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'The Power' wins prestigious Baileys Prize

June 7, 2017

The story of women upending gender dynamics by means of a mysterious super power has wowed critics and is already being adapted for television. The award is considered the preeminent prize for female writers in English.

Baileys Frauenpreis für Belletristik 2017 Autorin Naomi Alderman
Image: Getty Images For Baileys/Stuart C. Wilson

English writer Naomi Alderman was awarded the 2017 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction on Wednesday for her breakthrough science fiction novel "The Power." The near-future dystopia details a world in which women develop the ability to send electrical jolts from their fingertips, thus replacing men as the world's dominant gender.

Head judge Tessa Ross praised the work as a "brilliantly imagined dystopia," and Alderman's "big ideas and fantastic imagination."

Accepting her "Bessie" award and 30,000 pound ($39,000) prize, Alderman said that "the support and power of other women has been more vital to me than electricity." One of those other women is likely mentor Margaret Atwood, the Canadian science fiction master who advised Alderman and to whom "The Power" is dedicated.

Alderman beat out five other nominees, including Nigerian novelist Ayobami Adebayo's debut work "Stay With Me," and Madeleine Thein's Chinese-Canadian saga "Do Not Say We Have Nothing."

"The Power" has met with widespread critical acclaim. The Guardian hailed it as an "instant classic," - describing the novel as a "big, brash, page-turning, drug-running, globetrotting thriller" that is more than a fun exploration of a single science fiction plot device.

Alderman is no stranger to critical success. Her first novel, "Disobedience," was awarded the Orange Award for New Writers in 2006. The controversial tale of an Orthodox rabbi's homosexual daughter is currently being adapted for the screen in a film starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams. "The Power" is also being adapted, but as a TV series for British broadcaster ITV.

Founded in 1996 as the Orange Prize, the Baileys is the most prestigious award for female writers in the English-speaking world. Well-known winners have included Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's "Half of a Yellow Sun."

Elizabeth Schumacher
Elizabeth Schumacher Elizabeth Schumacher reports on gender equity, immigration, poverty and education in Germany.