Book Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

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A review of The Power, written by Beth Jackson, FMBS Liaison Support Librarian

This powerful, provocative tale of how power corrupts will leave you questioning not only the dystopian world of Roxy, Allie, Margot and Tunde but our own society too. ‘Shockingly’ good.

How different would our world be if women were the dominant gender, wielding physical power over men? This is the central theme running through The Power, which examines how society changes after teenage girls suddenly develop the ability to discharge electricity through their hands. They soon learn they are able to awaken the power in older women too, and before long the entire female population are able to control, hurt and kill their oppressors – in this case, men.

How the global chaos unfolds is told through the stories of four central characters. Roxy, the daughter of a gangster, is caught in a criminal underworld and desperate to avenge her mother’s murder. Margot, a low-level American politician who once bestowed the power exploits it for political gain. Allie, a runaway who escapes her abusive foster father and becomes the leader of the new revolution, amassing followers who believe in the supremacy of women. Finally Tunde, a Nigerian journalist whose viral video of a teenager discharging her power on a male harasser kick-starts what becomes known as the ‘Day of the Girls’.

We see how their stories converge over the years as the power mechanics shift and belief systems change. Alderman does not present a matriarchal utopia by any means and graphically depicts the cruelty women are capable of. This can make for tough reading at times, but what’s most unsettling is that many of the displays of violence she posits are gender-flipped examples of the brutality inflicted on women in the real world. Considering the difficult and complex topics in the novel, the violence doesn’t feel gratuitous and serves a broader purpose of highlighting stereotypes about gender and illustrates how power can corrupt anyone.

It might not be the gentlest read among KU Big Read shortlist, but it is certainly packed with action, suspense and plenty of provocative scenes which will keep you ruminating long after you’ve finished the book.

Notable mention: If you are a fan of Margaret Atwood (particularly The Handmaid’s Tale) you might be interested to know she mentored Alderman back in 2012 (they co-wrote a zombie serialisation together!). Her influence can be felt in the storytelling and the dystopian themes underpinning the novel.


Join the discussion. Tell us what you thought of The Power, or what your favourite Big Read shortlisted book is. Come by the library to borrow a copy.

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Available to Borrow Now: ‘KU Big Read @ St George’s Library’ Books

Introducing our new book display in the library to celebrate the KU Big Read @ St George’s Library. As well as My Name is Leon, the official KU Big Read of 2017, all of the shortlisted books are featured in the display with a reviewer recommendation. They are available to borrow on a three week loan. If you would like to know more about the KU Big Read shortlisted titles you can read our weekly reviews using the Big Read tag.

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We also have last years winner, The Humans, in the book display as well as a range of fiction and non-fiction from our LGBTQ+ and Mind Boosting collections. So, if you’re wanting to take your mind off your exams, or you want to pick up a good summer read, come by the library to check out the display!

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New Staff Profile – Carly and James

Today we present the staff profile of two new members to St George’s Library, Carly and James.


Hello my name is: Carly Manson

Carly Manson

My role in the Library is: Archivist

Talk to me about: Anything relating to the History of St George’s Hospital and the medical school. I work in the Archive where we keep lots of old manuscripts, photographs, rare books, and artefacts ranging from the 16th-21st century. Our earliest item is a rare book dating back to 1562.

The Archive collection connects St George’s to its historical past and can be used to enhance new research in the history of medicine, uncovering stories of our famous alumni such as Edward Jenner, John Hunter and Edward Wilson (amongst many others).

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Photograph showing Blossom the cow, used in Edward Jenner’s cowpox experiment, mounted on the wall in the Robert Barnes Pathology Laboratory at St George’s Hospital, c.1907

Archives are primary research material and it’s very important that they are looked after properly- they are unique and irreplaceable! A project has recently been put in place to make the materials in the Archive more accessible to students, researchers and members of the public. In the near future, we are looking to catalogue our collections and create a number of finding aids to help enable access.

Visitors to the Archive have included students and members of staff from St George’s, and external researchers. Our previous visitors have included scientists, historians, television production staff, and family history researchers, amongst others. Here is a taster of the types of records they have consulted in the Archive:

  • Minutes and papers of the School Council, Academic Board and other committees
  • Student registers which include the names of our famous alumni (e.g. Henry Gray and Edward Jenner)
  • Student nurses records
  • Publications including School yearbooks and Hospital magazines
  • Photographs of students, staff and former hospital sites
  • Personal papers of Dame Muriel Powell
  • Artefacts including historic surgical instruments
  • Artworks/illustrations
  • Oral history interview recordings with former students and staff
  • Rare and historic books from the original medical school library
  • Post mortem case books spanning 100 years of history
  • Pathology registers from 1920-1946

If you would like to access the Archive for your research, or if you are interested in our history and would like to look at some of our treasures, please feel free to drop me an email at archives@sgul.ac.uk. Note that the majority of our records relate to the medical school rather than St George’s Hospital. The records of the hospital are largely held by London Metropolitan Archives.

Something else about me: I’m a huge fan of horror movies. The Archive has a number of creepy looking surgical instruments from the 18th and 19th centuries so I think I fit right in at St George’s!

 


Hello my name is: James Calvert

My role in the Library is: Information Assistant

When I am at the Library helpdesk you can ask me about:

  • General enquiries
  • Finding information
  • Issuing, renewing and returning items
  • Problems with your Library ID card
  • Problems logging off a PC
  • Printer issues
  • Password resetting
  • Booking a group discussion room
  • Topping up printing credits
  • Paying fines!

