Book review: Power by Naomi Alderman

In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there’s a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power – they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

Goodreads book synopsis calls Naomi Alderman’s Power extraordinary, and yet, I cannot bring myself to call the novel something other than average. Or maybe a bit more than average.

Naomi Alderman does deliver an intriguing concept. At a certain point in time women become powerful – all of a sudden, the bodies of young girls all around the world can produce electricity. All the babies are born with it. The older women get the power from younger ones… The world is turned upside down, all the concepts of male-dominated societies go crashing down as women get the chance to fight back against opression.

The book follows a set of characters. Allie’s power comes through as her foster father is raping her. She kills the man and runs off, ending up in a covent and all of a sudden becoming a prophet of a female God. Btw, Allie hears a voice in her head that keeps driving her actions. Roxy is an illegitimate child of a British mob boss, her power comes through the moment enemies of her father come to kill her mother. Margot is an American politician, who receives the power from her teenage daughter Jos. Tunde is a Nigerian kid who becomes a journalist and a keen observer of the events that changed the world.

 

At some points towards the end of the novel I found myself skipping pages as the storylines got me questioning more and more how did Power get a 4* average on Goodreads. It’s hard not to question how so many readers got this book so wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Naomi Alderman’s writing IS good, but is not exceptional. At least not just yet. She depicts violence against women, she depicts violence committed against men, she writes about rape and abuse, about drugs, about power and the ways it corrupts people. Some part of the storylines reminded me of bad fanfiction. Power is ok, but it definitely isn’t a book that deserves another read.

Overall grade: 3*

Book review: Power by Naomi Alderman

Book recommendation: The Silence of the Sea by Vercors

This isn’t a review as such, because reviewing something that was written during the war by a member of the French Resistance is inappropriate. Imprinting your vision or opinion on something that was written by a witness is, in my view, utterly inappropriate.

The Silence of the Sea is exactly the story that would have been branded as inappropriate in our parts of the world. Some places in Eastern Europe are still obsessed by their vision of history, the glorified past washed to the shining bone… Germans were bad. The Soviets were victims. Sometimes the Soviets are branded as the only victims. A disdainful opinion “What do they, the Westerners, know of war?” is still heard all too often. Education is to blame, and not the lack thereof. The ones that are a decade older than myself have studied World War II in great many details during the history and literature classes. Instead of being taught reason – that war isn’t black and white, that the ones that are dragged into it aren’t always good or bad – many, many people from the former USSR were taught that the Germans were the big bad wolf. A short story about a good German is something too fantastical to be true for many conservative minds. This is what the Silence of the Sea is in fact.

It is a story about a girl and her elderly uncle, living in a small provincial town invaded by the Germans. Werner von Ebrennac is a German officer that they are forced to host in their own home. In an act of resistance, the French family treats the foreigner, the despicable Nazi with silence… Werner – the well-mannered, cultured and respectful officer does all the talking, and as his monologues unfold we learn that still and silent waters hold secrets…

I recommended this short story to a Ukrainian friend some years ago. When I saw her the next day, she said: “I hate you. I cried” 

Book recommendation: The Silence of the Sea by Vercors

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

“We need never be hopeless because we can never be irreparably broken.”

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

 One of the great mysteries of life is why Paper Towns movie happened before Looking for Alaska, because John Green’s Looking for Alaska is an emotional hurricane-of-a-novel.One that claws at your heart and makes it bleed…

Looking for Alaska is a young adult novel, a genre that I try to avoid since the moment I saw the sacrilegious mentions of Harry Potter in reading lists recommending teenage angst. Green is, however, an exception. Some books transcend genre and readership categorization, and Looking for Alaska, I believe is one of them. The man tore my heart to shreds with Fault in Our Stars, and sent me on a real detective adventure looking for Margo. In his debut novel, Green tells the story of the people who shine too brightly to linger in this world for too long, the guilty ones, the ones who search for meaning and understanding, ones who learn and become different.  The after part is devastating and somewhat savage in its beauty.

Overall: 5*

Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Review: Hare with Amber Eyes

From Japan to Paris, through Vienna and back to Japan. In his memoir entitled The Hare with Amber Eyes Edmund de WaalScreenshot 2015-02-15 21.53.45 recounts the fascinating family saga that surrounded 264 netsuke, traditional Japanese figurines that were given to his great grandfather on his wedding day…

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Review: Hare with Amber Eyes

Review: Red Queen

How did I hear about the Red Queen? I saw the pretty cover with a crown that dripped blood on Tumblr. A book by the cover… all part of the 2015 reading challenge.

I read 2 chapters and stopped to Google review, thinking something so plain cannot be that hype-worthy, moreover, I sensed a theme. Oppressed reds, powerful “superhuman” Silvers, swords and technology. All too similar to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising to feel truly original. While I found the beginning of Red Rising overwhelming, it was so much so, that you could imagine the world of the characters quite vividly, if not completely. Eighty pages through, I couldn’t even remotely say the same of the Red Queen.

 Reds are poor and unexceptional. Those who become apprentices and learn a craft, can help their families lead a decent existence. Those who can’t find their place are set to join the army on their 18th birthday. That’s exactly the reason Mare Barrow gets in trouble in the first place – she doesn’t have an apprenticeship, and she steals. Her friend’s mentor dies, so Mare convinces her sister, the one that is destined to pull the family from financial misery, to help her get into the city of the Silvers (Silvers are a sort of higher-being. The perfect men and women, strong, graceful, smart… They also happen to have X-men style superpowers ) to steal some of their stuff, to help pay the smugglers to get her and the friend out of the city. The plan goes wrong. Very wrong.

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Review: Red Queen

Grisha trilogy: lighting up the house

Tumblr book recommendations have recently become somewhat of a habit. After Deathless photosets brought me to one of my all-time favorite books and Code Name Verity became one of the books that made my reading year, it was the time to start the Grisha Trilogy. The series that looked quite promising, sported some of the most beautiful cover artwork around and for some reason was called just like a pet name for George, only in Russian. Okay, okay… I’ll contain my Russian-knowing snobbishness…

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Grisha trilogy: lighting up the house