened to the person who had a script with Emma watson?

Anonymous said...

Anything about Emma, Eden?

George Little said...

i'am 10% of the book
except the beginning, there is no much domination or action

Anonymous said...

This book is pathetic!

Ross Taggart said...

The book is a great and nice change of pace from the material we have had next time who knows what we will have but this was a very thought-provoking story the idea that as men and women are equal they would under the same circumstances behave in much the same way. Which best illustrates why we need equality if we truly make things better.

Anonymous said...

The best is louisa Erdrich with The Future Home of the Living God- Now that is true literature. Erdrich is a superb writer.

Ross Taggart said...

Feel free to join anon and suggest the book. Emma selects a book very two months for us to discus and review.