This novel won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, and with good reason. Alderman has written a sci-fi novel unlike any other that I have read before. Rather than a battle between humanity and extra-terrestrial, or one with futuristic technologies set far in the future, she has developed an alternative reality in which women are more powerful than men. The novel is bookended by conversations between a male historian, who has been researching evidence that men used to have more power, and his female editor who describes his book as shocking, and even suggests he should publish under a female pseudonym.
At the age of 14 or 15 young women around the world are experiencing a new sensation, and a power has awoken within them, they are now able to shock other people. They are then able to develop this power in other older women. As this new power is awoken across the globe we follow four protagonists; Allie, Roxy, Tunde, and Margot. Throughout the novel we follow the rise of each of these characters to positions of power. Allie becomes the leader of a new movement, taking on a role as Mother Eve. Roxy joins the movement and is one of the most powerful women in the world, but returns to her London gangland roots. Margot is a politician, initially hiding her power so she doesn’t alienate her electorate, but then rising through the system. Although being male, Tunde becomes a world respected journalist, having managed to gain the trust of women around him, and developing this into trust in most women. Over the course of ten years these characters introduce to the new world in which men are scared of women, and the gender power balance has dramatically shifted.
This novel is excellent, a page turner throughout which you are constantly confronted with imagery that reflects the male dominated society that we live in. Female led revolutions in Riyadh and Delhi highlight the current situations regarding rape culture and misogyny. Alderman has crafted a novel about female empowerment that is intriguing, absorbing and brilliant. I think, however, that the real point that she makes, is that power is abused regardless of who holds it.