Monday, October 23, 2017

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

This has a bright pink cover and I thought it would be some sort of feminist call to arms. It's not. It's a boarding school story. It's about friendship (female friendship), finding yourself, grief, the impact of anorexia on the family, grief and loss. And guilt. I expect with grief there is always guilt.

I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I was deeply suspicious that it would turn out to be a tacky slasher killer book. It wasn't. It was warm, and tender, but I felt like I had to search for those feelings. Because I was concerned where it would go I couldn't fully sink into it. If I read it again I think I'd appreciate it much more.

I wasn't impressed enough to seek out other Cat Clarke books, but if I see another in a charity shop I'd give it a whirl. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Power by Naomi Alderman

I had high hopes for this book and I was sorely dissapointed.

The premise is that women one day develop this electric power. It starts in teenage girls then is passed to older women. This overturns the status quo of all societies and in the end there is a cataclysm.

The book starts with letters between a male author and a fenale editor (or possibly friend) discussing his manuscript. This is 5000 years in the future, post cataclysm when there is very little historical evidence of life before the cataclysm. The manuscript is the novel and it attempts to explain how women got the power and how the events that led to world wide disaster unfolded.  The book ends with further letters discussing the merits and plausability of the novel.

My issue with the book is I don't see the point of it. It's themes are that power corrupts and that the female gender are just as capable of violence as the male gender.

To me, this is an obvious point and it doesn't need a full book to make it.  The letters between author and editor/friend are enough to make this point.  It would have been a far more effective book if it was just letters between the author and editor/friend.

A few scenes in the book were difficult to read - these were mostly those that showed how power went to the women's heads and the structural inequalities that developed year on year.  I think the reason these were hard to read was the feeling of futility that these scenes created.  It's such an utterly miserable view of the future.

Recently I have been banging on about why the Wonder Woman film is so good, and its because the theme in that is that love conquers all and love is worthy. It's so positive, even throughout the scenes of horror, like the no man's land scene. Humanity does awful things to each other but if we believe in love we can make things better.

There isn't any positivity in this book. I compare it to Malorie (?) Blackman's Noughts and Crosses which made black people the dominant race and white folks the oppressed. Noughts and Crosses showed us the horrors of racism but there was positivity from the characters, someone to root for. The characters recognised the shitness of the system and fought against it.

No one really fights against the system in The Power. Everyone is self interested.  Vengeful.  Power corrupts all.

Admittedly in Noughts and Crosses the racebent nature of the world highlighted the privilege and systemic racism I as a white person benefit from. Whereas in the genderbent world of The Power I am well aware that what the men suffer women suffer everyday, in this world. Maybe this book would be a kick up the arse to men who read it.

However I just don't like reading such negative stuff. I want my books to make me feel lifted, to give me stories of endurance and generosity, of strength of will and companionship, of love and trust. Of good things for even a small amount of people. The Power does not give me that. It brings me down and just reminds me what a shit unfair deal women have.