Naomi Alderman's 'The Power' wins Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

What would the world look like if women were the dominant gender, rather than other way round – as it was for thousands of years? This is the question posed by Naomi Alderman in her fourth novel, The Power.

It all starts when some teenage girls suddenly develop the ability to release electrical jolts from their fingers, causing agonising pain and even death to whoever happens to be on the wrong end of the discharge. Video clips of girls electrocuting men quickly spread over the Internet and spontaneous outbursts of energy in a few adolescent female individuals quickly progress into the realisation of collectively possessed capability as more and more girls and young women learn how to harness this strange new power and teach also their older peers of the same gender how to use it. Men start to give teenage girls a wide berth on the pavement and boys are segregated into single-sex schools for their own safety. The strange phenomenon is blamed on an unknown new virus, nerve gas, an anti-male conspiracy, even witchcraft – but whatever the underlying reason of the bizarre female ability, it is assumed that a solution will be found soon and the ‘normal’ balance of power between the sexes restored. But the unexpected gender revolution seems to be unstoppable: The victims of sex traffickers turn on their abusers; oppressed women in male-dominated countries, such as Saudi Arabia and India, free themselves from their predicament; armies become all-female, exploiting and harnessing girls’ natural aggression; and sexual violence now flows in the opposite direction.

The dystopian world of the novel is a familiar place with instantaneously recognisable four main characters: Allie, an abused American foster kid, who makes the best of the situation by reinventing herself as faith leader ‘Mother Eve’; Roxy, a Londoner and the daughter of a local crime kingpin, who embraces her newly found ability with a great enthusiasm; Tunde, a Nigerian journalist reporting on this unforeseen global change, and along the way discovering what it’s like to be an attractive young man in a woman’s world; and Margot, an American up-and-coming politician, who realises that the real source of power lies in strength rather than authority.

The book can be read on two conjoined levels: On the surface, casual readers find a classic dystopian science fiction story. But for the thorough audience, there is also the more nuanced thought-provoking sub-level, dealing with such subjects as origins of authority, legitimacy and power in human society.

The novel, which won the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, is set to be turned into a long-running, global television series, after the TV rights to Naomi Alderman’s work were acquired by Jane Featherstone, founder of Sister Pictures – co-producers of ITV's crime drama television series Broadchurch, in an 11-way auction.

The Power by Naomi Alderman was published by Viking Press and is available in paperback and e-book formats for between £4.99 - £6.99.

TRIVIA: Naomi Alderman came up with the idea for ‘The Power’ while going through a break-up of her own personal relationship.