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The Power
400 pages; Little, Brown and Company
Naomi Alderman's provocative novel, which won this year's Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, has a compelling, wildly original concept: Women discover that they possess the ability to deliver electric shocks. As the scenario plays out around the globe with a handful of characters—including a Nigerian reporter, an American politician and the daughter of an English mobster—the patriarchy gets satisfyingly demolished. One young woman, Mother Eve, claims holy wisdom, and a horde of women are ready to join her and start their own nation. "We can let men go their own way. ... We can make a new path," Eve proclaims. Naturally, plenty of zapping ensues. Yet, just as Margaret Atwood does in her dystopian fictions, Alderman is sensitive to the ways that attempts to control society get quickly messy. The novel has the briskness of a thriller, but it's also a sensitive study of just how corrosive power is, regardless of who wields it.
— Mark Athitakis