Author: Naomi Alderman
Finished on: 31 July 2017
Where did I get this book: A kindle read
Well I never.
There are books. And then there are books. And this is, most definitely, one of the latter.
When you love reading as much as I do, your ‘favourite books’ somehow become part of your identity. The last time a book made me stop and say, hang on, this is one of the best EVER, it was Jeanette Winterson’s autobiography Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? an experience that prompted an evening of wine, soul-searching and a hand-written spreadsheet to recalibrate the universe, and determine the new top ten.
And this is a book that prompts you to recalibrate the universe, in more ways than one.
I love a high-concept ‘what if’ book. What if everyone became blind? What if the Earth’s population fell asleep for a day?
And now, what if women could shoot electricity from their hands?
This deceptively simple idea gives Alderman a lens through which to examine the ways in which people wield power over each other, largely along gender lines, but also between states and countries. It’s a great idea. And it’s executed spectacularly well.
It is a masterclass in: ok, then what would happen? And then what would happen? And then? And then? We move from the immediate – what if women weren’t afraid of assault from those generally physically stronger anymore?
There is a sort of constant ease, as if it’s high summer all the time
To even bigger questions – how has the implicit threat of violence and superior strength impacted on the lives of women in many ways. Ways small, big, and HUGE?
There us a part in each of us which holds fast to the old truth. Either you are the hunter or you are the prey. Learn which you are. Act accordingly.
One by one Alderman takes assumptions and prejudices, and exposes them to be a catalogue of giant post-hoc rationalisations. This is no diatribe though. It’s an entertaining, easy to read, and often funny read. But you look up from the book, and notice all sorts of things you hadn’t before. This is a story that changes the way the world looks.
On top of the great premise, it is just SO expertly constructed and written. While reading, I found myself half immersed in the story, half in awe at the stunningly good writing and mastery with which Alderman executes this epic tale of change across the globe. She has joined the list of writers whose complete works I will read.
This is a book we will still be reading and studying in schools in 100 years time. And if we’re not, we should be.
The trouble with me as a book reviewer is that I like everything (well, nearly everything). I enjoy the experience of reading the vast majority of books, and I do believe there is always something good to say about them.
But this is something else.
I’d better warn my husband that there will be wine and a spreadsheet tonight.