Have you ever wondered what a world in which teenage girls and then women are the ones with the power and the strength? And what might become of society? Or felt a little burst of lightning between your finger tips? Well, wonder no more. Naomi Alderman’s near-future dystopia is a rollicking, fantastical ride into the heart of a society thrown upside down by the power being transferred between genders. It is hugely entertaining, with heavy doses of (not always that subtle) insight into the relationship between men & women, and the effect of that being inverted.
It’s brilliantly done, right from the off, with a well-drawn engaging list of characters whose lives begin to intersect: the girl escaping abusive foster parents; the daughter of a London gangster; the African video-journalist; the wife of an East European dictator; and the American politician (and her daughter). Their different journeys and narrative arcs swoop across the book effortlessly, and Alderman does a cracking job of keeping the pace high and the flow of ideas constant. There is more fizz here, more energy and crackle, than so many muted modern books which seem to retell the same stories with interchangeable romantic leads and landscapes.
At times, it veers close to the absurd, and the coincidences begin to pile up a bit by the end, but I forgave it most of that because I was caught up in the headlong rush and excitement. There is also a neat-ish framing which similarly inverts our authorial expectations and, again, of gender and power. Suffice to say that, if you’re in a book club, there will be *plenty* to talk about. Highly recommended.
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