This book won the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction in 2017. The other shortlisted books were:
- Stay With Meby Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀̀
- The Dark Circleby Linda Grant
- The Sport of Kingsby C.E. Morgan
- First Loveby Gwendoline Riley
- Do Not Say We Have Nothingby Madeleine Thien
I picked it up not just because it was the winner. The premise sounded quite interesting. Imagine the world you live in when all of a sudden girls start to have the power of electricity in them. It is a power which was dormant for a long time, and which has a physical presence in the body in the form of a ‘skein’, a cluster of nerves and muscles around the collarbone.
This is exactly the type of book I would pick up on my own, as I love dystopian/utopian settings. Plus I was interested to see where the whole women empowerment will go.
The main idea of this book is that women had enough abuse from men and somehow this dormant power reawakened. To emphasize this, one of the settings of this book is Moldova, a country plagued by human trafficking. And this roots the whole book in our reality as Moldova is unfortunately the home country of many of the sex workers in the Middle East. Otherwise we see the story unfold both on individual levels, through the eyes of our main women characters and on a global level through the eyes of our male lead, a reporter.
It was interesting to see how the world changed and to witness it on different levels and from different perspectives. But somehow I felt that there were some stories which should have been included or explored in more detail.
So what do you think happens when women suddenly are empowered?
Today women empowerment is a hot discussion topic. We talk of gender equality, a world where women can take determine their own lives, and they can have their own career and generally gain independence. This movement is at different stages depending on where you look on the world map. In countries this is so basic that women fight for the right to literacy. In other countries the battle is more subtle, where we talk of the right to equal salary.
This book takes this battle into a whole new level, it makes it quite physical and violent. Which took me by surprise. I feel that a matriarchy (a world ruled by women) should be a peaceful place. Which is the aim of the women in this book too, but the principle in this book seems to be ‘the end justifies the means’. So it does not matter that the way to a peaceful world is through war and death as long as we get there. I do not agree with this.
It seems like when women took power they have suddenly turned into these vicious bloodthirsty creatures… far worse than men ever were. You would think a society previously plagues by the rape of women would turn away from such violent acts. But no, the women seem to turn into raping and killing machines. Why? Because they can!
‘It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.’
What happens to men in this world? Well… imagine a world full of angry women who had the power of electricity at their beck and call who see men as their enemy and have the mentality of eye for an eye. Gruesome!
So overall, I did not like where things were going.
But it was a fresh take on a dystopian/utopian setting as you normally read these books after the new world situation has stabilized and is about to destabilize again. Here you see the original destabilization, unfolding.
What about the characters? In the beginning I could identify with some of our main women characters. As the story progressed I felt more and more detached and in disbelief of how these women evolved. Does power really change us? Can it really transform us into a whole new person? Crazy!
Here are our main characters:
- Allie, orphan and abuse victim who turns into Mother Eve, a powerful messiah
- Tunde, a reporter and the only male protagonist who documents the unfolding of the new world
- Margot, mother and ambitious politician
- Roxy, a badass girl from a crime family.
What do you think of the fact that the only character I liked was Tunde? I am certainly surprised.
The novel is set somehow similarly to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, as in the story seems to be a research project sent for review from one person to another. I feel that these type of settings distance the readers from the story and its characters. Or maybe it’s just me.
Overall the book is interesting and has many ideas which can lead to heated book club debates.
I felt detached from the characters and I just didn’t agree with how the women empowerment unfolded. It felt scary at times and the scenes were women raped men was shockingly descriptive. I feel that this is a book I should revisit in a couple of years and see is my feelings have changed. I can see why it won the Baileys Women’s Prize. It is a must read!Follow me: