Nope, not for me, overt feminism in a surface level only way

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not for me. A clever idea which I can appreciate but the narrative felt detached, way too preachy and a lot of – oh look isn’t this horrible/shocking/perverse and yet men do this to women “all the time” – kind of over the top feminism.

The story jumped too much, I think perhaps it would work better in a visual medium as it had a reportage style to it and I would just get interested in one person’s story before it would then switch without warning to someone else. In addition, I didn’t find all of the character’s stories compelling, I found the male viewpoint more interesting – perhaps that was a deliberate choice – and some of the others were just tedious.

In another review, the author of that has likened this to reading like the script for a TV series box set and I’d have to agree with that.

I’m also reminded of the scenes where the women in Saudi Arabia, possibly one of the world’s most repressed in a patriarchal society, gain The Power and suddenly embrace all of what’s generally considered to be the freer “Western world” culture by going out and having sex with strangers. It felt a little bit insensitive and perhaps misunderstanding of the Islamic culture to make an assumption that it is only male repressive behaviour which stops them from going out on a “free love” kick. I suspect that’s not the case at all.

The book raises questions and then lets the reader draw their own conclusions which is, on the one hand a tried and tested method of writing, but at the same time is increasingly frustrating when a narrative ends with no conclusion. The affectation of having the book “wrapped” as a manuscript being sent to someone else and it all being from a male perspective also just rubbed me up the wrong way.

I think, like this author’s mentor Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, The Power is a case of “it’s probably not the book, it’s me” as I felt absolutely no desire to pick it up and continue reading it but as it was my book club’s choice to read, I dislike not finishing a book.

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Siege of Krishnapur is one of my all time favourite novels

The Siege Of KrishnapurThe Siege Of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had to study this for my A level and it was one of the few fictional books that I’ve had to dissect which still came out as one of my favourite books.

There are so many amazing moments in this book that it’s difficult to know which to pick out but the incident on the stairs will remain with me for my lifetime I know.

The characters are believable, the setting is, obviously, historically realistic and the outcome of the novel is an acceptable conclusion which demonstrates perfectly the flaws of the old British Empire and how the decline began in the Indian Raj.

Events in the book are both brutal and also hilarious, the mix between these two elements makes the horrific incidents even more shocking and, in George Fleury, Farrell has created a character who isn’t so much a hero as a man forced by circumstance to up his game and turn his back on the dandified British officer background he comes from when things come to a head as the Sepoys mutiny, taking the local populace with them.

The other characters are portrayed as superficial, everything exists within the vacuum created by the sieging natives and yet life goes on as normal for this section of the elite and their servants.

Farrell makes no mention of those involved in the uprising, they are kept as a faceless mass of seething anger and hatred and this helps to prolong the feeling that those stuck inside Krishnapur’s British compound were also ignorant of the native population and what effect the Raj was having on their country and their existence.

Having said that, Farrell was a supremely talented author and, in spite of their flaws and their self-absorbing and self-serving nature, you do want to see them survive and get back home to Blighty.

He finishes off the novel with a sucker punch, none of those involved who survive appear to have learnt their lessons at all, they return to other parts of the Empire with the same attitudes of superiority and condescension they brought back from India.

It’s a supremely well written book and a deserved winner of the 1974 Booker Prize. It’s also part of his Empire trilogy of books looking at the breakdown in the British Empire alongside Troubles (set in Ireland and also a winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize of 1970) and The Singapore Grip.

That his talent was lost at such a relatively early age when he drowned while fishing off the coast of Ireland aged only 44, is a real blow.

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