Imagine a world in which one gender has all the power, controlling the economy, society, politics, and so on. A world in which members of one gender can exploit and abuse members of the other with impunity. Doesn’t take much to imagine that, does it?
Except that Naomi Alderman’s dystopian novel imagines a world in which women, not men, have “the power”.
In her world, given all the power over men that men previously held over women, women behave as badly as men have done. In scenes of increasing brutality and violence, dominant women rape and kill men, and in one harrowing scene, compel a male servant to lick up broken glass from the floor.
The story builds up well, focusing on a handful of memorable characters for whom we develop a certain sympathy. But by the end, the story seems to go nowhere and the unsatisfying ending — while deliberate — remains unsatisfying.