You can also contact the helpdesk between 8am-6pm

Telephone: 020 8725 5466
Email:  library@sgul.ac.uk

Something else about me: I am returning to university in the autumn to study part-time for an MSc in Information Science. Along with developing a career in Library and Information Science, my main interests are practicing Tai Chi and Meditation.

 

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy now available to NHS staff via OpenAthens

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy is popular with practicing surgeons and physicians as an accessible source of anatomical information featuring simple language and realistic, 3D visuals. This resource can be used as an adjunct to dissection and for reviewing learning, or to re-learn clinically relevant anatomical structures. It is also a good resource for allied health practitioners who don’t have access to dissection facilities, as the Video Atlas provides an appreciation of the real human body and a direct understanding of the mechanics of body movement.

The videos are organised in 5 volumes: the upper extremity, the lower extremity, the trunk, the head and neck, and the internal organs. Exams are available for each volume so you can test your learning. To access the exams and save videos to your favourites you will need to register for a personal account.

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy can be accessed offsite or on your mobile or tablet if you sign in with your OpenAthens account.  To do this, select Sign in via: OpenAthens on the Acland’s homepage and then choose: ‘OpenAthens Federation’ from the Federation menu and ‘St George’s Hospital NHS Trust’ from the Institution menu, click select and enter your OpenAthens username and password when prompted.

Acland’s Video Atlas of Human Anatomy can be accessed via the Library’s Databases page.

Book Review: Radio Sunrise by Anietie Isong

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A review of Radio Sunrise, written by Dr Julia Wood, Senior Researcher

Ifiok, our narrator, is a journalist at Radio Sunrise in Lagos. In his world, the “brown envelop” is the driving force – it contains the bribes that decide which topics will be covered and how favourably. Sadly, he often lacks the money he needs to stuff his own envelops to procure the favours he needs to sweeten his life.

His assignments include some bizarre stories such as the missing penis case and the goat arrested for armed robbery. There are strange beliefs held by those around Ifiok. The devout Christian studio manager calls some airlines “diabolical transporters” who engineer crashes to suck the victims’ blood whilst his girlfriend considers his favourite restaurateur to be an evil being who sprinkles magical herbs by the door to increase the number of customers. Although Ifiok does not believe these stories he is concerned that a young woman may have put a love potion in his food.

Ifiok often feels sad about the bad things that happen in his country. The penis snatcher has petrol poured on him and is only saved from burning by an out of control truck scattering the crowd of vigilantes. He refers to a country of thieves: he steals stories from CNN, the radio station accountant steals his pen, and politicians steal votes while the rich steal from the poor. There is a policy to support local drama but prime time TV mostly shows dated Mexican soaps and his own radio drama has been cut.

Disappointments feature strongly in Ifiok’s story but Isong’s writing makes it colourful and humorous. The book is engaging and made me care deeply about what would happen to the narrator. It provided a window in to a world that is so different to anything I know from my life in London that the term ‘small world’ should be scrubbed out. I highly recommend it, enjoy!


Join the discussion. Tell us what you thought of Radio Sunrise, or what your favourite Big Read shortlisted book is. Come by the library to borrow a copy.

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Book review: My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

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A review of My Name is Leon, written by Joanne Powell, Senior Lecturer in General Practice Nursing

I so enjoyed reading and reviewing this beautifully and sensitively written book for The Big Read. The story starts with the birth of Jake and the reader soon realises that his mother, Carol, can’t cope.  Leon is nine years old and his baby brother, Jake, has just been born. The book describes a particularly difficult period during Leon’s childhood.

The book opens with his mother leaving Jake to go and have a cigarette leaving Leon and Jake together on their own.  Carol is also on her own as a single parent – both brothers have different and absent fathers and while Carol and Jake are white, Leon is mixed race. His father, Byron, is in prison, while Jake’s father, Tony, is in another relationship and has rejected Carol and Jake.

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Illustration and blurb extract

Carol has problems coping on her own and spirals into a desperate decline relying on Leon and often leaving him and Jake alone or with her neighbour, Tina. Tina raises the alarm when Leon, desperately hungry, asks Tina for money for food.   Jake and Leon go to live with Maureen, an emergency foster carer with “fuzzy red hair like a halo and a belly like Father Christmas”. Jake is soon adopted – he’s white and a baby and therefore in demand. But no one will adopt Leon who has a black father and is already too old.

This book is set during the 1980s in Birmingham during a troubled time characterized by racial tension – Irish republicanism and police brutality against black people that spark the riots of 1981. After a birthday present of a bike, Leon develops a sense of freedom and discovers the Rookery Road allotments. Here we are introduced to pivotal characters Tufty and Mr Devlin. They both introduce Leon to the concept of nurture through the planting and cultivating vegetables from seeds. However, the allotment is a political hotbed and racial tensions spark between Tufty, a West Indian political activist who Leon admires and Mr. Devlin, an aging member of the IRA. Leon, who listens too much at doorways and keyholes, is focused on being reunited with Jake and plots to find him.

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80s Boombox illustration from the book

This book is a page turner as you seek to find out how it works out for Leon. It provides an important and sometimes uncomfortable commentary on attitudes to parenting, race and adoption during the 1980’s. For me, being a child of the 1980’s, I found the descriptions of the racial tension and riots uncomfortable to read and it provoked distant memories. The novel is full of quietly shocking moments which also reveals how much child protection has moved on from 30 years ago.


If this brilliant review hasn’t already convinced you to read My Name is Leon, here’s another reason – it’s  now the winner of KU Big Read. Congratulations Kit De Waal!


Join the discussion. Tell us what you thought of My Name is Leon, or what your favourite Big Read shortlisted book is. Come by the library to borrow a copy.

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